Sunday, August 9, 2009

Hatun Machay

the weather everywhere was crap. everyone seemed to be gravitating back towards Huaraz, out of the hills. we had heard whispers from friends about an amazing sport-climbing area called Hatun Machay. apparently Peru´s premier rock-climbing area. we went to investigate at the local office that organises transport to and from the refuge that serves the area. we were amazed at how easy everything was, with a bus leaving every day.

we packed all our gear ready for a few days in the sun. it would be nice to clip bolts and relax! we made our way down to the office and at 8am the bus left for the 1.5 hour drive. the bus had many people from all nationalities. everyone was in good spirits and ready for some laughs.

we arrived at the Refugio and were greeted by views of the amazing rock formations that make up Hatun Machay. there are currently about 120 routes established, but the potential is endless. with 10 lives you wouldnt get halfway through it. we eagerly walked the 15 minutes to the crag and set about climbing as many classics as we could! out of shape from the mountains it was a struggle but we managed to climb routes up to 6c+(23). we climbed in the warm sun all day before making our way up to the hut for some dinner.

the hut is recently built and a great theing to have. for only 20 soles per night you´re provided with a kitchen, utensils and a comfy bed! we sunk some of the beers we had brought, and settled into laughing in front of the fire. there were some great people up there, i only wish my spanish was better!

in the morning we were woken by the many cute dogs roaming around. after a hearty breakfast we made our way once more down to the crag! towards lunchtime we were joined by our friends, the pro skiers. these three girls(and guy) were here carrying skies up the big hills to ski down. all this to raise money for a local charity. it was pretty impressive what they had been up to! maybe when im in europe i can get a free lesson!! the rest of the day was spent laughing, climbing and having a ball! Rob and i decided to head back to Huaraz with the skiers to enjoy some amazing local food cooked by Zarela.

i was sad to leave such an amazing area. i looked at changing my ticket to stay and head back to Hatun Machay. theres a drill and bolts available for putting up new routes and i was keen as mustard! unfortunatly though, it would cost more money than i could justify. maybe next year!

if your in Peru or even south america i'd recommend a visit to Hatun Machay. Andres, the owner, has done a fantastic job of creating a climbers paradise. give it a few years and it will become a global destination! get in quick! you can check out all the information at!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Dreaming Big...

the suggestion of Taulliraju had gotten both Rob and I excited. this would be what we were after, a long, hard and sustained outing that would push us to the limit both mentally and physically. we were thinking of trying the Italian Butress(VI, WI6, M6) but had also heard rumors that the un-climbed direct might be in condition. the plan was to take food and supplies in, and have a sniff about to see what was in.

after stocking up on coffee, food and plenty of snacks we made our way once more to the trailhead of the Santa Cruz valley. this time however we were early enough to do the approach in a day. our young arriero was very helpful and by late afternoon we were pitching basecamp and staring up at the imposing south-west face of Taulliraju. i was awestruck, it was the most beautiful thing i had ever seen in the flesh. we picked up our small binoculars and starting trying to see what was happening up on the face. a passing trekker lent us his much better pair and we could get right up close, and soon see how things looked.

the direct looked good. at least through the binoculars! if what looked like ice didnt prove to be the infamous powder on rock the Andes often serves up, there would only be a short rock section to join the two ice smears. being fit, acclimatised and psyched out of our heads, we would go try and get the first ascent of this incredible line. we would never forgive ourselves if we didnt at least try!

after a rest day prepaing food and a meagre rack we settled into to reading books before heading up to bivy on the glacier the next day. at 5am however disaster struck. the pitter-patter of rain drops slowly started increasing on my tent, and soon it was pouring steadily. poking my head out of the entrance it looked grim. barely able to se the moraine, this weather wasn´t just a passing shower. all day it poured down rain while up high it snowed. through the day we passed time reading in our tents getting more and more frustrated. we just wanted to go have an adventure, failure or success, it didnt matter as long as we could push the boat out and see what happened.

i finished my book shortly before Rob finished his. we swapped and kept this up till dinner time. hopefully this would clear during the night and we could depart a day late. all through the night it kept up and we woke to the same routine. more tea and reading passed the day. the weather showed no sign of improving and we were running out of time. with a plane to catch we made the decision to bail. up high would have too much snow and need to settle for a day or so and we just didnt have the time. an Arriero passed us with un-burdened donkeys and we soon arranged to be out that day.

all afternoon we walked and walked till we were out. tired at the end we were both disappointed we didnt even make it passed basecamp. when the locals continously tried to rip us off it was the last straw. nearly exploding with rage we caught a taxi and got out of there. soon we were back at Zarela's having showers and going out for beers to drown our sorrows. oh well, maybe next year. id much rather dream big and fail than never experience the restless nights before you push it to the limit, and discover what your truly capable of!

