Sunday, August 9, 2009

Hatun Machay- sunny rock climbing

With a a few days to kill and the mountain weather decidely average (read completely crap), Simon and I decided to head to Peru´s most famous rock climbing area, Hatun Machay. Located in the Cordillera Negra about 1.5 hours south of Huaraz at about 4300m altitude,, there are currently about 120 bolted routes and potential for thousands more. There is a bus to and from the area and a great refugio run by really friendly Argentines and some cute resident dogs (that resembled tiny sheep- not quite sure how that happened). Only a fraction of the climbing has been touched. Hatun Machay is an amazing rock forest worth visiting just to walk in the forest and explore.

After a big day of climbing, we headed to the refugio for dinner and a relaxing night by the fire with pizza and beers. The next day we were joined by our new skiier friends for a fun filled day of climbing and heckling. The skiers, Marja, Giulia, Laura and Black raised money for a street kid charity by climbing skiing from a few cool Peruvian summits (pretty cool stuff) . The news was that Zarela, our wonderful host in Huaraz was cooking a peruvian feast that night so we caught the bus back to Huaraz after climbing for a great evening.

Our time in Peru is coming to an end, but the adventures and memories of a great trip and fantastic people we´ve met along the way will stay with us.

Hasta luego amigos

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Good intentions- Bad weather

Alpine climbing is a game really. Trying to climb a muntain in the best style with the minimum of equipment and impact on the mountain. The degree of suffering involed varies according the length of the route, cold and difficulty of the climbing.

The unspoken alpine climbing manifesto reads:

If you are not hungry, you are carrying too much food

If you are warm, you have too many clothes

If you are not frightened, you have too much gear

If you got up your climb, it was too easy anyway

(from victor saunders article in Patagonia book)

Sitting in the comfortable couches of Cafe Andino in Huaraz, Simon and I contemplated our next mission. We had already had some good success and we both felt it was time to step it up a notch. An american guy called Nate suggested Taulliraju, a majestic mountain towering at the head of the Santa Cruz valley. The mountain had a reputation for tough climbing and is imposing from all sides. There was instant agreement from both of us. Nothing like a new mission to get psyched on. We had a bus booked to Lima on the 9th so if all went well, we had time to walk in and climb the mountain.

The following day we made the trek up the Santa Cruz valley to a beautiful meadow beneath the mountain and set up base camp (4250m). A day of resting and sorting gear for the 4 day mission enabled us to check out the possible lines to climb on the mountain. We decided on a new route, direct up the SW face. It looked tough and challenging, just what we were after... There is nothing like the feeling of committment and exposure of a hard committing route to satisfy the thirst for adventure.

The next morning it started raining in base camp about 5am and snowing up higher on the mountain. It kept raining all day. I read a 400 page novel in my tent. The mountain was shrouded in cloud and being coated in snow. Our time was running out and we hoped for better weather the next day.

Luck was not on our side. We awoke to more rain and snow and realised that there was no hope of climbing the mountain in the time we had left. After flagging down a passing arriero on his way back to Cashapampa about noon, we made it back to Huaraz around 730pm after a trying day of weather and people trying to rip us off at every turn. After a hot shower and some dinner we hit one of the local bars for a few beers. We were safe and well, fit and acclimatised and although not succeeding on our last objective, the trip has been a successful one with great routes and summits along the way. We´ve had a ton of fun and met some great people along the way.

With not much time left for another trip to the mountains, Simon and I are planning to go rocklimbing for a few days before heading back to Lima and Australia.

Upon reaching Huaraz, we received some unfortunate sobering news that three young Belgian climbers had been killed on the West face of Tocclaraju on the 2nd August. One of the seracs (ice cliffs) apparently collapsed above them and they fell to the bottom of the face. We had first met two of them, Ann and Coen, at Alpamayo BC after they had climbed Alpamayo and later that week, had dinner with them. They were happy,young and full of energy and life and loved what they were doing. Simon and I had climbed the same route a week earlier. Objective dangers dont discriminate.