BASQUES STRUGGLE THROUGH STORM FOR SINGLE-PUSH FA ON RONDOY

Posted on: September 11, 2006


The west face of Rondoy, Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru. The new route, Bagabiltza, has two distinct halves, each equally perilous: vertical WI5 followed by a steep flute of ice and snow. [Photo] Aritza Monasterio

Despite limited time and undesirable weather, Aritza Monasterio (Basque-Peruvian) and Mikel Saez de Urabain (Basque) spent twenty-eight hours sinking their tools into a new ice line on 5870-meter Rondoy's west face in late June. A lull in early-season bad weather made possible this steep gem in Peru's Huayhuash Range, most renowned for Walter Bonatti and Ricardo Cassin's ascents during the 1960s and, more recently, for Simon Yates and Joe Simpson's epic events that became the basis for Touching the Void.

Starting at a high camp beneath the Jirishanca on June 26, the team descended across a cracked glacier inundated with fresh snow, which complicated the approach. Upon reaching the headwall, they tackled difficult, sustained ice for 500 vertical meters. A steep flute of ice and snow followed for the next 400 meters, connecting the climbers to cornices on the summit ridge at 9:30 p.m. An abseil and descent that lasted nearly eight hours safely brought them to the base of the glacier, having established Bagabiltza (TD+ WI5, 900m).

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Rondoy's prominence in mountaineering history remains overshadowed by the nearby west face of Siula Grande. In 1985, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates set out to climb a route on that face, but Simpson shattered his knee on the descent, necessitating a famously disastrous retreat that became the basis for one of climbing's most compelling pieces of literature and, more recently, one of its best films. Fortunately, the accomplished Monasterio and his partner avoided the touch on their ascent.

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