La Montana de Vallunaraju

Trip Start Jul 13, 2006
Trip End Aug 17, 2006

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Monday, August 7, 2006

Thanks for all the Posts you´ve been sending from this Travel Pod. We really enjoy hearing from everyone.

We--Christian and Charlie--are back from Vallunaraju! After saying good-bye to Jason, we had spent the next thirty-six hours resting in Huaraz and preparing for this spectacular double-headed summit at 18,900 feet. Before we get to some exciting details related to this mountain experience, however, a few accounts worth mentioning:

You never know who you are going to meet at Olazas Hotel. Charlie, reclaiming his health with hot coca tea and anxious to email the latest news to Izzy from the Blancas had little care for the conversation that some very tall man beneath the tan trekker hat was trying to have with him. Though cordial to the thin giant, Charlie´s thought: here´s a zealous American trekker who has nothing better to do than disturb him with questions about where he has been and where he was going. Not until later did Charlie learn that the man disturbing his letter writing was none other than Carlos Buhler who has summited the 14 tallest peaks in the World.

Outside our favorite burrito joint, Chilli Heaven, we watched the local knife sharpener roll his knife contraption along the sidewalk. The waitresses brought out the knives to be sharpened.

We found it funny that when returning from our 3 day climb with dirty backpacks our taxi driver cleaned the trunk so that our packs would be lying on a clean surface!

Sleeping above 16,000 feet (our basecamp) is difficult because as we fall asleep our heartrate drops and our body gasps for air jolting our body awake. Very uncomfortable, a bit like drowning.

So a quick rundown of the peak. We hiked to basecamp on Saturday up one of the steepest trails either of us had ever been on. The trail ascended overy 2,500 ft. in under a mile. That would be like hiking Mt. Marcy in a mile! We met some Chilean, Spanish and Guatemalan climbers that had summited earlier that day and they gave us a few tips as to locating the galcier. Eager to ski we skinned up a bit of the route for some afternoon turns. The following morning we skinned up amidst beautiful blue skies and INTENSE sun. Even with glacier glasses it seemed bright. The climbing was slow at the high altitude and at close to 18,000 feet Charlie decided to save his energy for skiing. He recognized the early signs of altitude sickness from previous experiences. Christian contniued on to the col between the twin summits. He left his skis behind using crampons and an ice axe to ascend the steep summit ridge. Borrowing Jason´s crampons made it possible since they fit on over the large telemark boots. A few problems, the toe of the telemark boots extended beyond the front points and walking downhill in telemark boots is dangerous since they tilt forward. Great views at the summit were further awe inspriring as a serac collapsed on the nearby peak Ranrapalca and a large avalanche cascaded down the face. Descending to the col Frac switched to skis and continued down to Charlie where they skied nearly 3000 feet to the toe of the glacier. It was a truly unique experience to ski such a large peak on an undulating glacier with many surprises and various conditions throughout! Returning to camp the pair was greeted with strange glances from an Italian team..."You ski the Vallanraju?!"
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