Foiled on Yanamarey

Our latest adventure ended rather abrubtly. Sean, Shana, Ron and I left Huaraz on Tuesday the 15th for a rarely visited cluster of peaks in the southern part of the Cordillera Blanca. We planned the trip as an acclimatization ascent for Ron, recently arrived from Lima. The plan was to hike in to a base camp under Yanamarey Sur, 5220m via Lago Querococha, a beautiful lake just off the main road between Huaraz and Chavin.

We arrived at Querococha in the afternoon of the 15th. At 3980m, the lake is considerably higher than Huaraz. Ron was feeling okay….though complaining of feeling a bit ‘hung-over’. We spent the night on the northwest shore of the lake, and in the morning Sean and I hiked up valley to set up a higher camp and scout the mountain while Shana and Ron took a slow morning to acclimatize better before moving up.

Sean and I cruised up the quebrada, setting up a camp at around 4300m. After getting established, we loaded light packs and started up further, to see what was to come on our summit attempt. After two hours of struggling through never-ending swamps and rocky ridges of death, we arrived near the standard high camp for Yanamarey at 4600m and scouted the rocky approach and easy snow slopes that led to the summit through binocs. The climb would have to wait at least a day….our camp at 4300m seemed too low to for us to make a reasonable summit attempt. The fight to climb the valley had left us feeling rather sour, but our moods improved greatly by descending via a mellow trail that had escaped our attention on the ascent. We returned to camp shortly after Ron and Shana arrived.

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Ron was not feeling well. At first it seemed that he was just suffering a bit from AMS, but as the evening progressed it became apparent that he was hurting really badly, beyond what he was willing or able to deal with. He was very concerned….heading down valley seemed to be the only way to relieve his suffering. So we wrapped up an impressive pizza dinner and packed camp in the fading light, having made the call to bag the climb and descend.

The hike down valley was an impressive feat for all….Ron stumbling along with headaches, nausea, and only one round of vomiting….and Shana, Sean, and I splitting up his pack. Sean in particular made a heroic show of it, strapping Ron’s partly empty backpack right on top of his own and continuing with hardly a complaint. We picked our way down the valley in the dark…snatching vague recollections from the hike up and occaisionally pausing to rest or let Ron recover a bit. He took a low dose of dexamethasone in an attempt to combat his symptoms.

Arriving by the lake at around 11:30pm, Sean set an incredible pace trying to stop a Huaraz-bound bus…but even his out of control trucking along wasn’t quite enough. By midnight we arrived at the road, physically and mentally exhausted, and utterly dehydrated (having some difficulties with my Miox purifier, Shana, Sean and I had been conserving water, saving most of what we could treat with iodine we had on hand for Ron). Ron seemed a bit better, whether on account of the descent or the dex, or some combination of the two. We made camp, boiled water for tea and drinking, and slept until the sun roasted us out of our bags this morning.

Today we returned to Huaraz via a sheep-filled taxi (a subaru sized station wagon with four gringos, two peruvians, four mountaineering backpacks strapped to the roof and eight….yes….eight sheep stuffed in the hatchback trunk) and local-filled colectivo. The trip was not very successful in terms of acclimatization, but was a learning experience like few I have ever had.

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