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Brits Pull Off Epic in Peru

The southwest face of Huaguruncho (5723m), Cordillera Oriental, Peru, showing Llama Karma (V,5 90 degrees, 1000m), new ground covered by British climbers Tony Barton and Tom Chamberlain. The duo reached the ridge after three days of runout climbing, much of it in the dark or amid a storm. [Photo] Tom Chamberlain

In a four-day epic, British climbers Tom Chamberlain and Tony Barton climbed new ground on the complex southwest face of Huaguruncho (5723m), located in the Cordillera Oriental of eastern Peru.

Huaguruncho, first climbed by a British team in 1956, is located relatively near the Amazon Basin and receives significantly more precipitation than Cordilleras Huayhuash and Blanca. Despite its visual appeal, with dramatic flutes, cornices and seracs, the peak has only been climbed three times since the first ascent more than 50 years ago.

“The [Cordillera Oriental] is scarcely ever visited by climbers, and yet has enormous potential, especially on rock,” Chamberlain wrote.

Barton and Chamberlain began their ascent on August 1, reaching the crest of a spur at circa 4850 meters after four mixed pitches and some simulclimbing. The next day, they climbed six pitches that grew progressively more difficult and culminated in a “very tricky line” of finger-tip flakes. Here, the rock changed from somewhat chossy, orange-grey gneiss to solid granite and finally gave way to snow and ice. Chamberlain led most of the pitches, hopping from rock island to rock island to find anchors. He found little gear in between and often climbed entire pitches unprotected.

The final bivy. [Photo] Tom Chamberlain

The pair expected to top out on the peak that evening, but they were still far from the summit and with no place to bivouac at dusk.

“We grimly carried on into the night looking for places to stop, getting extremely thirsty and slightly losing touch with reality as pitch followed pitch in the dark,” Chamberlain wrote in his trip report.

The pair bivouacked later that night in an awkward “ice tube” beneath a serac, while a storm raged through the night and well into the next afternoon.

The team reached what they called Huaguruncho’s summit plateau just as the snow stopped falling on August 3. “On the final hundred meters to where we stopped, it was snowing really hard and the final wade to the summit seemed like an unreasonable risk to take,” Chamberlain said. “We had climbed the southwest face. [It] would have been nice to stand on top, but there you go.” In total, the duo climbed 24 pitches and called their progress Llama Karma (V,5 90 degrees, 1000m). Their effort was the first time a party has climbed this high via the southwest face.

Sources: Tom Chamberlain,,,

A spectacular view from the team’s highpoint. [Photo] Tom Chamberlain