Vallunaraju - Day 1

Trip Start Jan 23, 2008
Trip End May 23, 2008

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

With limited time in the Peruvian Andes, Bill and I decided to combine all possible alpine adventures into a single trip, and set out to hike, camp, climb, and ski our way up Vallunaraju.

Valluna is one of the gorgeous snowy peaks that tower above Huaraz, so is one of the most accessible in this part of the Cordillera Blanca. At a mere 18,963 ft (5780 m), it is considered a warm-up for serious climbers, and within our semi-acclimitized abilities. Finally, an extensive glacier covered with an unusually high snowfall makes it an attractive ski objective.

Our process to search out and negotiate (and renegotiate, and re-renegotiate) the best ski equipment was exhaustive and exhausting. And just as unlikely as many things down here....somehow Bill losing a hard-fought chess game may have contributed to our final price.

Our first night, we camped near the Refugio de Guias, surrounded by towering peaks, alpine plants....and cattle. One of the more problematic things about National Parks in Peru (and Ecuador) is that they allow cattle to graze in the National Park boundary. Even if you don´t see the vacas, you will certainly see their cacas. Everywhere. Not entirely in keeping with the leave no trace ethics that hikers are expected to hold themselves to.

This particular herd of cattle seemed to find us especially fascinating, so despite the zillions of hectares of national park around us, they just HAD to graze right around our tent. We went to bed that night, a little worried that one of them might stumble over our guylines and crush us in a spectacular bovine fall. But despite the constant snuffling sound of them grazing nearby, we survived the night.

However(gotta love a however here) the next morning, I awoke to Bill saying ¨Steph, I need you to come out here and help me with these cows.¨ Apparently, the cattle had not lost their fascination with our campsite, and had even become emboldened. When I stumbled out of the tent, Bill was shooing some cows away on one side while others edged closer to our merrily bubbling stove from the other side. I shooed the cows away, and peered into the pot to discover that it was my beloved titanium spork that was merrily bubbling along. Apparently, a cow had taken advantage of a temporarily absent Bill to taste test my titanium spork. The need to simultaneously ward off further attacks, unslime my spork, and prepare breakfast pushed Bill to call for my assistance. Fair enough.

However (there it is again) even my assistance was not sufficient to prevent one of the more persistent cows from straying too near our tent. She got a little freaked out then got tangled in the lines staking out the tent. Two of the three gave way, but the third got wrapped around her leg and she took off dragging our fully laden tent with her. Fortunately, that one gave way after a few panicky steps as well, but not before the tent had developed a distinctly assymetrical sort of geometry.

We were actually amazed when we took down the tent that there was no lasting damage. The poles were all fine and none of the stuff inside was crushed in a spectacular bovine fall.
We bid our earstwhile audience audieu as we set off for our next campsite at around 16,000 ft.

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