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  PERUVIAN WINTER CLIMBING – July 2004 by Everest Summiter Paul H Morrow


The objectives for this hiking/trekking and climbing trip in Peru was to involve some acclimatization hikes at altitude, then an ascent of Pisco Oeste (18,871 feet/ 5752 meters), and finally an attempt on Huascaran (22,205 ft/ 6768 m).   Back in 1991 I had been to Peru for a short time after successfully climbing Aconcagua in Argentina, but that trip into Peru had been to visit the Inca ruins of Cuzco and Macchu Picchu and not for any climbing.  Although I had really enjoyed the visit throughout the ruins back then, even though there were guards everywhere due to the “Shining Path” insurgency that was on-going at that time. 

So on July 9th, 2004 I visited work for a brief time to check on things before heading off to the Dulles International Airport for the quick two hour flight to Orlando, Florida, on United.  Then it was off to pick up my climbing bags, and to change air carriers, and after a while I found the Copa Airlines counter and chatted a bit with the fellow there who was nice enough to describe the flights to me.  (The cheapest flight I was able to find was with Copa Airlines from Orlando to Panama City to Lima)  The flight was not full and it was a relaxing three hour flight to Panama City, Panama, with the highlight of this day being the view of the eastern entrance to the Panama Canal from the air as we circled around the area before touching down at the small airport.  The next flight was rather full and it took another three hours of flying time before then landing in Lima, Peru.  (On each flight I was able to relax and read, which is why I take my share of paperback books on these trips.)  There was construction at the airport, but we boarded the buses to the terminal in short order, along with passing through passport control quite quickly.  Then it took about an hour of waiting for the bags before any of them started coming out on the conveyor, and then another wait through the customs lines and the inevitable x-raying of the bags before you leave the airport.

Fortunately my friend and guide Jose Louis Pervalo from Ecuador, who led the trip I was on in Ecuador in December 2003, was patient enough to meet me at the airport, and we were then soon on our way at about midnight to the hotel.  (Jose has also climbed Everest, and is one of the most skilled and safest climbers I have ever climbed with, and his family were great to me back in December when Marga cooked an unbelievable turkey and fixings at the Cayambe Hut for the climbing group!)  We stopped at a local service station for some bottled water for me, and after a little searching from the taxi driver (the hotel was not easy to find in the neighborhood) I was then able to check into the Sonesta Posada del Inca Hotel.  Its a very nice and simple hotel, and it was good to finally have the flights over and done with for the day! 

Jose Louis let me sleep in a bit this next morning and I finally got up after seven a.m. and met him down in the hotel restaurant for a nice and quiet breakfast.  The place is frequented by trekking groups from all countries, and this morning they had a large Yank (i.e. American) group staying there.  Jose Louis had found an excellent map of Peru and was kind enough to share one with me as we talked over similar experiences in the Himalayas from past trips.  Then we spent the rest of the morning at the local large Supermarket where we purchased the main food for the trip, along with the cooking and serving utensils.  Its the only time I can ever remember having two shopping carts full of food anywhere near me, and it goes without saying we hailed a taxi to assist us in getting everything back to the hotel for packing!  (Later on we could all laugh about buying too much of such things as peanut butter and instant oatmeal, while about the right amount of gatoraide and energy bars.)  

I relaxed a bit while answering emails from the hotels “Business Center” (a PC with the letters/numbers worn off the keyboard, and a printer in a small room beside the elevators) as Jose Louis arranged the provisions in his large room, before we then headed off for some sightseeing for me.  We arrived via taxi at the Presidential Palace just in time to see the changing of the guard at noon in their fine uniforms along with the marching band with them, which was nice to experience.  Then we walked around the pretty grounds across from the Palace, before we shopped for postcards and stamps for me, along with some Diamox pills from the local pharmacy.  (Diamox tablets are known to assist with acclimatization to higher altitude, especially for low lander’s like myself in low altitude Northern Virginia!)  A nice meal of fried chicken (pounded to a pulp to make it flat), and safe drinks (being careful of bad water) at a local shop finished our sightseeing and shopping trip, and it was back to the hotel for some unpacking before supper, along with a short jog around the local park at this “altitude” (427 ft/ 130m)!

Our second Ecuadorian guide, Rene, arrived this evening, and after he checked into the hotel we had a fine “Mexican” type meal at Chili’s!  It seemed to be kids night out, and we all could laugh as the children were involved with birthday parties and running all over the place!

Sunday, July 11th, was when the rest of the group was to fly in that morning, and I took a short jog before cleaning up and finishing my packing.  (There was a Formula One race on the television, so I was not too early to breakfast on this day so I could watch the race.)  Breakfast time found that most people had arrived, and I was also able to meet Jamie again who was of our guides in Ecuador last year.  (He was there in Peru for some other climbing with a friend.)  One of the fellow climbers could not come at the last moment due to work commitments, so our group was to consist of Alberto from Boston, Massachusetts, Curtis from Phoenix, Arizona, Shane from Midland, Michigan, with Jose Louis and Renee, and of course myself.  Since Curtis’s baggage had not shown up on the flight he, along with Rene, stayed back another day or two for it while we continued ahead via bus.

So that morning around 10 a.m. we loaded up our nice bus with all of our baggage, and the provisions we had bought the day before, and started off northward to the mountains.  Just to get out of Lima itself took a couple of hours on a Sunday morning, and then we continued along the foggy coastline.  (Lima itself never seems to have a clear day and is continuously foggy or cloudy.)   By 2 p.m. we reached Pativilica via some very nice and wide roads, with some of them being toll roads, and then continued northward via two lane roads, and up in altitude to Huaraz.  After driving over a pass at 13,451 ft, or 4100m, and gaining some very nice views,  we then descended and reached Huaraz almost at dark at 6 p.m.  (Huaraz being the regions capital and having a population of around 100,000 folks.) 

It was a short ride then down to our small El Patio Inn at Monterrey (9,694 ft/ 2955m), just north of Huaraz, and we unpacked the bus, checked in, and also cleaned off the dust from the bus trip with some quick and hot showers.  We also made time for a short taxi ride back into Huaraz for a nice, quiet, and inexpensive, dinner at a French owned restaurant before bed time back at the inn.  (Most things were not expensive on this trip, except for imported beer.) 

Our first day on the trip itself meant a short jog to clear out my lungs from city life, and to start getting use to the altitude, before breakfast at the Inn of juice, tea, bread & butter, along with fried ham and eggs.  We checked through our gear after breakfast to make sure we had everything, and then took a taxi back to Huaraz to pick up some odds & ends along with some bottled water.  There were several friendly hiking and climbing stores in town and we visited one to get some things we might have missed when we packed, along with some good maps of the area.   Some of us then used an internet cafe to check on our emails queue’s before a light lunch outside a cafe in a nice and grassy area, with the general altitude being 10,105 ft, or 3080 meters in town.  We then took our time sitting there at the cafe (it was understaffed so it took a while for the meal) and listening to old American rock music, before returning to the Inn for some packing and relaxation. 

