“We believe our ascent line, the Chilean Route (ED+ 95 degrees 850 m), climbs new terrain between the ’77 Bouchard-Meunier route and the ’83 French Direct route.”[The Chilean Route is marked in red.-Ed.] [Photo] Courtesy of Armando Maraga
A Chilean team formed by Felipe Gonzalez Donoso, Juan Henriquez and myself, climbed what we believe is a new line right of the 1977 Bouchard-Meunier route on Chacraraju’s South face.
To acclimatize, on July 19th Felipe Gonzalez Donoso, Felipe Gonzalez Diaz and I made a Chilean variation (MD 90 degrees 400 m) to the Escruela-Tain route (a.k.a. Sensations of History (ED 95 degrees, Escruela-Tain, 2002)) on Alpamayo’s Southwest face. We attacked the wall by a runnel right of the Escruela-Tain and then traversed left over an arete to follow another runnel just below the huge snow cornice on the summit ridge that threatens the classic Ferrari route. Fortunately, and unlike the first ascensionists, we were able to reach the summit of Alpamayo (5947m) after six and a half hours of activity.
A couple days later, we settled in Chacraraju’s high camp, located in the moraine before the glacier, and dug an enormous terrace for our tent in the only protected spot we found. One of the most difficult 6,000s of the Cordillera Blanca and perhaps of the Andes, Chacraraju (6112m) can intimidate anyone who considers a prospective ascension.
On July 22nd we reckoned the approach to the base of the South face and assessed the real magnitude of the challenge. The wall only grew taller and more vertical as we came closer. We roped up in the middle of the glacier to cross some crevasses, checked out the start of the climb and came back to camp to sleep for a few hours before the start of what would prove to be the most demanding adventure of our lives.
The next day, Juan, Felipe, and I started to climb alpine style as a party of three. Each of us led in blocks of three pitches while the other two followed free climbing. We found mixed sections with thin ice plastered on the rock, inconsistent snow more than 80 degrees steep and sparse protections. At 8:00 p.m. we dug a small ledge on the snow, melted snow and ate something to gain strength and continue to climb by 2:00 a.m..
After 23 pitches and several hours of effort, by afternoon we reached the summit ridge at ca. 6000 meters. We were greeted by enormous ice mushrooms that proved impossible to overcome. Despite we tried our best and even took three whippers in the process due to the inconsistency of the terrain, we could not find a way to the summit. Hopeless, we could only start the descent, the most difficult part of the route. We made 20 long, insecure rappels, eventually following the French Direct route.
We made it to ground level safe and sound after a 50-hour round trip. At some point we all had thoughts that we may well have not made it, but indeed we were hiking back to camp, day-dreaming, or rather dreaming asleep as we hiked.
We believe our ascent line, the Chilean Route (ED+ 95 degrees 850m), climbs new terrain between the 1977 Bouchard-Meunier route and the 1983 French Direct route.
“After 23 pitches and several hours of effort, by afternoon we reached the summit ridge at about 6,000 m. We were greeted by enormous ice mushrooms that proved impossible to overcome. Despite we tried our best and even took three whippers in the process due to the inconsistency of the terrain, we could not find a way to the summit.” [Photo] Courtesy of Armando Maraga