Trip Report
Alpamayo (5,947 M) and Quitaraju (6,040 M): First peaks in Peru!
Monday July 15, 2013 11:34am
Please check out all the photos by clicking the link. Even though I had some time and transfered most to this page! Hope you guys enjoy :)
Climbing at Hatun Machay is also really fun:

Life is a roller-coaster. Even though I realized that a while ago, at times it is hard to look ahead towards future when you are down. After about six days in Peru I caught a respiratory infection and was coughing up green chunks of sickness. It has rained or snowed in the mountains for every day that we were up here, and my mood was at a low point.
View of Alpamayo from Col
View of Alpamayo from Col
Credit: Vitaliy M.
To be honest I can't even recall the time when I was more annoyed by everything that went on around me. Even though Hatun Machay was a fun place to rock climb, we came to Peru to climb mountains! Despite continuous precipitation we wanted to try climbing a peak anyway. We chose Churup as a good mountain to acclimate on since Hamik has done it before, and it is not very high in elevation. Even though I did not feel very healthy, I thought getting to the mountains would make me feel a lot better than spending time in polluted Huaraz.

The hike in was beautiful and the weather stable for most of the day. After we got to camp it all changed and snow begun falling again. We met a group of three Argentinians who graciously offered we try climbing the route first, and they will use our tracks to climb it on the day after. We got up early, got through approach glacier (which is much smaller and broken up than it was two years ago, according to Hamik), and to the base of the climb at dawn. We saw constant spindrift avalanches come down our line of ascent, and wind rip apart the summit ridge. People say real avalanches are not common in Peru, but based on our previous experience in California (where avalanches are also not common) we decided to avoid trying our luck on upper slopes loaded with fresh snow. I was a bit crushed by a combination of being sick, unstable weather, and bailing on our first climb - "What the hell am I doing here? If I was in Sierra I would not be sick, the weather would be perfect and with a week off from work I could have put up a first ascent on one of those remote backcountry walls I dream about." As I wrote this trip report I found out about a recent death of a three man Argentinian group on the slopes of one of the Cordillera Blanca peak - due to an avalanche. Hopefully it was not guys we met on Churup, but this event is a reminder that mountains are dangerous and listening to your inner voice of reason could save your ass in certain situations.

Another rest day in Huaraz, and my lungs felt stronger. Even though weather continued to be gloomy the forecast showed sun for several days in a row. It was my turn to decide where we head for our next outing and I thought an attempt on one of the most beautiful peaks in the world (Alpamayo) could be a good way to rebound from feeling shitty.

Hike from Cashapampa (a small mountain town at 2,900 M where you start trekking) to Alpamayo (5,947 M) is LONG and every climbing party we encountered hired 'burrows' (mules) to haul their gear to base camp (4,300 M). Some go further and hire porters to carry majority of their gear all the way to 'advanced' base camp (approx. 5,200 M). If we were wealthier, or knew better, we might have hired mules, but ignorance is bliss - transfer fees for a 6 day round trip from Huaraz cost us 38 soles ($14) per person! In addition, it felt good to organize own logistics, do the peak without a guide, and carry all of our gear in and out without outside assistance. Even though now I am actively looking for a masseuse to relive pain in my sore shoulders (I lost enough weight that my backpack's hip straps do not offer much support and majority of the weight is distributed through my upper body).

The hike through Santa Cruz valley is beautiful, but throws a lot of elevation gain at you right from the start. It was supposed to be a sunny day, but both of us were happy to begin hiking under a layer of clouds. After we met a few German climbers on their way back we changed out minds and got a bit worried - they reported about 50 cm of fresh snow and climbers being stuck in camp for days with no action. Since we did not want to go too high too fast and conditions higher were supposedly grim, we decided to spent our first night a bit past second lake. On our second day we got to base camp (4,300) and hiked up to moraine camp to acclimate a bit better before we move any higher. Hike up to moraine camp ended up being longer than we expected (about 2500ft of elevation gain) but offered more beautiful views and opportunity to obtain clean water directly from the glacier.

