PERU TRIP III - Views From The Top

"You cannot stay on the mountain forever:  You have to come down again....  So why bother in the first place?
Just this: what is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above.
One climbs, one sees.  One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen.
There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by memory of what one saw higher up.
When one can no longer see, one can at least still know."
                                                                                                                                              -Rene Daumal
Moraine Camp
Just another night at the office.  Michael and David ready dinner at 4,800M (16,000 ft.) Artesonraju lit up
in background.

(Left click any photo to see full sized image)

Moraine Camp
Moraine Camp
After a lazy day and a half relaxing (and acclimatizing) in Base Camp, we made our way to the Moraine Camp at about 4,800 M (16,000 ft.) A few small, rocky bivuacs are found here just below the glacier leading to the Alpamayo-Quitaraju Col.  We arrived at this camp fairly early and spent the remainder of the day relaxing and acclimatizing. 

Liberato asked if he could  join us in the climb on the Ferrari Route.  He had already proven that he was as strong as anyone in the Cordillera (and cetainly stronger than us) and his terrific attitude made it an easy descision.

View of the Col
View of the col from Morraine Camp
Mike at Moraine Camp
Mike takes in the view at the Morraine Camp

The route from the moraine to the col camp was especially fractured this year and required several pitches of technical ice with packs.  Liberato and I left for the col at about 7 AM the following day expecting an quick 3-4 hr. jaunt with some easy ice pitches.  Little did we know that the upper section would resemble the Khumbu Icefall and it would take us about 7 hours to gain just 600 M.  (Maybe my own exhaustion had something to do with it too.)

Spaniards Ascend the Col
A Spanish team heading toward the headwall of the 
Alpamayo-Quitaraju Col
Near the Top of the Col
The Spaniards negotiate the upper Col
The approach to the Col typically involves a simple grunt up 45-50 degree ice.  El Nino threw us a curve this year and changed the route dramatically.  After a thoroughly exhausting climb through several vertical headwalls,  we finally reached or high camp at 5300 M (17,400 ft.).  As we crested the last lip to the col, we were confronted with the most spectacular view of Alpamayo's south west face. 

Click on the picture below to see the full screen version.  A team of 3 Argentinians can be seen setting a rappel high on the Ferrari Route. (Small spec, left of center, 3/4 of the way up from the bergschrund to the summit.)

High Camp (5300 M)
High Camp at the Alpamayo-Quitaraju Col

S.W. Face of Alpamayo

South West Face of Alpamayo, 5,947 M.   Click HERE for routes.

View from Col Camp
Sun setting at high camp
Liberato and I reached the col at about 4:30 PM shortly after the Spanish team.  We set camp next to the Spaniards and a team of Argentines who had just completed the Ferrari Route. After a chilly night at 5300M we were awakened by Inaki Amenabar, the leader of the Spanish team.  His partners had both become moderately altitude sick through the night and were unable to climb.  Inaki asked if he could join us on the route.   Our team was now set for the final push.  A Quechuan who spoke some Spanish, a Spaniard who spoke only Spanish, and an American who spoke NO Spanish.   Now that's a climbing trip! 
We were able to fit Liberato with some modern Koflach boots and Charlet Moser crampons borrowed from one of the ailing Spaniards.  The Argentines were heading down so we had the entire mountain to ourselves.  This is rare on Alpamayo in peak season but the conditions en-route to the col had driven most parties away.   What followed was some of the most asthetic climbing I've ever experienced.  The Ferrari Route is very straightforward with sustained 60-70 degree ice for about eight 60M pitches.  The summit is a spectacular knife-edge and surprisingly small given the size of the mountain as seen from below. 

The start of the Ferrari was unnavigable due to a large bergschrund so we began the route two runnels to the left and traverse into the Ferrari on Pitch 4.  We arrived at the summit around Noon.

Inaki Amenabar leading high on the Ferrari

Panoramic photo from the summit. 
(Left click on photo to see full screen image)
 After a few celabratory handshakes, summit photos, and about 20 minutes of gasping at the spectacular views, we rigged the ropes for our 8 pitch rappel back to the glacier.
Liberato and Inaki enjoying the summit of Alpamayo
5947 M (19,5111 ft.)

Rapelling from the summit
We finally made it back to high camp at about 2 PM and decided to make a break for basecamp.  After hastily breaking Col Camp, we began rapelling back down though the col.  This proved to be the most challenging part of the day.  Already exhausted from climbing the Ferrari, and with darkness coming,  Liberato and I stumbled through 4 lengthy rappels through the heavily seraced (sp??) col.  We finally arrive back at the Morraine Camp as darkness set in.  By headlamp, we negotiated the morraine talus back down to basecamp.  (Actually, I wore a headlamp.  Liberato miraculously seemed to have no need for lighting and relied on the stars.)

Rapelling the Ferrari
Huh,,,,,,seems solid....?  Tenuous rap anchor.
We arrived at Basecamp at about 9:30 PM and found our gear cash.  16 hours after waking up at the col, we found ourselves back on safe ground eating rice and ramen.

The following day, we walked the remaining 22 miles back to Cashapampa and found a collectivo back to town.

Click  HERE  to find out how the photos were taken.