Dinner found us back at the Inn for a quiet meal there since we seemed to be the only guests that night.  The management started a nice fire in the fireplace and we relaxed there before Curtis and Rene arrived later in the evening from their successful efforts at retrieving Curtis’s bag from the airline.  (I believe the bags path was something like Phoenix, Dallas, Miami, and then Lima, and it took an additional day to arrive.)  It was good that they could meet up with us before we traveled up to the mountains the next day, although it meant one less acclimatization at altitude for both of them.

 

Our travel day up to the mountains on July 13th found us with slightly cloudy skies on a very pretty morning.  The usual jog in the morning woke me up, along with the barking dogs along the road, before a nice breakfast with all of our group.  Then on to finishing our personal packing, packing the bus, checking out of the Inn, and onward to the mountains themselves.  We passed through the village of Yungay (8,323 ft/ 2537m), with the original village being totally destroyed by an earthquake in 1970, before heading upwards on a decent dusty dirt road to the Huascaran National Park entrance.  We waited there a short while for our entrance papers to be checked, and then continued past some very pretty and clear Llanganuco Lakes before stopping at Cellopamba.  There we set-up our camp with one cook tent, one eating tent, and then double tents for most everyone else.    

Cellopamba (12,818 ft/ 3907 m) turned out to be a nice grassy meadow with a stream passing around it, with a few others staying there, and we made sure to get the tents up before it started to rain.  (We had our share of cows, donkeys, and dogs, that stayed around this area too.)  The bus driver and local guide Jamie also helped us get our things down from the parking area to the campsite.  Of course after lunch the afternoon was not without some exercise in the rain, and we hiked up towards the Pisco base camp area for a while before stopping at a ridge crest at 14,560 ft/ 4438m.  On the way up this trail a nice Austrian/German fellow from another group down at the meadow followed us , and it was nice to chat with him before he returned to the campsite in the rain as it came down harder.  These hikes at altitude are always good for acclimatization early-on in the trips, and they also make one sleep better at night after a nice supper!  (I always try and take an aspirin at bedtime, since this helps thin the blood a bit, which helps with acclimatization, and also helps me relax.) 

Now with this trip our breakfast usually consisted of tea, coffee, or cocoa (numerous different packets of each), along with powdered milk mixed with boiled water for cereals and muesli, and then eggs and a pancake if we were not in only a temporary camp.  Lunches meant sandwiches, energy bars, candy, and fruit, along with powdered drinks (i.e. gatoraide or self-made tea), while supper’s meant a nice soup to go along with filling potatoes, rice, meat, and salad on occasions.  Last, but not least, desert in the evenings usually meant a nice piece of packaged cake!  

On the next day, to continue with our getting use to the altitude, we started a nice four hour hike after breakfast to Lake 69 (the lakes were all numbered when the area was surveyed) at 15,125 ft/ 4610m.  The trail started up along the other side of the stream, passed-by some old hut structures originally built for campers (long since fallen into disrepair), and then on up to a nice meadow where we took a break.  This high meadow was also a nice way-point for different trails to branch off from, and there was a nice sign there on where the trails led to.  Then we continued up below a canyon wall with the trail making a nice way below and on up around the wall to the high lake itself.  Fortunately the clouds held-off most of this day and we had some excellent views of the local mountains, along with some climbers higher on one of the mountains.  The lake itself was very clear and inviting, although sure to be very cold, and we relaxed there for an hour or so while having our lunch.  The visit also let us see some birds there at the lake, and allowed us to watch some of the rocks from the surrounding walls break off and plunge into the lake at odd times.   

Then it was time to descend back to camp and we re-traced our steps down to the meadow, which gave us a good view of an old hut/building at the high point of the meadow that had once housed a nice refuge.  Unfortunately it looked to be used a quite long time ago and the roof and walls had fallen in.  We took our time getting back to camp, and once there had some nice drinks along with peanut butter sandwiches. 

I think this was the evening of the infamous rice supper, with the rice being ready several times in “ten minutes”.  (Rene always kidding me that “I” purchased the wrong type of rice in Lima!  “Instant” rice having a different meaning over one’s stove at home versus at altitude over a less than consistent heating stove/burner.)  Suffice it to say that some enjoyed the mushy rice that night, but that I took good advantage of the cake that was offered at the end of the evening meal!  Also, rain kept us company throughout the evening as we slept, since I could hear it falling against the tent walls whenever I awoke. 

We got up on July 15th to a water logged meadow, and fortunately we had placed our tents on the higher ground and not in the depressions in the meadow!  Still there were puddles all around, and we took care while getting to/from the eating tent along with the toilet tent.  (Some places had privies or basic toilet buildings that were somewhat maintained, whole most groups dug toilet holes well away from the sleeping area and then made sure to fill them in when it was time to leave.)  Even though there was a good chance of rain throughout this day we still packed up and started our last hike from this camp before moving up to Pisco basecamp the next day. 

The objective for this new day was the Llanganuco Pass at 15,486 ft/ 4720 m, and we followed the dirt road and its switchbacks for a time before taking a few short cuts that got us higher more quickly than the road itself.  (The shortcuts being mostly narrow walking trails and/or cow trails.)  Now having a profound confidence with Jose Louis (I had climbed Cotopaxi in Ecuador with him last year), and with his trail finding abilities, none of us questioned the last “trail” we took as it petered-out and then became less than a cow trail and then nothing at all except a steep hill-side above us.  So some like myself resorted to pulling ourselves up by the local long grass along the slush covered and slippery rocks (the rain below the previous night had meant snow up here).  Before long we were high enough to see the real trail, which we had missed by going too high at first, which was a very easy mistake in the tall grass, fog, and falling rain.  (Needless to say Jose Louis got tired of us yelling “shortcut” each time we saw a cow trail along the road!)  The rest of the way up to the pass followed along the switchbacks of the road, which meant we got showered with mud a few times by passing vehicles when they hit the water/mud filled potholes alongside us!  (I can remember a few profane words from Shane once when the color of our clothes was changed by one passing truck and its spray onto us.)   

Once at the pass we crossed over it and enjoyed a nice lunch out of the winds and some of the rain on the other side.  There was not much to see on the other side except a winding road that continued down and down and down.  While relaxing there some foreign tourists stopped by to take some pictures and we said “Hello”, but I guess we did not smell right or something because they quickly got back in their vehicle and headed back the way they had come.  Now as we crossed back to “our” side of the pass Jose Louis and Rene mentioned taking another trail or shortcut down to camp, and suffice it to say some of us looked around for some sanity amongst us (see the previous definition of “shortcut” in the story).  But our belief in them was not unfounded, and once down from the running water on this rock strewn trail we did come to the real trail and had a nice descent instead of following the boring road in the mud and rain.  We did see another couple while descending the trail, along with a dead burro or so, but otherwise it was a deserted trail. 

The rest of the day was spent relaxing in camp out of the rain, while some Austrians/Germans reached the meadow camp after a mostly unsuccessful attempt on Pisco.  Like us this was not their main objective, but one for acclimatization and fitness, and most of them had gone as high as they could from basecamp to the saddle of the mountain in new snow.   We also heard that perhaps some other folks had indeed made it atop Pisco that day, which meant it was perhaps do-able in decent conditions.  So we had some bad and good news from Pisco this evening, and had a nice pasta and sauce dinner. 