On the next day we moved up to 'advanced' base camp, along with over 20 other climbers - all interested in climbing Alpamayo. Even though Quitaraju (6,040 M) offers a good line of ascent and beautiful views of Alpamayo none of these climbers were interested in attempting it. Alpamayo was titled as "the most beautiful peak in the World" in 1966 and it's fame drew crowds from many parts of the world. On our way we met climbers from Spain, Austria, Peru, Japan, Poland, Slovenia, plus multiple parties from USA and Germany. It was really fun meeting other climbers from different parts of the world.

Moving our camp from 4,300 M over a 5,400 M pass with 55 pound packs was one of the most strenuous days of the trip, even though every one of these six days was tough. Looking at porters moving other climbers' gear made me a little jealous, but hopefully a little suffering at the start will make us stronger for rest of the trip. On fourth day of our 'mini expedition' we woke up at dawn and climbed a variation (looked safer and steeper) of Quitaraju's North Face. It turned out to be a great climb with a good amount of ice. With 5 screws and two pickets we simul-climbed it in 3 blocks. Views of the range and Alpamayo were stunning. One of the main highlights though was the summit ridge. Brad Johnson's book suggests climbers "climax" on this ridge, and I would have to agree - it was INCREDIBLE. Again, this outing was a tough one - we had to break trail all day and down-climb (we brought a single 60 M rope and down-climbing was faster than rapelling) majority of the route to get down. We rapelled only 4-5 sections using V threads. Even with a long descent the climb took us about ten hours tent to tent and we were back at camp to witness another beautiful sunset.

Even though about 16 (!!!) climbers were seen on Alpamayo on the morning we climbed Quitaraju, there were still plenty of other people going for it on the day after. Turned out Hamik got a stomach bug and wasn't sure if he could ready to climb in the morning. As a great partner I tried to use a combination of begging, whining and threatening to get him healed. When we woke up at dawn, we decided to have a rest day. as the day progressed Hamik felt better and we felt we could actually have safer conditions on the climb if we start it as majority of people are rappelling (descending).

As climbers swing their tools into hard ice it knocks chunks down onto those climbing bellow them. One of these chunks injured a Japanese climber on the day prior (broken clavicle as someone said). Majority start climbing by 2 am. We left our tent at 10:30 am with 10 people still seen at various stages of the climb. Line of ascent we took is called French Direct and takes a middle couloir of Alpamayo's SW face directly to it's summit. For Hamik and I this climb was not a very challenging (1500 ft of ice to about 65 degrees), but combination of an aesthetic line and a beautiful peak put this one on my bucket list. Aside from other climbers knocking chunks of ice, we had a lot of fun on this climb. After first 100 meters of snow and neve-climbing, couloir was mainly ice for remaining 370 or so. Unfortunately at this point Hamik's ice pick broke and we had to stop simul-climbing. Even with having to pitch out remainder of the climb, we made great time. Three pitches from the top we saw a party of three from Colorado on their way down. As they rapelled past one of them exclaimed "although I climbed multiple 5.14s on rock, this was the toughest climb I have ever done!" At this point I witnessed something scary - I saw a body tumble to the base of the climb. Later on we found out last rapell anchor (a picket) failed, and a woman from Germany took a hundred foot fall. She was lucky this anchor was not any higher and there was a lot of fresh snow at the base - instead of losing her life, she only broke an ankle.

We climbed remaining pitches and after about 30 minutes of taking in views from the summit we begun rapelling. I was stoked that dream to climb Alpamayo became a reality. To our surprise there were still a few parties rapelling bellow us (one of them started the climb about 12 hours before us). On our way down we backed up every anchor with a screw for climber who would rapell first. Keeping things as safe as possible was our main concern. To our surprise tent to tent round trip took only 6 hours - without much simul-climbing, with a pleasant break on top, and no rush on descent.


