Posts Tagged ‘Cordillera Blanca’

Into thin air

June 25, 2008

Laura, Alexis and I summited Mount Everest the other night under a full moon. Ok, so we weren’t actually in the Himalayas, and the mountain was a few thousand feet shorter, but we saw snow, we saw crevasses and there were ropes and crampons involved. It was basically the same thing.

We climbed Vallanaraju, an 18,600-foot glaciated peak in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca, with a team of three guides and two other participants, an American girl named Anna and a Belgian guy who went by Victor or Lucas, depending on the moment.


The summit of Vallanaraju, which, from below, looks a lot like a dollup of meringue

On the first day, we hiked to a moraine camp beneath the mountain’s glacier, where we put on all the clothing in our packs, drank coca tea and went to bed early. We woke up around 1 a.m., strapped on harnesses and crampons, roped ourselves together and began to walk.

The full moon lit the way as we crunched across the Styrofoam-textured snow. Its rays made many of the snow crystals shimmer, creating an effect as breathtaking as the climb itself.

We passed crevasses — giant bowls, canyons and cracks in the ground — and tried to stay evenly spaced so the ropes connecting us would not become too tight or slack. We sucked water as best we could from our frozen bladders and sometimes ate gumdrops. We always kept climbing.


We reached the summit around 7:30 a.m., and, as you’d expect, the view was incredible.


The descent


K-2 next?