Cordillera Blanca Round 1

Though it has been a while since my last entry, this is not to say I have not been busy. My first month in South America has been filled with many days of outdoor activities, including rock climbing around Huaraz and hiking the Salkantay trail near Cusco. All in preparation and while waiting for the mountaineering season which is now upon us.

In fact, my friend from Australia Andrew Banks has now joined me and we are heading into the Ishinca Valley tomorrow. There we will stay for up to six days as we attempt our first peaks here in the Cordillera Blanca. Years of climbing, months of planning and hours of grocery shopping have led us both here. Needless to say I am filled with anticipation.

 Enjoying some steep climbing at an altitude of 4,000m sure takes your breath away!

Enjoying some steep climbing at an altitude of 4,000m sure takes your breath away!

Our plan is to climb three peaks, increasing the altitude and difficulty as we go. Each peak will offer something different in terms of challenges; glacier navigation, large bergschrunds, steep snow and mixed climbing just to name a few. Typical of terrain we will encounter with great frequency over the course of the next twelve weeks. 

It has been a long wet season this year which has left a significant snow load on the mountains. As a result, even the easier peaks are tough going, requiring a lot of energy to reach the summit. For example the first six-thousand meter peak we will attempt (also one of the easiest in the range), Tocclaraju, was only climbed for the first time this season late last week by a Swiss pair staying at our hostel.

Discussing their climb with them last night they spoke of deep snow on the final part of the ridge in addition to a difficult bergschrund immediately below the summit. This particularly difficult obstacle required them to scale it's overhanging lip.

Such interesting and intense features form part of what has drawn me to this mountain range for so many years. I am excited to finally get a taste of it myself yet after our brief discussion with the Swiss pair, I realise our own success is less than guaranteed.

The summit however is not the goal. Like any venture into the mountains, the journey is more important than the destination. We are facing a long season and to make the most of it, Andrew and I need to be working effortlessly as a team.

Our communication and systems need to be dialed and efficient, our risk management and decision making aligned and most importantly, we must continue to enjoy each others company. Sharing a small tent in the mountains with someone is no easy task and neither of us have any desire to make it harder. So even when faced with the most difficult of circumstances, or a partner in desperate need of a shower and clean clothes, we need to be able to laugh and maintain high spirits. Otherwise it will be a short season for us both.

People often ask what we take into the mountains for a trip like this. Particularly what food. So I thought I would finish this entry by sharing our grocery list that Andrew and I dutifully crossed off today as we made our final preparations.

I hope to share a great story and some incredible photos with you all next week. Whether we make the summits or not, we will have a great time.

Priority # 1 – Come back alive.

Priority # 2 – Come back as friends.

Priority # 3 – Reach the summit.

 Our food supplies for our trip into Ishinca Valley. In addition to this we need our tent, climbing gear and clothes. Thank you Andrew for bringing the Vegemite!

Our food supplies for our trip into Ishinca Valley. In addition to this we need our tent, climbing gear and clothes. Thank you Andrew for bringing the Vegemite!

Our shopping list for our 5 day trip to Ishinca Valley

Breakfast

-        385g of milk powder

-        1.1kg of rolled oats

-        200g of sultanas

-        200g of almonds

Drinks

-        14 sachets of coffee

-        22 bags of tea

-        6 sachets of flavoured drink powder (sufficient for 18L of water)

Snacks

-        6 Bananas

-        6 Apples

-        10 Muesli bars

-        24 chocolate bars (Snickers or cheap knock offs)

-        375g of crunchy peanut butter (none of this smooth nonsense)

-        145g of Vegemite (Thank you Andrew!)

-        24 small wholemeal wraps

Dinner

-        2 packets of pre-cut vegetables from the market (carrot, capsicum, peas, coriander, cabbage)

-        1 onion

-        2 carrots

-        1 red capsicum

-        3 small sweet potatoes

-        3 small regular potatoes

-        3 tins of tuna (175g tins)

-        2 x 150g packets of textured soy product

-        500g of pasta

-        5 packets of 'cup of soup'

-        3 packets of Tomato salsa

-        Block of cheese