July 16th found us up early for breakfast since we had to take down the tents this morning and move on up to Pisco basecamp (15,233 ft/4643 m).  The Austrians/Germans were also taking down their camp, and in their case moving to another objective on the other side of the range.  Jose Louis found out that the great Austrian climber Peter Habeler was leading their group, which is one of my climbing hero’s who I had read about in the 1970’s (I had always saved the magazine articles about him and Reinhold Messner, along with getting his book about their oxygen-less ascent of Everest).  I finally built up my courage and walked across the field, while he was taking down his tent, and introduced myself, with my heart pounding away in my chest.  He had excellent English, and was quite nice and personable as I mentioned about the articles that I had read about him in the ‘70’s (“quite a long time ago, Paul!”), along with always being impressed with his climbing exploits.  He took the time to describe their effort on Pisco, along with what their new climbing objective was on their trip.  We also compared Z-stones that we wear around our necks in admiration and respect for the Sherpa culture and people.  I think I shook his hand four times or more during the brief conversation, and I said good-bye and good luck to him before I was to really embarrass myself.   It was really an honor to have met him! 

Perhaps my good mood translated to an excellent day, since the hikes around the area the previous few days seemed to have done wonders for our fitness, and the hike up the Pisco basecamp trail was much easier than the hike on the day that we had arrived from Huaraz and Monterrey.  We took our time and drank plenty of fluids, and had the assistance of the ponies and donkey’s carrying up the camp gear, and once on the main ridge in the rain Jose Louis hurried along to assist the men leading the ponies with setting up the camp tents.  It took us only two hours to reach the saddle along the trail, where we rested, before the final hump of the last ridge to basecamp and our gear.   

Since Jose Louis had helped Jamie and Naomi (our basecamp cook) with the cooking and eating tents we then all helped put up the personal tents in the high meadow.  There was not much grass in this meadow, but it was level enough in places for some good tent sites.   Once those were set-up we got our gear (sleeping pads and bags) arranged in the tents, and then stocked up on water/gatoraide along with sandwiches.

Jose Louis and Rene never tired of an opportunity to get us to higher altitude, so in the afternoon we hiked up from basecamp to the moraine to get a better look at the moraine, glacier, where high camp was to be, along with what the ridge looked like on Pisco itself.  So that afternoon found us at 15,784 ft/ 4811m in altitude munching on energy bars or candy, while also taking our fill of drinks while looking around as much as we could before the clouds rolled in. 

On the way back down to basecamp we stopped by the “Refugio Peru” (refuge/hut built and maintained by an Italian relief organization for the improvement of the area), made sure to take off our climbing boots before entering, and made plans to have dinner there after our attempted climb of Pisco.  The people who maintain and run the place were a mixture of Italians assigned there for a few months from the home country, along with some locals assisting them.  Its a very nice and clean place.  It was so nice I have no memories or notes from when we had dinner at our camp that evening.  Although I do remember Shane earlier in the day menacing a chicken brought-up for another group.  I think they thought Shane was serious when he playfully “stalked” the wayward chicken in our camp with his ice axe.  At least I thought he was kidding! 

The next day dawned sort of nicely and we broke camp with our personal tents and gear, with Jamie and Valereo assisting us with hauling the tents and food, and began the hike up and over and through the moraine to high camp at 16,257 ft/ 4955 m.  Once again we got up to the lip of the moraine where we were the day before, and then carefully descended down onto the main shelf.  We were very careful with this scree, rock, and sand, short descent since some had been killed in years past from personal falls or rock falls in this same area.  Once down to the main moraine shelf we meandered through the large and small boulders, which would be exceedingly difficult for those doing this in the dark from basecamp when climbing Pisco from there, before going through another unstable area which we quickly ascended.  Then it was on to the final ridge slope to the high camp where very few folks were staying.   

Fortunately there were a few flat tent sites available and we set-up our tents while also hydrating and snacking.  It was nice to see the route from this perspective, and we made sure to get everything set-up before an early dinner of noodles/potato powder along with some pasta.  A few groups arrived later in the afternoon, but it was mostly a quiet afternoon and evening here.  (Right beside our tent site was a stone and plaque memorial for folks who had not survived previous climbing trips in this area.)  We all made sure we were ready for a very early morning start to the climb, and tried to bed down before dark and the cold change in temperature. 

The early wake-up at 2 a.m. on Sunday, July 18th, came much too soon, with the water bottles not freezing in the tent overnight meant it was not too terrible of a chilly morning.  We all hydrated and snacked as best we could before starting off on the moraine trail above high camp at 3 a.m., with all of our head lamps on so we could see.  (Down below we could see the headlamps of those starting from basecamp.) The trail was narrow sometimes, with abrupt fall offs on either side, but we took our time behind Jose Louis and slowly ascended for an hour over more loose rock and scree before reaching the start of the glacier.  Here at 16,775 ft/ 5113m we put the crampons on our boots, took out our ice axes (before we had been using trekking poles), put on our climbing harness’s, and roped up for the rest of the climb.  Jose Louis would be with Alberto and myself, and then Rene would be with Curtis and Shane.   

The start of the glacier meant two quick icy sections, which got our hearts beating, before it leveled off a bit to another icy part and a short snow bridge over a crevasse.  Not being particularly brave I crawled across it in the dark and continued up a ways before the route became much easier.  We then waited a while for the other group, and then found out that the same snow bridge that I had not liked collapsed when Rene had stepped on it.  Curtis and Shane then had to take a large step, ice axe set, and jump, to get over the crevasse with the absence of the bridge.  (We termed it the “Bridge of the Dead” afterwards, since while in Ecuador back in December we had termed everything with “Dead” something or other!)  The rest of the two hour climb to the saddle at 17,454 ft/ 5320m was uneventful and generally good and hard snow, which is excellent to crampon on. 

It only took a little longer then to reach the ridge on Pisco itself, and this is when the Sun came up and we could turn off and take off our headlamps, while also taking off some of our extra clothing.  Of course we also took some time for picture taking while the Sun came up.  We saw the one route along the ridge itself which looked dicey, with any fall causing a pendulum with the rope while anchored to your team-mates.  The other route was down and around one serac and then crevasse before reaching a 40-50 meter section of 45-60 degree flaky ice, which seemed to be the “normal” route this year.  (Normally it was known to be a much easier route to climb.)  Alberto and I put in an ice axe belay while Jose Louis front pointed with his crampons the entire section very carefully, since while the ice was nicely hard, it also had a tendency to flake off when hit with the pointy ice tools.  Jose Louis also placed three pieces of protection, ice screws, to better protect us when we climbed it, since there was also a narrow crevasse along the route too.  Rene, Curtis, and Shane, then waited below in the cold shadows of the ridge. 

After Jose Louis put in two anchors at the top of this icy section Alberto and I then followed him up making sure to come straight up one icy section, and then to traverse to the right around the narrow crevasse half way up the slope.  About a third of the way up Alberto had a problem with one of his new boots, with the laces coming loose and his foot coming out of the inner and outer boot, so I climbed up below him and took the boot as it was coming all of the way off.  While I did this I was not very well secured, since there was slack in the rope between Alberto and myself, and Rene ascended quickly and put in another ice screw to secure me there while Alberto put his boot back on and re-laced his other one.  (While climbing quickly up to me, and placing the additional ice screw, Rene had placed ten of his twelve point crampons in my left shoulder, and it was nice to know he was there but perhaps a bit too near!  Thankfully I was wearing three layers of clothing, and of course Rene did the right thing by assisting me so quickly.)  When Alberto and I were all set again we continued our ascent to the top of the icy section where Jose Louis was belaying us, and we moved to a safer area above this while Rene moved up with Curtis and Shane.  (They were very patient while in the cold and waiting for us on this slope.)  Once we all were up this section we relaxed a bit, hydrated, and also snacked, since the ridge and upper glacier continued for another hour or two until the summit. 

