The south face of Nevado Illimani (6439m), the highest mountain in Bolivia’s
Cordillera Real, showing 1. Puerta del Sol (ED1: WI5R M5, 1200m,
Ichimura-Yokoyama, 2006). 2. Inti Face (TD+: AI 5, 600m, Yamada-Satoh,
2006). 3. Phajsi Face (TD+: AI 4+, 1200m, Yamada-Satoh, 2006). 4. South
Face (Mesili-Jacquier, 1978). 5. 2001 Route (FA information unknown). In
June, the Japanese team of Fumitaka Ichimura, Tatsuro Yamada, Yuki Satoh and
Katsutaka Yokoyama established four new routes in the area. Yamada and Satoh
established Phajsi Face (TD+: AI 4+, 1200m, Yamada and Satoh) on the south
face, then returned to put up a direct start, Inti Face (TD+: AI 5, 600m).
Ichimura and Yokoyama put up Acalanto (ED1: WI5R, 950m) on a satellite peak,
Pico Layca Khollu (6159m), then went on to establish Puerta del Sol on
Illimani. [Photo] Katsutaka Yokoyama
In June 2006, Fumitaka Ichimura, Tatsuro Yamada, Yuki Satoh and I established four new routes on the south face of Mt. Illimani (6439m), the highest mountain in Bolivia’s Cordillera Real.
In late May, after a month and a half of climbing in Alaska (Editor’s Note: Yokoyama and Ichimura established Before the Dawn [Alaska Grade 5: 5.9 WI4+ M6, 23 pitches, ca. 3,300′] on the north face of Broken Tooth [9,050′] on their Alaska trip), we flew to La Paz, Bolivia, and soon climbed the normal route of Mt. Illimani for acclimatization. Then, we returned to La Paz for rest and preparation for three weeks of climbing.
From June 14-15, Yamada and Satoh gained the South Summit (6439m) of Nevado Illimani via a new route, Phajsi Face (TD+: AI 4+, 1200m). This line followed one of three obvious ice lines in the center of the south face straight up to the upper snow slope. Eight technical pitches and a 500-meter slope led them to the easy summit ridge. The ice was thin but good. They descended the West Ridge (normal route) which can be walked all the way down to the base of Puente Roto (4400m), but they then had to walk a long trail back to our base camp. They managed the climb in two days round trip.
Pico Layca Khollu (6159m) is small satellite peak on the east side of the Illimani massif. But the south face of this peak is not so small, and nearly vertical. A line in the center of this face went straight toward the summit. It was connected by thin ice, and is so beautiful.
On June 14, Ichimura and I started climbing our new route, Acalanto (ED1: WI5R, 950m), at 3 a.m. We overcame the initial 500 meters before dawn. Except for two pitches, the climbing was easy, though without protection. The upper section of the route rose vertically above us, and the rock seemed loose. The thirteenth pitch–thin, unstable, overhanging–turned out to be the crux: WI5R, involved many ice pebbles. I climbed steadily, and found myself short of oxygen (we were at more than 6000 meters), but the crux was not as long as I had expected.
We simulclimbed the fifteenth pitch, which led us to the summit ridge. We stood on top at 4 p.m. and descended a gentle glacier on the opposite side of the mountain, reaching 5600 meters by sunset. The next morning, after a short walk on the ridge, we started rappelling on the ridge’s west side. Four raps landed us just above our base camp, which we reached by noon.
After this climb, we rested for several days while coming up with our next objective. Every day, we bouldered, establishing more than thirty boulder problems overall.
On June 22, Yamada and Satoh opened an alternative start to the Phajsi Face, just to the left of that route, which they named the Inti Face (TD+: AI 5, 600m). The route’s six technical pitches were steeper and more beautiful than those on the Phajsi Face. They rappelled from half way up the route, where the two routes join. In the Aymara language, Phajsi means the moon and Inti means the sun. Yamada says, “Our souls were raised like those objects by this adventure.”
Ichimura and I then identified our next goal: a straight-up ice gully between the first-ascent route (Mesili, Jacquier 1978) and the Inti Face. On June 22, the same day our friends were establishing the Inti Face, Ichimura and I began our objective. The first gully was easy (WI3) but it was hard to find the correct line. Next came technical climbing with mixed, thin ice in the dark–fairly difficult but fun. By daybreak, we started on the crux pitch: 50 meters of continuous 90 degree thin ice with poor protection (WI5R). We then followed a comfortable ice runnel for two pitches. Just below a final pitch of snow on the upper slopes, the ice ran out, so we continued via dry tooling (M5).
The upper snow slope led to the summit ridge. We reached the summit at 1 p.m. and descended the same route with downclimbing and more than ten rappels. On the final 150 meters of the wall, I was hit by rockfall and injured my left leg. Fortunately, I avoided a fracture, and we managed to get off the wall and reach ABC by sunset.
The day we climbed this route was one day after the summer solstice. In the ruins of Tiwanaku near La Paz, there is a gate called “Puerta del Sol” (“Gate of the Sun”). At the time of summer solstice, the sun rises just above this gate. The straight ice line we climbed rose toward the summit as if toward the sun, so we named it Puerta del Sol (ED1: WI5R M5, 1200m).
We had managed to spend a substantial holiday with four new routes and many boulder problems. In Bolivia, the loss of glacial ice over the last several years is remarkable. But regardless of future ice recession, Bolivia will remain a paradise for every climber to visit, with much pure ice, pure rock and pure life.