Trip Report
La Esfinge - Original Route (V 5.11c-)
Monday July 29, 2013 11:10pm
Hamik and I finally had an outing where we could relax a little. We packed a bunch of cookies and headed off to Paron Valley to climb La Esfinge (5,325 M or 17,470 ft). La Esfinge (or The Sphinx) is the most famous big wall in Peru. Since we did not have a porta-ledge, or much desire to sleep on the wall we picked "Original" route as our climb of choice. It features over 2000 ft of technical climbing with a crux of 5.11c-.

La Esfinge at sunrise
La Esfinge at sunrise
Credit: Vitaliy M.

The crux of the climb turned out to be the approach. Not only did we get owned by a taxi service, we also got lost on the hike to the base of the wall. We enjoyed a small victory on a collectivo when we avoided paying double for having giant backpacks - we were able to stuff them under back seats. But when we got to Caraz we failed to find other gringos who wanted to carpool to Laguna Paron. We had to take a private taxi for 100 soles one way. Even though it is only 35$ for an hour and a half of driving, by now we are used to paying 1/10th of that. Fail number two came when we got to the trail-head proper; since the trail we had to take was descending, we disregarded it, and cut up the fist rock gully we noticed. After ascending about 2,500 ft we stumbled up on a hill and saw the figure of La Esfinge sticking out a LONG ways to the west. On most days we would laugh it off and traverse over, but it was getting late, was starting to snow, and we had to climb over a fairly serious-looking ridge with our heavy pack on. When we got to the base of the ridge, our assessment turned out to be correct - it was pretty serious. On a sunny day it might of been a cool scramble in approach shoes, but now we had to solo terrain to 5.7 wearing beat up running shoes, heavy packs, in a snow storm. Somehow we made it over the ridge, got rid of screaming barfies, and arrived to intended campsite in one piece. We made hot chocolate, and crashed for the night.

To our luck it did not snow for too long, and completely cleared through the night. We woke up at sunrise to beautiful glow over Chacraraju Oeste. From here Brad Johnson's book describes the approach as "an hour of blood, sweat, and tears," but we were able to find a nice trail and make it to the base of the wall in good time. To our surprise there were two parties intending to climb La Esfinge. One party from Peru was jugging up their fixed lines when we arrived. I was polite as a fox and did my best to assure them we are not going to get in their way. It was the right thing to do - by the time their first climber jugged to top of pitch two, Hamik was leading the third.

Our plan was to treat this route as any free climb, and we alternated leads at every belay. As I look back to our strategy, I think it would be easier to lead in blocks, since usually we did not place much gear on any single pitch. Even though this climb was not very sustained or difficult, it offered climbing of highest quality in a setting that I could describe as unreal. With each climbed pitch we were rising higher over surrounding glaciers. Views of 6,000 M peaks all around were fantastic. I was happy to see the other side of Chacraraju Oeste, which looks terrifyingly beautiful. Views of Huandoys, Caraz I, and Piramide were also stunning. Almost every pitch had an original and cool crux with easier climbing surrounding it. Some of the pitches had very slippery sections, even more slippery than climbing on domes of Toulumne. Many pitches of this climb were memorable. Especially traverse on pitch four (maybe I was a bit off route there - it was spicy getting over to the overhang). Crux sixth pitch (awesome under-cling into a hand crack, followed by amazing finger crack) was amazing, but I blew the move after getting through the crux itself. On 2nd attempt I moved through the moves with no trouble and freed the pitch with no trouble. Hamik led the second crux 5.11 overhang (pitch 7), which was super fun and exciting, so was the wide section on pitch 8 - slippery lieback protected with old rusty rivets.

Me leading 5.10 lieback protected by shitty bolts (Photo by Hamik)

When we got to the giant bivy ledge (top of pitch 9) the wind picked up and east face was getting ready to go into shade. We picked up our speed - Hamik linked pitch 10 (5.10 corner - awesome!) with pitch 11, a 5.7 R groove. I linked "5.10 poor pro" to 5.9 R (pitches 12 and 13) - which was easier than 5.9, but had no protection at all! From there we tried to pick our way up through the upper section without much help from our topo. It seemed like the upper part of the wall would never end, and we would never re-warm our hands. At elevation of over 17,000 ft temperature drops are really noticeable when the sun drops over the shoulder. Wind chill makes it even worse. But after about 17 pitches of climbing the climb did end with an awesome finger crack in a corner and a casual walk to the summit. We took some photos on top, tried to digest the views of this unreal place, had a snack and headed down. Our single 70 M rope got us down to the base without much trouble and we made it down to the trail to see my favorite show - the sunset! Since we took only 8 hours to climb the route we never had to put on our head-lamps. Perfect day on good rock - good change from our previous alpine climb! :)