The rest of the climb was a gentle rolling uphill, with a nice trail in the snow, and we met some Germans who were descending from the summit who had started their efforts at midnight.  It was nice to see them summit above us, and then we got a chance to talk with them about the route as they descended.  Of course in the short time it took us to get near to the summit the wind came up and the wind driven snow started to obscure the summit and surrounding views.  At the base of the summit ridge we crossed a snow bridge, taking great care while crossing it, before reaching the summit ridge itself.  There we continued up for only a little while before crossing the final crevasse on this route, and reaching the summit of Pisco at 18, 848 ft/ 5745m after several hours of excellent effort.  We took our time there, with Jose Louis leaving an artifact, and enjoyed the accomplishment even though the wind make sure the blowing snow around us negated any views.  We also took our fill of our drinks along with snacking. 

Then it was back down the summit ridge, and past the crevasse, where we met another group ascending to the summit, and we had a short chat with them before continuing.  Then it was down to the lower crevasse and we all hopped across it before continuing down the summit ridge, which was getting slowly more warm and hot as the Sun beat down through the clouds and blowing snow.  We also met a local guide with two Canadians going up as we descended this bit. 

We took a short break at the icy area while two fellow’s from the Ukraine ascended, and then Jose Louis and Rene lowered us down to the base of that section before Rene did a quick abseil/rappel with a minimum of anchors.  (The group higher on the mountain promised to give us back an anchor so they too could use our snow stakes at the top of this section.)  Then the trudge began down to the crampon point where we had started this climb, and fortunately the clouds rolled in a bit and shielded us from a hot and stuffy glacier down climb.  The way we descended this section kept us away from the “Bridge of the Dead”, along with the icy sections we had climbed up, and it was not long before we all reached the rocks and the end of this glacier section.  Valereo met us here and kindly shared some hot tea and water with us, along with taking some of our crampons and ice axes if you wanted him too, and we all then hiked back down to high camp and a nice helping of tea and snacks for our lunch.  (I had forgotten to eat the sandwich on the climb, but had remembered to drink, snack, and take the power-gel, while we were on the go.) 

A “bad” sign for the weather on Huascaran, which we could see in the distance, was the absence of anyone on the main ridge that most people climb to the summit.  We could see no people, or tracks in the snow, anytime the weather was clear enough to see that ridge.  Logic was telling us snow conditions were worse on Huascaran than what we were finding on Pisco. 

By the time we got back to high camp, which I think was about 2 p.m., the Germans were sleeping that we had met below the summit, and we packed up our tents and gear, with Jamie and Valereo helping us with all of this, before starting the hike back down the moraine for a night at basecamp.  Of course it started to rain on us during this hike, which made the rocks more slippery than usual, and we met two folks looking for high camp down on the main shelf of the moraine after we had passed through the one section of very loose and wet sand and rocks.  Then it was through the biggest boulders before reaching the opposite side of the moraine, and then finally up the dicey section of less than stable rocks and sand, which I was very glad to get through! 

Once a-top this side of the moraine we hiked down to the refuge, took off our boots and wet outer clothes, sat down in the nice dining room, and drank some bottled water and/or soda’s before partaking of a nice meal.  (Of course we also took advantage of their running water bathrooms and cleaned up a bit first.)  I for one ate way too much bread before the main meal arrived, so I did not do justice to the $30 US meal of pumpkin soup, steak & tomatoes, rice, French fries/chips, and did not even attempt the good looking peach pie.  Then it was hiking down in the dark with our headlamps on, and through the falling rain and snow, to our basecamp and some well earned sleep.  

After a sound sleep in our tents we awoke the next day to a couple inches of snow everywhere at basecamp, but also a nice and clear sky.  We took our time getting up and by then Naomi had a nice breakfast of pancakes and eggs ready for us, along with all the tea or cocoa we could drink.  We then began breaking camp in a much quieter basecamp than we had arrived at a couple of days ago, with a number of groups having left, and a few other groups arriving and taking their places on the meadow and amongst the rocky tent sites.  It was a nice walk down to the start of the ridge, and we relaxed there a while to let the ponies and burro’s catch-up that were bringing our tents and climbing gear down to Cellopamba.  Some of the guys did some bouldering before we started hiking down the ridge, and across a small grassy crossing, before down the trail to the camp site we had started from and used for our acclimatization base.  

Only a few tents dotted the landscape and we relaxed on the sunny and grassy meadow for a time before the animals arrived and we started to load our bus with everything.  A short talk with the trekking agency boss led to the information that he makes all of his money during the main trekking and climbing season around Huaraz, and that must take care of his family and him for all the year.  Once everything was packed into the bus we took off down the dirt road, past the pretty lakes, through the Park entrance, and then down to Yungay before the road south back to Monterrey and the El Patio Inn. 

 Once back at the Inn, and all checked in, most of us took a quick taxi ride to Huaraz for some hamburgers and soda’s, before then returning to the Inn for a bath and to get some laundry done before the next climbing stint.  (The hamburgers were probably the best we tasted on this trip, and were really savored by Jose Louis and Shane.)  Once clean we then returned to Huaraz for a nice meal before getting back to the Inn somewhat late for a nice sleep.  (Sometimes it took quite a while to order, be served, and then eat an evening meal at most restaurants.) 

The weather continued to be unsettled, with rain most afternoons(and snow higher up), when we started a new day in Monterrey before getting back to the mountains for some more climbing.  We spent the morning getting some souvenir and food shopping done, while also checking in at the local guide center for news on the conditions Huascaran itself.  (The guide center was an all-in-one information center, pizza restaurant, and hostel, just across an alley from a nice climbing store.) 

At noon we got together at the hamburger place and enjoyed another fine meal while we talked over the rest of the trip.  Unfortunately the local news from Huascaran was not good this season, with deep and unstable snow hampering most attempts on the mountain.  Jose Louis and Rene learned that only two climbers had been successful all season, and that some had even tried another way around a dangerous icefall area without any positive achievement.  So we needed to talk over whether to spend a day getting to a high meadow, then another day getting to the local refugee, and then working our way up to Camp One the following day before even getting a look-see at the way above to Camp Two.  (The area above Camp One being the start of the deep snow, and with the unstable portion of the glacier with the icefall.)  If we did all this, and found the route un-passable, then we would have spent the rest of our trip time in Peru just looking at the route on Huascaran, and getting back down to Huaraz, versus doing some actual climbing.  Rene had also spent some time before lunch going through a possible change to our climbing itinerary, and as a second option going to a different area south of Huascaran and climbing two other peaks (i.e. Urus at 18,028 ft/ 5495m, and Ishinca at 18,255 ft/ 5564 m).  This option would at least get us climbing for most of the remaining days in Peru. 

