Foiled on Yanamarey…again!

Short but interesting. Sometimes you learn the most from the one that eludes you….

I cruised around Huaraz the other day looking for climbing partners. While posting a little ad at the Casa de Guias, I ran across two likely cantidates. Daniel is a 24 year old German from Dresden….has a good bit of rock experience including climbing on knots (!) in the Elbsandstein and a bit of alpine experience in the Alps and Ecuador. Gideon is a 22 year old Israeli fresh out of a four year stint in a recon unit in the military, now travelling in the ‘Southern Wave’ (as the massive crowd of Israelis making their way north from Patagonia is known). He is a unique Israeli, in that he is more interested in meeting and traveling with folks from other countries…good on him!
We talked about doing an easy climb to test the waters. You might recall my previous debacle on Yanamarey Sur (5220m), in which Sean, Shana, Ron and I made almost made it to base camp before turning back due to altitude problems. Attempting the same peak from the Punta Cahuish tunnel seemed like a good idea for our little trio, as the road drops you off at a very crude tunnel at 4500m and an hour or two from the glacier. So we thought, anyhow.

We left yesterday morning, to Catac then to the tunnel. A rather imposing rock and snow ridge lay between us and the peak. The guidebooks left us with an ambiguous ‘Yanamarey Sur can also be climbed in a day from the Punta Cahuish tunnel.’ An hour of scouting (complete with two interesting trips through the dank, dripping, dark tunnel) left us with a general idea of where we wanted to go and a few options. ….but we would be figuring things out for ourselves mostly.

We hiked up to a relatively friendly campsite beneath one of our two promising options. While Gideon set up camp, Daniel and I climbed to the top of the ridge at about 5100m…discovering a scary looking ridge traverse between us and the peak, which dropped several thousand meters on either side. Too hairy for us. It was a very fun rock scramble and snow climb, however. SO nice to climb snow not on a glacier!!

We camped for the night, planning a quick ascent of our other possibility the following day. Sleep followed soup under a starry starry sky. 5AM came far too soon, despite our 7pm bedtime, and cloudy to boot. I reset my alarm, rolled over in my bivy, and went back to sleep; despite my efforts to the contrary, we were fed, packed, and walking by 7:30am.

We dropped out packs lower in the big bowl on our side of the ridge and headed up towards the clouds with climbing packs. Steep grassy slopes gave way to talus and scree, followed by a mellow slope with beautiful hard snow. Above, we scrambled on up to the top of the ridge. It dropped straightaway on the other side to the broad quebrada beneath Yanamarey. To the north, Yanamarey stood shrouded in clouds….a few fun-looking crevasses begging us to come practice and play from the glacier below the grey cloud ceiling. And to the northwest, the ridge pointed towards a high point on the glacier via a series of towers and knife-edges.

We continued…hoping to get a day of crevasse rescue and ice-climbing in despite the poor weather. Scrambling over and around the rock towers, through snow patches and across exhilarating knife-edge ridges with vertiginous drops on either side, something in my woke up and screamed, ‘Remember how much you enjoy climbing rock?!?’ We weren’t very well equipped for hard rock climbing, however….with a single 8.4mm rope and zero rock protection…so as the scrambles became steeper, the drops nearer, the time later, and the weather poorer, we began to question continuing.

We arrived at a giant tower with a quite sketchy possible route around the left….wet, shattered, and steep rock with a thousand meter drop below and no level spot to stop a fall. It was snowing now, not hard, but bothersome just the same. Summiting was out; whiteout conditions would relegate us to playing on the glacier. The glacier, though, was becoming enveloped in the whiteout as well, and simply did not seem worth the risk of continuing our high mountain scrambles. So we conversed briefly, shook fists at Yanamarey Sur, and reversed our route.

After descending for an hour, we stopped to eat our remaining snacks. Clouds rolled up from the valley below and the entire area fell into whiteout. It is so satisfying to see your decisions confirmed in such a dramatic manner.

All in all, it was a great day. We climbed fun rock, took good pictures, got some elevation under us, and summitted a 5000m ridge via a pretty cool rock and snow line. Yanamarey Sur still hangs there in the clouds I am sure, as yet unclimbed by me and likely to remain as so… least on this trip!

I have no idea what is coming up next. Maybe some other ‘easy’ ascent, perhaps a desperate steep snow and rock line on a 6000m peak, or maybe a few days of eating pollo and watching clouds drop snow on the peaks above Huaraz.


1 comment

1 Gideon Segev { 09.10.11 at 3:26 pm }

it’s great to hear from you and read this after some years.
Hope you are well.
Here everything is fine,

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