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Illimani’s South Face, Then Four More

Florian Hill leading the new Deliver Me (VI WI6 M6+, 1700m), which climbs the south face of Bolivia’s Illimani (6438m), in the Cordillera Real. Hill and climbing partner, Robert Rauch, faced dangerous conditions and brittle rock on their ascent, then spent about three days traversing four more peaks in the massif. [Photo] Florian Hill collection

In late July, Florian Hill of Austria and Robert Rauch of Germany climbed an impressive new route on the Bolivian centerpiece Illimani (6438m), the highest peak in the Cordillera Real, and added to the challenge by immediately traversing over four more peaks. Deliver Me (VI WI6 M6+, 1700m) climbs the south face of Illimani, and the majority of its 5,600′ was climbed in a 21-hour push.

Scoping out their line from base camp, Hill and Rauch quickly discovered that the bulk of the route was hidden and would remain a mystery until they were higher on the mountain. On July 24, they approached via scree slopes and brittle rock until they reached a series of seracs that eventually led up an ever-steepening ice couloir. Realizing that navigation of the seracs would be safest in the early morning, and taking into consideration the long distance they had already traveled, they bivouacked.

The next morning, July 25, Hill and Rauch left at 3 a.m. to begin climbing the ice couloirs that reached an incline of 95 degrees. Later, a traverse across extremely exposed and brittle rock brought them to a second, nearly 150m-wide wall of ice. While traversing underneath, seracs above began to loosen in the hot sun. Hill said that he and Rauch barely managed to avoid serious serac fall. After a short break, they decided to tackle the most dangerous spot on the route quickly and without a rope.

Firm climbing at 6000m provided entry to a second wall of ice amid serac fall. Hill reported that the ice grew thinner the higher they climbed, making it impossible to screw in even their shortest ice screws more than a quarter of the way. With such precarious belays and little room for protection, the team climbed until midnight without a break. They bivied again, below the summit, sharing a 50cm-wide thermal mat and one sleeping bag. Hill reported that the temperature dropped to minus 27 degrees Celsius.

Florian Hill leading across one of the traverses on the south face of Illimani. Hill and Rausch had to traverse across the face a few times to avoid dangerous serac fall. [Photo] Florian Hill collection

The next day, after reaching the summit, they continued traversing the Illimani Massif, heading east. Hill said they climbed Pico Likho Linkho, Pico Layca Khollu, Pico Central and Pico Sur–about 5 kilometers of mountainous terrain–over the three days that followed. They arrived back in base camp on July 31.

Reflecting on the climb, Hill said, “You start to feel the utter intensity of mountaineering when you lack certain detailed information like we did when we opened up our new route on the Illimani south face. Driven by pure instinct, you give the word ‘adventure’ its initial meaning back.”

Editor’s Note: Hill and Rauch, with Stefan Berger, also climbed a new mixed route on the south face of Serkhe Khollu (5546m) in the same mountain range a month prior, on June 20. Read the June 28, 2010 NewsWire for more information.

Sources: Florian Hill, Trip report by Hill and translated by Sonja Erhart

Florian Hill traverses the south face of Illimani in snowy conditions. On the night of the team’s second bivouac, the temperature dropped to minus 27 degrees Celsius. [Photo] Florian Hill collection