This summer, our own Nolan Hurd climbed and skied Artesonraju in Peru's Cordillera Blanca range. Here is his trip report.
We flew out of Denver at 11:11 pm. In the airport we ran into two other parties that were also traveling to the Cordillera Blanca to climb. They all thought we were crazy for bringing skis and we thought they were crazy for wanting to walk down a perfectly good mountain.
Day 2: Wish I had carried on baby wipes at this point we were all starting to smell quite ripe. We arrived in Lima and took a taxi to the Javier Prado bus station where we learned you can check your bags there all day for free. We then wandered around the Mira Flores district and made our way down to the Pacific Ocean I stuck my feet in the ocean to make this a truly sea to summit trip. Travelers Tip: If you want to see a really nice part of Lima walk down Avenue Santa Cruz to the large roundabout. We returned to the bus station and took the overnight bus to Huaraz.
We arrived in Huaraz at 5:45 am and fortunately the place that we were staying, La Familia Meza, was open so we hauled our bags upstairs and fell back asleep. When we woke up we walked to Cafe Andino, an excellent place to eat and look at maps and guidebooks as they have a library full of mountain information. We wanted to do an acclimatization run and we found that the cheapest way to get into the mountains was to take a group tour to one of the lagunas. We booked our trip to Laguna 69, which was 40 soles per person, for the following morning. We booked this through Andean Kingdom. They were incredibly helpful and we used them for beta and arrange transportation for the rest of the trip.
The following day we took a bus to Laguna 69, which happens to share the trailhead for Western Pisco and its refugio. Our goal was to make it up as high was we could on Western Pisco before we had to be back for the bus. We ran up to the Pisco Refugio in an hour and fifteen minutes and made it all the way to the moraine before deciding to turn around due to heavy clouds and it starting to mist. We then took the trail from the refugio over to Laguna 69 to acclimatize. On this part of the run we spent about 20 minutes above 16,000 feet. Laguna 69 was beautiful and as expected very crowded. We ran down to the bus and beat several of our tour guides back. After the run we were all feeling pretty good with only minor headaches. We returned to Huaraz and had an amazing roast chicken and fries for 40 soles. That night we packed for Artesonraju. When we were done packing I know that I started to have a hard time turning my brain off as I was excited and extremely nervous. We also booked a porter, Juan. The arrangement was to meet him at the gate for Laguna Paron the following morning. The rate was 150 soles for a one way trip.
We had a strange chifa (chinese food breakfast), I know bold move, and then wandered towards where all the collectivos were and finally found one to Caraz for 10 soles a person. When we arrived in Caraz the town was dead and we realized it was because Peru was playing in the world cup at that time and everyone was watching a game. We ended up up talking to a police officer who called his buddy and we agreed to give him 120 soles to take us to Laguna Paron and then we would pay him 80 soles when he picked us up in 2 days. We reached the gate and payed our 5 soles a person community fee and picked up Juan. It turns our Jaun didn’t have his own backpack so we scrambled and made a makeshift one for us to pass around. There is a lodge at Laguna paron where you can pay to shower, use the bathroom, eat, and sleep. The hike to the moraine camp was very straightforward and well marked. It was easy to find a flat spot for the tent and there are a couple of pipes shoved into a stream for water 100 yards from the main camp area. After dinner the skies cleared and we decided that we were going for it tomorrow. All three of us piled into the tent and proceeded to pack for tomorrow. We were all surprised at how much room there was in the Chogori.
Summit Day! We woke up at 1 am made breakfast and headed out across the moraine. It was quick going and we ended up roping up on the glacier but did not see a single crevasse. We skinned up as high as we could and crossed the first bergschrund without difficulty. It should be noted that a popular film company was also there filling a ski descent the same day so they had already put in a boot pack for this next part. We booted straight up the face and reached a second bergschrund which we had not seen in any of the photos we looked at to research this line and there was a massive cornice guarding the entrance to the southeast face. We decided to rope up here and sterling took the lead over the bergschrund. As soon as we pulled over the bergschrund the snow went to absolute sugar. I lead a traverse 45m to a ridge and then encounterd some AI3/4 for 10m before the snow went back to sugar. I set the belay at a
small shoulder and brought my partners up. Then I was bestowed the next lead as the altitude was getting to the other two. This was the most exposed, unprotected, steepest, narrowest, and worse snow i have ever climbed. But it made for a great photo. This pitch put us on a nice large flat area 70m below the summit. We dropped the tools and the ropes and pushed to the summit. After snagging a few summit photos we clicked in an skied some surprisingly soft powder back down to our ropes. From here we decided to rappel back to the high bergschrund because of how sugary and steep the snow was. (Also the professional skiers did the same thing so we took that as an additional reason not to ski this second pitch) After 5 rapels we were back on the southeast face and were able to ski some of the most deceptive snow i have ever been on down to the bottom. The powder and rock hard sastrugi were indistinguishable when you looked at them but we were still able to link turns on almost the entire face. We made it down to the lower bergschrund where we realized that a skier in the other party had fallen and was in critical condition. As tired as we are were we all hopped into action to help get this guy down to their advanced camp. I assisted maneuvering the makeshift sled and the other two were responsible for getting everyones pack down to the base. We reached the base and helped with whatever we could. Fortunately the injured party was evacuated that night and is now on a long road to recovery. Once things calmed down we realized that the one pack that had gotten left up at the bergschrund was mine and decided to come back for it in the morning. We began the long walk across the glacier back to our camp. Nineteen and a half hours later we were back at our tent.