Suffice it to say we had a lively discussion of the pro’s and con’s of both options, and with some general disappointment chose the second option of going towards the two lower mountains.  The frustration being that most of us had gotten fit, traveled to Peru, and gotten acclimatized, mainly to climb Huascaran.  At the same time we had experienced the poor weather while in Peru, and could imagine the poor snow conditions at the even higher elevation that Huascaran is at.  We also would never place anyone like Jose Louis and Rene in danger just so we could make an attempt on an unsafe route on any mountain. 

Jose Louis and Rene then spent the afternoon making preparations with the local trekking agency for our “new” itinerary, since the change in plan necessitated different pony and burro plans, along with provisions, for the new set of mountains.  The rest of us also checked through the local mini-supermarket for last minute items for the trip (i.e. toilet paper, soap, etc.).  The evening was then spent in Huaraz at a German type restaurant that served crepe’s, and its the first time that I ever had an ice cream filled and covered crepe for supper!  (On TV was the “COPA America” soccer tournament with the central and south American countries participating, and everywhere you went the locals were either watching the games or listening to them on radio.)   

Wednesday, July 21st, found us ready for another bus ride up into the mountains, and packing was a breeze since we had run through this drill before.  So by 9 a.m. we were on our way in a big city like bus, and we turned off into a narrow one lane dirt track and started the ascent up and up.  It did not seem like the right vehicle for the roads, but the bus driver was excellent and certainly knew the road and the way upward!  (We only had to stop a few times to get through the really narrow area’s, with the other vehicles on their way down.)  In about two hours we reached the very small village of Pashpa at 11,601 ft and 3536 m, with the local pastor or priest giving a talk in the village square about improving conditions as we arrived.  (Unfortunately most of his audience seemed more intent on what we were doing versus what he was saying.)  We then unpacked the bus while the pony and burro owners arrived to assist us with our bags and provisions.  We made sure to pack plenty of water for the hike on this day, along with applying our fair share of sunscreen, before starting up through the village and then on above it. (The village looked very poor, with the local church serving as the town square alongside a shuttered building.)

The trail followed a flat ridge (if there is such a thing) before dropping down to a stream before ascending below another ridge, which is where we met another group from the U.S. that was trekking in the same direction.  Once on this ridge we took a break for lunch and gazed down at some local “Mayan?” ruins, which Fernado, our local guide for this trip, pointed out to us.  (Naomi was also along to assist with the cooking, and yes it is very nice to have a local guide and cook to help us out!)  Rene was also good at making ham & cheese sandwiches, with the lunch fare changing to peanut butter and jelly, or plain old peanut butter sandwiches, while on the mountain.  (For some reason Rene could only find the “chunky” peanut butter for the sandwiches, although I clearly remember buying many more “smooth” jars at the beginning of the trip.  I still think he did that on purpose!) 

The trail then worked down into a small meadow before going eastward up into the gorge and towards the park entrance.  (Jose Louis must have had something special in his sandwich at the lunch stop, since a few of us then had to try our best to keep up with him before the next rest stop.  I was dripping wet with sweat with the effort by the time we stopped beside the lovely stream in the gorge.)  We had paid our park fee’s in Huaraz, so once the formalities were performed there we continued up the forested trail and enjoyed the lush scenery.  The scenery changed to an open canyon and we were then treated to pretty mountain views ahead of us in the clear weather.  We stopped for a nice water break here while some looked over the rocks for some bouldering challenges.  (I was hoping to dry my sweat off before we reached a probable chilly basecamp.) 

Then it was back on the wide trail towards basecamp, and we liked the trail since we could all hike together and talk along the way rather than needing to be in single file on the trail in the gorge.  We passed some older French folks riding horses to the refuge, and reached the high meadow which was basecamp at 14,416 ft/ 4394m.  The weather was getting chilly, and we added some layers of clothing, while we helped get the gear and provisions from the burro’s and ponies set-up in a nice quiet area.  Then it was time to set-up the personal tents, which was a challenge in itself since few of us had ever seen the Italian tents that the Huaraz trekking agency had provided for this portion of the trip.  (I am sure some of our fellow camp dwellers that afternoon got some amusement out of watching some of us figure out what-was-what with these strange tents.)  Before too long the tents were up, along with the cooking and a dining tent, and we then got our sleeping pads, sleeping bags, and gear, quickly set into the personal tents. 

Naomi got everything situated inside the cook tent, and we then enjoyed some hot drinks before a dinner of soup, pasta, instant mashed potatoes, and llama(?) steaks, before a dessert of fruit salad.  We also made the acquaintance of our “neighbors” (a short ways across the meadow from us), who were from Plains, Texas.  

It seemed to be a chilly night, but perhaps that was from our time down in warm Monterrey, before breakfast was served the next day.  Then at 10 a.m. we started a hike up to a nearby glacier for some acclimatization and some work with the ropes and gear, and before long the trail along the glacial stream had us gaining some nice altitude and some decent views above and below us.  We followed the stream for over an hour before reaching the glacial moraine and looking for a way across or up above it.  The moraine lip was none too stable with shifting sand and rocks, and we worked up to 15,854 ft, or 4750 m, looking for a way around it on rocks slippery with new fallen snow.  We took a break there and ate some snacks while taking in the great views all around us, along with getting a peek at Urus to see what the route was like higher on that mountain for tomorrow.  Then we took our time hiking down to camp, had a nice lunch, cleaned our tents and gear, and generally had a relaxing afternoon in the chilly weather before ending the day with a nice meal from Naomi.  (We had spent a bit of time in the afternoon checking out how nice the refuge was, and some sat down and played chess there to kill some time.)  We then turned-in early to be ready to start the climb up Urus.  The clouds seemed to come in with the late morning and early afternoons, so we hoped to be well done with most of our climbing on the next day before the weather blew in again.

July 23rd found us up out of the tents by 5 a.m., and eating a nice breakfast of pancakes, before starting up the lower ridge of Urus an hour later.  The trail on the ridge was steep in spots, but was generally good until we reached just below its crest where new snow made things slippery on the frozen ground and loose rocks.  I cautiously donned the crampons to make sure I did not slip, and reached the start of the real snow and climbing a bit later on.  (Rene had kindly stayed back with me in the pretty dawn light, which was good of him to do.)  At the beginning of the real ridge at 16,204 ft, or 4939 m, we all put on crampons and harness’s, along with putting our trekking poles away and getting our ice axes out, and roped-up to start some fun climbing over mixed ground of snow and rock.  (The rock not being all that good for the points on one’s crampons.) 

The climb itself was interesting, since the path upwards meandered back and forth amongst the snow, rocks, and ice, with several different ways to choose from.  We took our time and reached the start of the upper snow field in good shape, where we then rested before enjoying some good snow with the our crampons as we made our way upward.  The snow field started out steeply, but then flattened out at its crest, where a rock pillar marked the traverse past some crevasse’s while we reached the bottom of the rock pyramid to the summit.  The rock pillar being at about 17,125 ft or 5220m.  After a short rest at the bottom of the pyramid, and where we cached our packs and ice axes, we then started the rock scramble among the broken rocky terrain to the summit.  It was a quite interesting scramble, since in past years it had been mostly a snow climb, and in this case it was mostly on clean rock with a few snowy and icy spots noted along the way.  So after a total of five hours we had reached the pointy summit of Urus (18,028 ft/ 5495m), and where we met some a Slovenian couple who had also just summitted.  We took the time to take some amazing photo’s from the summit, and also shook hands and exchanged hugs all around!  Then came the descent back down the rock, snow, and ice, to the base of the pyramid.  (Of course I had forgotten to take the Global Positioning System handheld unit with me, so the altitude of the summit is the regularly published one.  All other altitudes with this story are one’s from the unit I carried with me during the trip.) 

