Friday, August 9, 2013

Soloing Chopicalqui (6,354 M) and Converting to "Sport Cl*****g"

After a not so successful trip to Laguna Cayesh Hamik and I needed some motivation to get back to the mountains. There is probably no better way to get psyched about climbing mountains than flailing on sport climbs, so we went to Hatun Machay. To our surprise there was a sport climbing competition which was set to start 30 minutes after our arrival. "North Face sponsored climbers from Lima are gonna be there," someone told me. Even though we do not really sport climb back in CA, and never compete in it, we decided to be open-minded and give it a shot. Competition involved doing as many routes as you can in four hours. Routes were given a certain amount of points based on difficulty, and participants were given a bonus for climbing the same route. We thought this played to our advantage and each climbed twelve routes in four hours (most in 5.10-5.11a range). Both of us led every pitch to get as many bonus points as possible. Highlight for me was getting to wear a 'gopro' on an attempt at "Fancy a Good Route" (5.11a). On a prior trip to Hatun Machay I onsighted it on lead, but took a fall following it on a following day. After minutes of huffing and puffing trying to figure out the crux once again, I got it clean. To our surprise we had a lot of fun. got placed 2nd in the competition and got some prizes as well. For the remainder of our trip we worked on some harder climbs and got our finger tips torn up - time to head for the mountains!
Chopicalqui (6,354 M) as seen from Chacraraju Este

On one of the nights we made pizza!
People that placed (Hamik and I are on the right)
Ancient Petroglyphs in Hatun Machay

And some climbing !
Peak of choice was Chopicalqui (6,354 M). When I started mountaineering back in 2010 I saw a photo of Chopicalqui's stunning summit pyramid and instantly put it on my bucket list. Seeing it at sunrise from Chacraraju was also incredible and strengthened my desire to climb it. The route of choice was 'normal' SW ridge. Climb wasn't technically as hard as our earlier ascents of Chacraraju Este, La Esfinge, or Alpamayo, but was physically exhausting due to altitude. Climbing SW ridge now has an opportunity to scope out the descent for East Face (route I hope to climb at some point in the future). Aside from high altitude this climb was a bit exhausting due to the style we chose. We got dropped off at about 4,100 M on day one and hiked in all the way to glacier camp at 5,600 M - approximately 4921 ft of elevation gain with 50 lb pack. Weather was unstable all day, but it begun to clear by sunset. One good news was erased by a bad one - Hamik got food poisoning and spent the night puking liquids out of every hole imaginable. Since the route we were going to do wasn't too challenging I decided to solo it. Starting up from tent after 4 am I made good time coming up. I saw headlamps of another American party about 1500ft below me. I felt lonely and really wanted them to catch up. But I kept on moving.
Chacraraju Oeste and Este seen as we approach Chopi
Starting our way through giant crevasses
More crevasses
Hamik crossing a snow bridge
 At one point I witnessed an incredible sunrise. Alpine glow hitting Huandoys was breath-taking. Just before that I got a little off route and traversed a very exposed slope under a giant cornice. When I was down-climbing I realized why I got off route - there was a 30 ft    step that ascending parties belayed. This step had a vertical bulge at one point, and was significantly harder than crux of Liberty Ridge. Since I did not have a partner this down-climb was a little spicy - right over a giant crevasse.  Huffing and puffing my way up I prayed for the summit to be over the next hill, but it wasn't, till I reached a short 70 degree snow step an hour or so later. Shortly after I got over it I saw the view that caught my attention a few years back - the summit pyramid! It was quite unreal to look at it in person, so I took a few photos and continued moving up. As I ascended there was another 25 ft snow step to get to the summit. After getting over it and hiking up a little more I was on top. Since Denali is 'only'  6,194 m, Chopicalqui became my new altitude record.
The other side of Huascaran
Sunset views from camp
Upper ridge at sunset
Huandoys. One incredible sunrise!
Huascaran S and N at sunrise
 Views all around me were so good I took 20 minutes to take it all in. In the distance I saw Caraz I and II. Chacraraju Oeste and Este towered to the right. I saw Taulliraju, and on the opposite side of the peak were Huascaran and rarely climbed Ulta. Along with Cayesh these are some of the peaks I would love to climb in the future. I stood on the summit for a little longer and headed down. Since summit pyramid is so cool I took another 20 minute break sitting across from it. It was unreal. On the way down I caught up to a group of Americans and found out they turned around at the first steep step. When I got back to tent Hamik felt better and we decided to hike out. To our luck we got picked up by a bus heading straight to Huaraz and were back in town by sunset.

Chopicalqui's Summit Pyramid
View towards Laguna 69 and Paron Valley
NW ridge of Chopicalqui
Trying to smile through a freezing wind :)


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  2. Well done V. Chopi is one of my favorite summits, mostly becasue of the views! Tony

  3. Sad I was vomiting instead of climbing up there. Good job not falling into a crevasse, homes.