Back at camp I had a little celebration with luxury dose of top ramen and a can of tuna. Highlight though was a snickers bar with a hot mocha mix. We fought condensation in our tent (at 5300 M) for one more night and had a 12 mile hike out on our 6th day of the trip. To our surprise 'collectivo' (cheap form of transportation locals use. Worthy of own blog entry. Yesterday's trip was especially funny - a bag full of guinea pigs started to fall out as we drove back to Huaraz. We had to alert the driver. If we didn't many people would be left starving...LOL) was waiting for us at the trail-head and we made it back to Huaraz in great time. So early that I had time to pick up a diarrhea burger. Now we are fighting for toilet paper and preparing to sport climb for a few days. Hatun Machay is a place worthy of multiple trips and we might even re-unite with a few other US climbers we met on Alpamayo. Hamik has freedom to choose next climb we have in the mountains, so I am sure it will be something exciting. Hopefully our roller coaster will continue to climb...

  Trip Report Views: 5,280
Vitaliy M.
About the Author
Vitaliy M. is annoying gym climber from San Francisco.

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Comment on this Trip Report

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
  Jul 15, 2013 - 11:38am PT
my mood was at a low point.

Why do I get the feeling that your low point is a lot higher than many
others' high point?

Rock on! Or ice on!

Mountain climber
The Ocean
  Jul 15, 2013 - 12:05pm PT
Awesome choice on the Avalanche danger bail early in the TR. Making a choice like that is the true measure of success.

Avalanches are COMMON anytime the terrain and conditions are proper. ANYWHERE. This can include the local drive through.

More pictures please!

Mountain climber
  Jul 16, 2013 - 01:00am PT
Congratulations, V!

Alpamayo is a beautiful peak. Am looking forward to a century more of reports. ;-)

Be safe!

Trad climber
  Jul 15, 2013 - 12:45pm PT
Great pics and TR. Alpamayo is so striking and appealing!

Good that you built the time and flexibility into your trip to deal with illnesses and weather, and still get back at it.

Looking forward to the next chapter on your trip.

Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
  Jul 15, 2013 - 01:04pm PT
Nice Vitaliy. Your trip reminds me of how much I kick myself for not going to South America with a buddy years back because I was busy looking for a job--like that's important! He ended up climbing Alpamayo and some other choice peaks. Oh well. Glad you had a safe and successful trip.
Stevee B

Trad climber
Oakland, CA
  Jul 15, 2013 - 01:09pm PT
Great pics over at your blog! Throw a few up over here!

Trad climber
Salt Lake City, UT
  Jul 15, 2013 - 03:11pm PT
Riding the wave of international travel and climbing. The adventure will fuel your stoke Vitaliy. As will the uncertainty of the outcome!

Mountain climber
Somewhere Up There
  Jul 15, 2013 - 03:17pm PT
Loved Alpamayo. Sat atop that sometime ago with one leg on one side of the knife edge ridge and the other leg on the other side. Of course, to this day, my climbing partner hasn't sent me the pics.

A great memory though.

Nice TR. Keep at it.


Trad climber
The fake McCoy from nevernever land.
  Jul 15, 2013 - 03:20pm PT
damn, i havent even had a chance to fully read through everything but i gotta say your pictures are fantastic. such color! i enjoyed this very much.

Social climber
State of decay
  Jul 15, 2013 - 03:44pm PT
Well done guys!
Easy Wind

Trad climber
Oakland, California
  Jul 15, 2013 - 03:57pm PT
Wow! Sharp shots V!

Trad climber
Erik O. Auburn, CA
  Jul 15, 2013 - 04:11pm PT
Thanks for sharing! Great report and pictures!

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Jul 15, 2013 - 04:22pm PT
Nicely done Vitaliy.....keep the action going!
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Jul 15, 2013 - 07:11pm PT
Thanks guys. Had a bit of time and moved most of the photos on here :)
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Jul 15, 2013 - 07:38pm PT
Stellar and stunning as usual V,

That's good your learning to listen to your inner voice, Avys are bad and have killed one of my friends.

I am glad to see CHEBURASHKA shreding the GNAR!!!!!
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
  Jul 15, 2013 - 07:50pm PT
Man, those are some INCREDIBLE photos

Folks, you gotta check out the links
Stewart Johnson

Mountain climber
lake forest
  Jul 15, 2013 - 08:56pm PT
Stellar !