We had a nice rest and snack break where we had left our packs, and also had an interesting chat with the Slovenian couple, who had lost a friend from a fall into a crevasse on the nearby mountain of Copa. (Their friends had been climbing un-roped, and one had slipped and fallen to his death into a crevasse.)  Then it was time to descend down the snow slope past the pillar and down the snow field before reached the top of the main ridge.  We took our crampons off on some of the following route, but the steeper snow and ice made us re-attach our crampons and down climb some of this area.  Before too long we reached the “crampon point”, where we had gotten ready for the real climbing earlier, and put away the ropes, crampons, and ice axes, for the trek down the now muddy ridge.  (The snow having melted while we were up higher, and the mud making for slippery going.)  We all took our time and everyone was able to descend much faster than I, and by 2 p.m. I was past down the refuge, across the glacial stream, and back to camp for some well earned rest and drinks. 

While descending the ridge I had seen a fellow below me from some other tents checking out our toilet tent, and once below I found out from Shane that some Brits had somehow misunderstood what the tent was for and had given him a hard time.  (The dark green color of the “toilet tent”, and its shape (i.e. tall and narrow), being universal with climbing area’s for being a latrine and not anything else.)  Once that misunderstanding was patched up we relaxed in camp, got cleaned up, along with snacking during “tea time” (i.e. drinks and snacks before supper later on).   

All I can remember about the evening is that the meal was good, along with the cake for desert, and I had a peaceful sleep that night with a large pile of my dirty clothes as a large pillow for my head inside the tent. 

We all slept in a bit the next day and got out of the sleeping tents as soon as 8 a.m. arrived, and when the warming Sun melted the frost to “rain” inside our tents on to us and our sleeping bags.  (A different way to wake up, and unlike anything one usually experiences at home.)  We had a nice breakfast and then cleaned our clothes, dried them, and generally relaxed most of the day.  I guess I should also explain that a burro had helped transport a live chicken in a cardboard box for us, and we had called it “Lolita”.  (Remembering of course how Shane had enjoyed chasing a chicken at Pisco basecamp.)  So on this day Naomi did the honors and beheaded Lolita, and that is what our dinner consisted of.  But the dining room tent gas light was poor enough that I think most of us had no idea what part of the fried chicken we ate!   

I believe that on this rest day a few of the guys went over to some nearby rocks and did some rope work, along with some abseiling/rappelling practice, and one of those same fellows may have had a problem with his harness and pants not quite keeping tight around his waist.  Now I cannot vouch for what really happened because I was not there, just suffice it to say the words “thong harness” had us laughing quite hard the rest of the day! 

We took the following day to also relax a bit, and once again arose as the Sun light hit our tents and started a nice shower of water droplets on us.  After a nice breakfast from Naomi we visited the refuge for a bit to see if there was any news on the “Tour de France” (there was no latest news, but the Italian refuge keeper was excited about how an Italian was doing).  Then a few of us decided to do an acclimatization hike up to the snout of the local moraine lake.  The trail was one we would ascend a ways the next day towards Ishinca, so it was nice to checkout the lower trail before traversing  along a stream to an old work camp.  This old dilapidated structure had once been used to house the workers on the moraine dam, which kept it from blocking up and then causing a flood.  (A number of low lying villages that I have visited in Nepal have been destroyed by moraine lakes breaking through the natural retaining walls and causing devastating floods below them.)   Once atop the moraine wall at 15,413 ft, or 4698 m, we relaxed and ate our lunch snacks while re-hydrating. 

Then we took our time descending down off the moraine wall, via the old worker path, and down past the old camp before meandering down the path back to camp via a few jumps on rocks over the glacial stream.  Naomi had a late lunch for us, which was the best of the trip with grilled cheese sandwiches (one of my favorite’s!), along with a very nice cold pasta salad.  The group had a peaceful late afternoon in the refuge while some played chess, and then we finished off the evening with an excellent pizza from the smoky refugee kitchen.  

Monday, July 26th, found us all up by 2 a.m., and into the dining tent shortly afterward for a quick breakfast.  The evening and early morning felt quite warm, with a few rain showers during the evening, so we would have to see how the conditions were on the Ishinca and its snow and ice slopes.  We all munched and drank as much as we could before starting off through basecamp towards the trail upwards, although a few camp dogs did not appreciate our early start and barked quite a lot as we left.  By then some other groups seemed to be awakening for their climbing day. 

By 3 a.m. we were on the trail upward which consisted of switch-backs to get us up the trail towards the beginning of the climb, and of course all of this was done with the assistance of headlamps lighting our way forward.  We passed by a nice waterfall in the dark, which we could hear but not see, and continued up and around the surrounding hills before gaining the upper moraine field of the mountain.  There we took a quick break in the dark as dawn approached, with the lower moraine consisting of a small pond at 16,093 ft, or 4905 m, where some people camp in order to get an early start on Ishinca.  Shortly afterward we then reached the start of the glacier, and our crampon point at 16,358 ft, or 4986 m, and started to get our crampons, harness’s, ice axes, along with our ropes out.  Quite a group of folks started to arrive at this point, and we wisely allowed most of them to continue on above us since they seemed in such a hurry to continue.  Then we took our time and started off on the lower glacier, which had firm snow and was a little icy.  

It was good to get started on our climbing, and our acclimatization did us good since the groups around us were showing their lack of fitness with the altitude by their heavy breathing.  Once we leveled off a bit we then passed an area of angled hard blue ice before ascending up to one of the main ridges, and there we rested in the warming light of the Sun.  Not far off were some threatening darker clouds, but the surrounding mountains seemed to hold off this storm throughout the day.  The ridge also gave us a good view of our objective, and the summit was some distance away but not too far! 

The last barrier to the upper glacier and summit ridge was a broken area of the lower glacier, with crevasses and large walls of snow & ice (i.e. serac’s), and we slowly and methodically climbed through this area before gaining some level ground for a rest.  It was an interesting section, and showed us several ways through the seracs.  Then we continued on just a short way up to the crest of the summit ridge and took our final break before attempting the headwall.  For the final section Jose Louis led and placed four snow pickets (i.e. anchors) to protect everyone from a fall as we ascended this 45-50 meter section that was angled approx. 55 degree’s before topping out just a short way from the true summit.  We met the large French group there at the summit area, along with two nice Austrians, and really enjoyed the views along with the accomplishment.  (Shane pass’s out true “bear hugs” at each summit, and we were all careful where we were during this “ceremony”!)  It was nice to also have Fernado with us, and I believe he had been atop this mountain more than a few times before! 