Up & Down & Back Again

so Rob was feeling pretty average the whole way out of the Ischinca valley. unable to keep food down he was soon gripped by fever on the taxi ride home. after 24 hours back in Huaraz he was feeling much better. a course of antibiotics had done him well. feeling well enough to consider eating some food we went to a local restaurant with a good reccomendation. we tucked away a hearty meal felt fat and contented. it was here we met Nate and Marcus, two americans that had been about for a while. Marcus was heading home the next day and Nate had 48 hours until his Dad and a mate were showing up in Huaraz. he put the question forward;

'Are you interested in heading up to climb Churup?'

Churup is a close by mountain that features some more technical climbing at a lower altitude. i was a biut hesitant at first, i didnt want to leave Rob on his own so i said i'd think about it. the next day Nate was still keen as mustard, and Rob wanted a little bit more time to start feeling better. it was on! i quickly packed up what we´d need and we were soon waiting out the front of the hostel for our taxi. a short drive later we were at the trailhead. we started walking, the track being familiar as we had hiked it for acclimatisation. this time, however, the packs were much heavier! we were both feeling fit and moved fast up to the first lake. getting many strange looks for all the other tourists. by now im used to that, 'you must be crazy' expression people have written all over their faces upon seeing big packs!

a few hours after starting we found our campsite. a beautifully secluded beach next to an amazing lake. above us loomed the mountain in all its glory, flanked by seracs and glaciers. we settled in to resting, hydrating and getting ready for a midnight start. we had to be down in town by about 1830 the next day, the taxi would be waiting for us at 1700 at the base of the trail. we would have to work hard and move fast!

the alarms rung and we snapped into gear, getting tea and breakfast on. like a well oiled machine we were soon heading out across the scree(talus) on route to the glacier. we steadily made our way onwards and upwards in the dark. feeling our way up the glacier. soon we arrived at the base of the route and we put the rope on for the first time. a steep traverse led us to the base of the rockband that provided the meat of the hard climbing. Nate took the first pitch. some amazing mixed climbing, without much gear for saftey saw us 70m higher. the climbing was easy enough to savour, and not worry about having to change undies later on!

Nate passed me the rack of gear and i made my way up and left, finding the traverse line that led to easier ground. some enthralling climbing led me out and out. with much hooking and torquing of my tools i was soon back onto snow. that had been some of the best mixed climbing i had done. Nate swung through the belay and led through a final band of rock and onto the headwall snowslopes above. we were moving fast and climbing well together, everything going well! the sun met us during the second pitch of snow. we continued to pitch it up the 65-70 degree neve and soon Nate cried down that he could see the summit ridge. i could scarcely believe him, it felt like we had much longer to go! he was right though, and soon we were taking in the panoramic views of the entire mountain range. a break for some water and food that i had neglected to eat on the route was warmly welcomed.

we made our way down the ridgeline to the first of the abseils. these were all fixed down a buttress of terrible rock. each abseil saw small rocks whizzing by us, threating to hit us, or worse, cut the rope. we kept at it and made it safe and sound back down to the glacier. here we packed the rope away and started down to our camp. we were soon down. its amazing how an approach seems so much longer in the dark! we checked the clock at camp, we had made it in 12 hours round trip! with plenty of time to spare we packed up and made our way down the hill.

arriving back at the trailhead much earlier than expected we were glad to find a waiting collectivo. we made our way down and cancelled the arranged taxi. i made my way to Cafe Andino´s for a beer and some food to celebrate. all the guys were there already so it was great! Rob was feeling better so we started thinking what was next.

with out too many ideas Nate piped in a great suggestion, why not try the fearsome Taulliraju. we were sold instantly. No one had tried this amzing mountain yet this season. it stands proud at the head of the Santa Cruz valley. Giving the impression of an impregnable castle, where all the bad guys live in the clouds. we were keen to go face those bad guys head on....