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New Route in Peru for McNeill-Nott Team

Posted on: August 31st, 2009 by admin

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Delicate climbing on the new route Juegos de los Reyes in Peru. Courtesy of Marcus Donaldson.

Marcus Donaldson from Portland, Oregon, reports on a new route in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca, climbed with Nate Farr. The two men received a 2009 McNeill-Nott Award for their trip.

In July, Nate Farr and I visited the Cordillera Blanca with the support of the AAC and Mountain Hardwear’s McNeill-Nott climbing grant. We began our journey with a trip into the beautiful Paron Valley to attempt our planned new line on Caraz II (6,020m). We were unsuccessful—stopped by a long section of loose, overhanging rock down low—and after 12 long days we found ourselves once again back in Huaraz, somewhat disheartened and now without a mission to strive for.

Adam French came into town and renewed our spirits with some recent pictures of the gorgeous southwest face of Pucaraju (5,320m), located in the Yanamara sub-range of the southern Cordillera Blanca. We soon hopped a ride to Lake Queracocha, and in half a day’s hike were positioned in a cave bivy below the southwest face. Hiking up on July 26, it appeared that much of the face was still covered in unconsolidated snow from an unusually wet winter season. However, a thin, white line seemed to snake nearly unbroken all the way up the sunnier right side of the face…game on!

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Donaldson and Farr's new route is marked in red; their descent followed the blue line. Courtesy of Marcus Donaldson.

The first pitch was a full 60 meters of sustained thin ice and mixed climbing on a one-meter-wide ribbon of ice. Protection was often uncertain in the friable rock, so we took belays whenever they presented themselves on the succeeding pitches of névé, ice, and rock. The upper couloir presented steeper and more delicate mixed climbing, up to M6, culminating in a narrow chute filled with classic Andean sugar snow.

We downclimbed and rapped the south ridge, reaching a snow couloir to climber’s right of our line, which took us back to the base with seven more raps. Our new route Juegos de los Reyes (300m, 5.8 WI4 M6) ascends the first corner system to the right of a major slab bisecting the southwest face.

Big thanks to the AAC and Mountain Hardwear for supporting our trip with the McNeill-Nott grant. It definitely made it possible for us to get away and try some cool new stuff down south.

Several McNeill-Nott Awards are granted each year to amateur climbing teams exploring new routes or unclimbed peaks with small and lightweight teams.