We took some time to relax and take photo’s while up there, and I believe Rene even took a nice video clip with his digital camera while we celebrated.  We also took measurements from the altitude watches to check the summit altitude, and I checked those readings with the GPS unit after it locked-on to four satellites for an accurate altitude measurement.  Our readings for Ishinca were then 18,255 ft, or 5564 m, which was very close to what the map says.  Then it was time to descend back to base camp to celebrate, but little did we know that the descent would take longer than planned! 

Once down from the summit area we prepared to down climb the headwall with the assistance of the four snow pickets that Jose Louis had placed on our way up.  That way each of us would be protected during each part of this steep section down the summit ridge via these snow pickets strategically placed along this section.  When a Peruvian guide poked his head up above the highest picket none of us worried, except that it would take longer for our descent while who-ever was following him passed up through this area (i.e. just like on Pisco when we waited for the two Ukrainians to get up the icy section).  Once the Peruvian guide anchored himself near the summit a French fellow continued up and then sat down near the highest picket, which is certainly not safe since he placed no anchor for himself or those below him while he slumped down.  Then we waited for the last French guy to show, and he slowly became visible using one of our lower pickets as an ice axe and the two others were on his pack.  Not good, since we were to use them to down climb, and now only the highest picket remained.  (Little did we know that these same two French “climbers” had “borrowed” Rene’s trekking pole from below, although fortunately Rene recognized it on the one guys pack and firmly suggested its return.)  Well, when we saw the pickets with the last French guy none of us were too pleased, and I believe I heard some un-kind words from Jose Louis about their climbing ability, which cannot be quoted.  We then retrieved the “loose” pickets from the Frenchmen and Jose Louis built a solid three picket anchor there before all of us down climbed facing towards the slope until back to the lower part of this section.  Now the hardest section was done and we could relax a bit. 

After a drink and a snack we continued down the slope to the higher glacier, and enjoyed a fairly level section before also then down climbing through the broken section of snow and ice to the lower glacier.  (The snow was getting a little soft or “mushy” by then, as the temperature rose, so we continually knocked off the excess snow from our crampons with our ice axes as we descended.) Once down past the serac’s we rested in the snow, and most of us took off a layer of clothing in the rising “heat”.  Then it was down to the hard blue ice section, and then across an icy and broken rock section, where I led Alberto & Jose Louis down a different path before returning to the normal one.  (I mistakenly did not like the original route in this area, and made our way via an interesting down climb and then traverse before regaining my senses and getting back on the regular path!  I just did not like the look of the flaky ice and rocky terrain in this short section.)   Then it was just down towards the start of the glacier, and before we knew it we were down onto the rocks and taking off our harness’s while coiling the ropes, and of course putting away our crampons and ice axes.  It had taken us about 6 ½ hours to climb up and back down in good conditions, while also just taking our time. 

After that most of us hiked back to camp in our climbing shoe’s, although Shane hiked back in his trekking shoe’s since his climbing boots were the huge Himalayan version, and while also enjoying seeing what we had missed on this trail when we had hiked up it in the dark earlier that morning.  It was a little cloudy, but the temperature was pleasant and so were the surroundings and the company we were in!  We waved Hello to some that were camping at the pond in order to climb Ishinca the next day, and also met a few others as we trekked downward for an hour or so.  (Its amazing how faster you can do downhill than uphill, especially when not having to rely upon a headlamp while walking.)  Naturally some of us still in our climbing boots were fearing the onset of blisters, while using the bigger climbing boots for trekking boots, so at least I walked gingerly downward as my toes started to feel a little “warm” while walking continually on a down slope.  Before long we were past the pretty waterfall, and within sight of basecamp, and then down the same switchbacks we had ascended, along with some shortcuts, until it was time to once again jump across the glacial stream on some rocks, and be back home to basecamp.     

I think it only took us about ninety minutes with the hike back to base camp, and the drinks and snacks were greatly appreciated there while we changed into dry clothes (some of us had sweaty socks from using the winter climbing boots), and just relaxed and took pleasure in the camp chairs and the Sun light!  We also looked around as other groups started arriving later in the afternoon to make base camp around our camp.  Then some of us walked over to the refuge for some lemonade, chess games, and had an early night after yet again an excellent pizza from the refuge kitchen.  (Naomi was helping another group with their meal time, which made sense since they were also provisioned by the same trekking company as ours.)  

All of us took our time getting up on the next day, July 27th, and got up casually at around 8 a.m. for a very pretty day while we cleaned up, ate breakfast, and also packed the community gear (tents and climbing stuff) while also putting our personal gear away.  By 9:30 a.m. we were ready for the burro’s and ponies to be loaded for the trip down the trail, and we all started to hike down together in some nice chilly Sun shine! 

It did not take too long before we were below basecamp and following the nice trail down towards the canyon or gorge, with it being a little chilly when we first started the trail before the Sun rose, and it warmed up as the day progressed as we got lower in elevation.  Less than an hour from basecamp we stopped near some boulders for a look-see on how some could climb on them, which was also a nice place for a few pictures of the surrounding mountains.  Then we hit the top of the narrowing gorge where a locked Park gate/door impeded our progress, but not for long since we scrambled up a low ledge and circumvented the gate/door that way.  We checked through the Park Entrance building and official, and it seemed that he was keeping the gate closed to keep non-approved folks from entering or exiting the Park.  (The gate/door keeping the burro’s and ponies stopped, but of course not people.)  It seemed that some visitors had been using non-approved trekking companies (i.e. burro and pony owners, along with tents and provisions), and that was not allowed since the approved companies also assisted with trail maintenance.  We then walked down through the pretty and cool wooded gorge with the rushing water just to our left.  It’s a very nice place and all too soon the trail led upward out of the gorge, and onto the dust trail through several fields, and then back up to a minor ridge.  We stopped a-top this ridge again, which was around the same place we had stopped on the way in, and enjoyed a nice rest and look around.  (We could see Huascaran and Copa in the distance.)  There was also no hurry, since we had to wait for the ponies and burro’s anyhow to deliver the gear to the bus, so we took a leisurely pace down the trail and back to Pashpa.  A number of trekking and climbing groups were heading upwards, and when asked we updated them on the local weather conditions for the past several days. 

Just above Pashpa we hiked past some children, with one little girl looking especially forlorn and dirty, and to me this is the saddest part of these trips when you see and meet people who have so much less than yourself.  You do your best for the local economy, and hope that is good enough to help and/or assist most of the people in the area, rather than trying to give handouts, which then leads to begging.  (You can tell that previous trekking group handouts have occurred in some places in Nepal, since there begging is epidemic.)   

Pashpa was warm and dusty, like when we left it, and we stowed our packs on-board the waiting private bus as we awaited Fernado and Naomi with the burro’s and ponies and their “drivers” and/or “handlers”.  We waited less than an hour before the train of animals appeared, which were quickly unloaded, while the loading of the bus took no time at all.  (I think these folks have done this before!)   Then it was on down the road with the bus, but for this trip “Lolita” (in her little cardboard box) would not be with us.  Our bus driver of course knew the way, and we were down off the mountains in short order and back into Monterrey to pick up our valuables, and town clothes, that we had left at the El Patio Inn.  We drove back up to Huaraz then and checked into the best place in town, the Andino Club Hotel, at 10,279 ft, or 3133m.   