BETA: 1) In my honest opinion, this original rating would translate to 5.10+, or 5.11a (at most) in many California granite crags.
2) Climb it in a day so you do not have to haul. Hauling on the upper pitches would be horrible. It took us 8 hours to climb the route, and we are not anything special. Even though we were acclimated to that altitude..
3) Find out if other gringos from Huaraz want to get out to Paron Valley. We took a collectivo from Huaraz to to Caraz for 6 soles (one way), but had to pay 100 soles (there, and 80 soles back) for a private taxi to Laguna Paron. It is hard to find other people to carpool with in Caraz.
4) Rack of doubles from .3 to #3 camalots with 3 smallest offset metolious cams was great to have. Did not use many nuts on route, and did not remember the need for any big nuts.
5) There are a few run-out spots on upper pitches, so mandatory free climbing to at least 5.9. I think this route would be most enjoyable for those who lead at least 5.10, and can move fast through 5.8-5.9 terrain.
6) 70 meter rope allows you to rappell down without much trouble. On the last rappell you end up with sea of slab below - traverse towards the scree slope which is to your left, it is a walk off from here.
7) I would recommend to camp in a flat sandy area about an hour from the wall. It has running water about a 100 ft east of camp-site. There is also a bivy cave less than 5 minutes from the wall, but who knows if it is already occupied. Water access there is questionable too (I did not see any).

For more photos and stuff see

  Trip Report Views: 4,445
Vitaliy M.
About the Author
Vitaliy M. is annoying gym climber from San Francisco.

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Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
  Jul 29, 2013 - 11:13pm PT
nice rest day from the alpine game!

Gym climber
A dingy corner in your refrigerator
  Jul 29, 2013 - 11:13pm PT
Scrolled thru and wanted to be the first to post "BAD ASS" I'm gonna read it. It will be hard to sublimate my jealousy :)

Gym climber
A dingy corner in your refrigerator
  Jul 29, 2013 - 11:23pm PT
Good style included : "we packed a bunch of cookies"..,
the Fet

  Jul 29, 2013 - 11:20pm PT
TRs like this are the best part of SuperTopo.

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
  Jul 29, 2013 - 11:38pm PT
Man you know how to live! Just phenomenal....

Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Jul 29, 2013 - 11:46pm PT
you guys are slaying it! Is Tauliraju next?

We heard of some team trying it and reporting scary thin ice. Going there would probably be a waste of time for us. Cayesh is next, hopefully. Should be an appropriate challenge for us...Hope Taulliraju will be possible some day.

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Jul 29, 2013 - 11:57pm PT
Really this time I'm serious: THE BEST TRIP REPORT EVER

photos, bizarre understatement ... and:

Almost every pitch had an original and cool crux with easier climbing surrounding it.

Do you know who did the FA?

and thanks.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Jul 30, 2013 - 11:49am PT
Thank you Darwin! FA was done in 1985 by O. P. Garcia and A. Gomez Bohorquez, per Brad Johnson's guidebook. :)

Trad climber
the middle of CA
  Jul 30, 2013 - 12:43pm PT
I was glad I wasn't there for your last TR, but this one is making me very jealous! Thanks for posting awesome stuff! Looks like you'll keep your free climbing strength after all

Trad climber
The fake McCoy from nevernever land.
  Jul 30, 2013 - 01:02pm PT
fantastic pictures once again; casual and cookie eating with epic approach, nice.

Trad climber
Save your a_s, reach for the brass...
  Jul 30, 2013 - 01:46pm PT
Eggzellent! Good work gents. Looks really good, if I ever have a chance to return to the Blanca I'll take the rock gear :-) TFPU

Trad climber
San Francisco, CA
  Jul 30, 2013 - 02:26pm PT
Good work bro! You guys are really crushing it down there!
carlos gallego

Ice climber
  Jul 30, 2013 - 02:45pm PT
Very good climb... maybe the first good rock climb in Cordillera Blanca.
My friend "Sevi" Bohorquez is one of the best expert in the Andes and his route with his friend in "La Esfinge" was really impressive in those years.
Congratulations for the climb.