Trad climber
under the sea
  Jul 15, 2013 - 09:24pm PT
Rad!! Lots of great memories reading your post. My first peak in Peru was Quitaraju as well. Got stormed off alpamayo frenchdirect the day before. Glad to hear u r well. Keep the send train rolling!

Credit: matty

Trad climber
Little Rock and Loving It
  Jul 15, 2013 - 10:07pm PT
If you are goings to post a TR, at least make it interesting.

Me jealous. TFPU. BBST!

Trad climber
  Jul 15, 2013 - 11:02pm PT

  Jul 16, 2013 - 12:47am PT
Amazing photos. What's your "wet dream" mountain in the background? That thing looks like a fang of rock and ice.

The Good Places
  Jul 16, 2013 - 01:17am PT
Stellar TR! You've got the stoke! Thanks for sharing your contagious condition!

Social climber
north vancouver, B.C.
  Jul 16, 2013 - 02:19am PT
I was wondering why the valley trip reports stopped. Now I know why. Great adventuring Vitaliy and an informative interesting report! Never been down there but it looks exciting.

  Jul 16, 2013 - 04:27am PT

Fantastic -- and your photography is really gorgeous too. Thank you for the inspiration!

Some Random Guy

  Jul 16, 2013 - 09:03am PT
finally - you've stopped boring me with all those sierra cracks.

you have strange wet dreams.....
John Duffield

Mountain climber
New York
  Jul 16, 2013 - 10:05am PT
Nice!!! Great Work!!!
Don Paul

Social climber
Denver CO
  Jul 16, 2013 - 10:10am PT
I want to do this.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Jul 19, 2013 - 11:16pm PT
What's your "wet dream" mountain in the background?

It is Taulliraju. Stunning (scary as a devil) peak, with hard lines up it. We are hoping to climb Italian route on it this year. So far conditions in the range are fairly unstable. Been sport climbing last 4 days waiting for weather to get better...

Mountain climber
San Francisco, CA
  Jul 19, 2013 - 11:35pm PT
We discussed climbing the Italian Route, yes, but that was just a meta-conversation about bouldering. We are going bouldering in the Abbey Smith valley for the next month.
Mark Rodell

Trad climber
  Jul 19, 2013 - 11:41pm PT
Alpamayo remains one of the highlights of my life. Was there in 88. Really enjoyed you TR and its pictures. Hope you have a great season.

Trad climber
the middle of CA
  Jul 20, 2013 - 12:20am PT
What kind of camera do you use Vitaliy?

It's mostly your framing and wicked skilllz but whatever you're using sure does a great job too!

Keep it coming
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Jul 20, 2013 - 05:53pm PT
Using Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS19. Like it so far.

Burchy, sport climbing is way more fun than sitting in the hotel room or getting hammered in camp. But thank god weather forecast seems better and we are packing for the hills today... :)
lars johansen

Trad climber
West Marin, CA
  Jul 20, 2013 - 08:08pm PT
Gorgeous photos, Thanks.


Trad climber
Santa Monica, CA
  Jul 21, 2013 - 02:38am PT
Bummer with the weather. At least you can acclimatize more in Hatun Machai.

Stay safe and keep following your passion!

Social climber
State of decay
  Jul 21, 2013 - 02:48am PT
no more sport climbing . You guys didn't go all the way there yo clip bolts( although Hatun is pretty cool).......get on with the alpine( READ...MORE PICS PLEASE!!)

Boulder climber
Lander, wy. Born 1992. student of physics and pain
  Jul 22, 2013 - 02:04pm PT
Yeeeeuh send the alpenproj. dudes! Nice photos, Looking forward to the next tr. be safe.

Social climber
  Mar 5, 2016 - 03:38pm PT
A "just dreaming I was younger" bump. A great exploration TR.
Stewart Johnson

Mountain climber
lake forest
  Mar 5, 2016 - 04:42pm PT
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