I think most of us just took enough time to change out of our hiking shoes into our sneakers, but without taking showers, before heading down the street (most streets are not level in hilly Huaraz) to our favorite hamburger joint in the middle of town.  (I think Curtis and I also checked on the web, via the Hotel’s guest PC, on the status of the Tour-de-France (Lance won), and Formula One (Michael had won), while Jose Louis also checked on our Lima hotel reservations (A-okay).)  The details are murky now, but I think Shane ate at least two of the large burgers at the restaurant, along with chips/fries, but then again it might have been three!  One burger and fries were good enough for most of us, along with some drinks, before we then returned to the hotel for some showers or baths.  Dinner was at a nice pizza place, where we met the Slovenians we had seen at basecamp and on Pisco. 

The usual clear and then cloudy day in Huaraz followed, and I think we all slept in before hitting the hotel breakfast buffet at about 9 a.m.  We all then walked down into the middle of town, where some took some interest in watching while I had a very pleasurable shave and haircut.  Rene was nice enough to translate my request to a large barber and beauty shop off the main road, although he deserted us too quickly when the lady doing the excellent work started asking me some questions in Spanish!  Never-the-less she did a wonderful job getting rid of my beard, and trimming my thinning hair, and it was at quite a cheap rate.  We spent the rest of the morning walking around town buying flags, postcards, and scarves, before hitting a different restaurant for a lunch of hamburgers again.  The nice little shop on a backstreet seemed to be run by one fellow from Argentina, and he did the best job he could while waiting tables and preparing and cooking the food at the same time!

The afternoon was spent relaxing and packing for our bus trip the next day back to Lima, and the evening meal was at another sort of pizza place that seem to be in abundance in the town.  Jose Louis was nice enough to translate/read to me the article in an Ecuadorian climbing magazine, that he had sent to me in the US, that described his life along with his successful climb on Mt Everest.  We then finished off the meal with desert, which to me meant a banana split with plenty of ice cream.  Some of the rest of the team spent the evening, and perhaps the early morning hours, celebrating the Peruvian Independence Day in the street party that night, along with some quality time in the “Tombo” nightclub.  I took a walk through the streets of celebrating folks for a while before hiking back up the hill to the hotel, and a peaceful night of sleep. 

The town was set-up very nicely for the festivities of Independence Day, with the national flag everywhere along with the main street closed off to traffic along with a bandstand set-up right across from the main square.  Everything was very festive and pleasant. 

The morning of July 29th was sunny and clear while we ate our buffet breakfast at 8 a.m.  before loading the private bus with our gear at about 9 a.m.  It was good to hear what all had taken place in town during the celebrations.  We all then loaded up on-to the bus and bid adieu to the Hotel owner and staff and started down the road towards Huaraz.  There was one police checkpoint at the edge of town (for a safety inspection and documentation I think), and then most of us napped as the driver worked his way along the road in light traffic back up to the Pass, and then down through the canyons towards the coast.  It took over three hours to get down to the coastal highway, where we took a quick potty break, before another four hours through the coastal towns and along some very nice and wide highways before hitting the outskirts of Lima.  (Just like before the closer you get to the coast the more foggy or cloudy it was.)  At least this time we could see the ocean, along with the ships along the coast and in the several small ports along the coast.) 

We left-off Alberto at his separate hotel (he was to leave in a few hours back to the US), and then it was our turn to check-in to our hotel, which was the same one we had when first arriving in Lima, the Sonesta Posada del Inca.  It took them a little while to find our reservations, and after that we got everything into our rooms before heading off to supper.  We decided to spare no food at “Chili’s”, and ate our fill of nacho’s, buffalo wings, fajitas, and of course something with ice cream on it or in it!  I think we all ate way too much before the short walk back to the hotel for bedtime. 

I got up the next morning, which was foggy of course, and did a nice jog around the local park, which made me feel really good.  Being at altitude for the last couple of weeks was good for my fitness level, and of course on this morning it was good to get out-and-about after eating too much the previous evening.  (On the international news it was all about the Democratic Convention, and I am sure Alberto was glad to have missed all that in his home of Boston while he was in Peru with us.)   After a thankfully light breakfast at the hotel we took two taxi’s to downtown along the beach and visited a climbing shop (oops, closed for cleaning), then took a walk around to a department store that was just opening (I got some soccer jerseys there from the “Copa America” cup tournament), before yet again back to some taxi’s for a ride to the Presidential Palace so the rest of the guys could also see the changing of the guard at noon.   

We changed some money in front of a bank before sitting down and taking in a nice chicken meal at one of the large restaurants in that part of Lima, which was like a downtown mall and shopping area.  It was a good meal, and cheap, before some more walking around and taxi’s back to the hotel.  We burnt-off some time watching TV, before back with the taxi’s to a Chinese restaurant, which took us some time before finding it on the main road instead of a side street that we were on.   

The part of the trip sounds like its all about eating, but we were enjoying ourselves with relaxing and shopping in the city along with taking in its sights.  The restaurant was rather large, with not many folks there this evening, and we had a nice time before heading back to the hotel.  Curtis and Shane caught flights back to the states that evening, while I headed back up to the room for a nap before my early flight out the next morning.  It was also time to say goodbye to Jose Louis and Rene, since I did not want them having to get up in the wee hours of the morning just to say goodbye to me!  (I believe Jose Louis and Rene stayed a day or two longer in Lima before they flew back home to Quito, Ecuador, and their climbing work back there.) 

July 31st was one whole day of traveling for me, since by 3 a.m. I was on my way to the airport to check into Copa Airlines and the flight back through Panama City, and then on to Orlando.  It took a while to get checked in, pay the expert “tax” ($28 US), through passport control, and through security, before walking through the quiet terminal to my gate.  The flight was packed, so I read and watched the on-board movie as best I could before flying over Panama City and seeing the area with the tide out.  Once we landed there was no time to walk around, since my connecting flight was already boarding, and I got on another packed flight (it was actually oversold and they had to ask some passengers to de-plane).  It was another sort of flight where I just tried to busy myself with reading and watching any movie that was showing, and I was glad to land after about three plus hours in Orlando and the good old USA.

Once through passport control at the Orlando International Airport I waited a while for my climbing bags, and then re-checked them for the transportation to the domestic portion of the terminal.  The bus to the domestic terminal did not take long, but boy did it take a while for the bags to make the same trip!  Then I took the bags and found the United check-in counter and checked my bags on-ward to Washington and home.  (Fortunately I am a frequent flyer with United, and spent the time between flights relaxing in their club lounge and got cleaned up a bit from flying all day.) 

The Orlando to Washington flight took no time at all (about two hours), and the flight was full of those folks who had just been to Mickey Mouse’s house for vacation.  It was the usual congestion at the Dulles International Airport, and we de-planed, took the bus to the main terminal, waited for my bags, took the bus to the parking lot, and found my car.  (Yes, I had made sure where I had parked it in the rather large lot!)  Then it was an hours drive to home sweet home!

It was a fun vacation, and even though we did not get an opportunity to climb on our main objective of the trip (i.e. Huascaran), we made up for that by climbing two other peaks instead of just sitting in a hut and waiting for the weather to get better.  Thanks to all on the trip for making it a good time, and I am looking forward to returning to Peru for some more climbing.

Paul H Morrow

Warrenton, Virginia

September 2004 

 
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