Trad climber
  Jul 30, 2013 - 03:03pm PT
Great TR. You guys are cranking!

Trad climber
Mountain View
  Jul 30, 2013 - 04:53pm PT
Wahoo for some ROCK climbing! Keep crushing!
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Jul 31, 2013 - 09:40am PT
My friend "Sevi" Bohorquez is one of the best expert in the Andes and his route with his friend in "La Esfinge" was really impressive in those years.

Yes, this one is a great climb. Congrats to your friends. Seemed like you climbed a lot around here?
Peter Haan

Trad climber
  Jul 31, 2013 - 12:12pm PT
Wow, great images, V!! Thank you.

Oakland, CA
  Jul 31, 2013 - 01:44pm PT
Vitaliy, you and Hamik are hereby nominated to the Official Supertopo Team of the Year. Your competition includes Herson and his daughter, so you probably won't win in the end, but runners up? Hell yes.

So inspiring. Beautiful pictures. Excellent storytelling (and in a second language, no less). Just f*#king awesome, man. Thank you!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  Jul 31, 2013 - 02:49pm PT
Cool climb, report and photos - thanks for sharing!

Social climber
Wilds of New Mexico
  Jul 31, 2013 - 02:53pm PT
Freaking Awesome!!
noriko nakagawa

Trad climber
sw utah
  Jul 31, 2013 - 05:31pm PT
Another awesome TR and photos, V! Let me know when you're back.

Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Jul 31, 2013 - 08:35pm PT
Y'all Effin rock!!!!!
Thank you!!!!

Trad climber
Santa Monica, CA
  Aug 1, 2013 - 01:38am PT
Cool stuff man! Such a fun route. You guys crushed it.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Aug 2, 2013 - 07:00pm PT
Thanks guys.

Jared, your report sure had me drooling last year! Hope everything is good with you!

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Aug 2, 2013 - 08:39pm PT

Mountain climber
Alamo, CA
  Aug 2, 2013 - 09:40pm PT
very nicely documented Vitaliy - photography/scenery is inspiring

  Aug 2, 2013 - 10:48pm PT


Social climber
north vancouver, B.C.
  Aug 3, 2013 - 02:40am PT
Always nice to see a big chunk of superb rock that you never knew existed. One stellar tr after another. Keep it coming guys!

Trad climber
Santa Monica, CA
  Aug 4, 2013 - 12:31am PT
I'm drooling over your reports this year. It has me itching to go back.

You sent la esfinge pretty quick, sure beats lugging packs up it!

carlos gallego

Ice climber
  Aug 4, 2013 - 04:14am PT
Yes, this one is a great climb. Congrats to your friends. Seemed like you climbed a lot around here?´

Hello, Vitaliy... I have just climb two peaks in Cordillera Blanca... Chacraraju (Bouchard/Meunier) and Pucaranra west face (without summit)... in 78 and 80.
Best regards.

Sport climber
  Aug 4, 2013 - 04:36am PT
Vitaliy M., the annoying gym climber from San Francisco, is living the dream... as is Hamik... TFPU!
Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
  Aug 4, 2013 - 10:02am PT
Thanks for posting, beautiful!!!

Trad climber
New England
  Aug 4, 2013 - 10:35am PT
So good! Ironically, the Sphinx just came up in a podcast I heard recently, and I I thought, "That sounds freakin' amazing..." Lucky bastard!

Trad climber
  Aug 4, 2013 - 11:28am PT
that is some amazing scenery. well done guys.

  Aug 26, 2013 - 07:26am PT
Nice TR! Burly and beautiful...

Trad climber
Washington DC
  Aug 26, 2013 - 08:28am PT
Wow! What a great TR. Thanks!
Larry Nelson

Social climber
  Jun 6, 2016 - 08:16am PT
Bump for good climbing content

right here, right now
  Jun 6, 2016 - 08:30am PT
Excellent photographs and a good write up!

portland, or
  Jun 6, 2016 - 09:15am PT

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
  Jun 6, 2016 - 11:58am PT
Missed this one the first time around. Beautiful place, impressive stuff.
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