Chopicalqui Expedition, Peru • May 18 - June 4, 2010

We were back in Peru this May/June, accompanied by the good folks in the photo below:

Other trips with some of these folks

Jim Manning - Peru - May 2007
Susan Lowery - Silvretta ski - March 2008
Susan Lowery - Alps - July 2007
Susan Lowery - Ortler ski - April 2006
Susan Lowery - Haute Route - April 2005
Susan Lowery - New Zealand- Jan 2003
Susan Lowery - Chamonix - July 2001

Return to all recent trips

From left to right as they perch on the summit of Urus Este are: Ed and Melanie Sneddon from the UK; Susan Lowery from CT, and Jim Manning from PA.


Travelling and climbing with us were our old friends William (left) and Peter (right) Alvarado. Peter is a UIAGM qualified Mountain Guide, and his younger brother William is an Aspirant, hoping to complete  his training this October. Together, they own and run Alvarado Adventures, whom we've long worked with on our trips to Peru.

Visit Alvarado Adventures' new website.


Our first day after arriving in Huaraz, we generally spend acclimatizing by hiking up to the scenic Laguna Churup. The laguna lies near the base of this peak, Nevado Churup, in a stony basin below the little glacier seen here. This photo is taken on the drive to the trailhead at Pitec, and shows cultivated fields at about as high an elevation as one can reasonably plant crops.


Melanie digs in her pack for her picnic lunch beside the lake.


The next day we drive to Pashpa, the end of the road and beginning of the trail to the Ishinca base camp. Looking northward down the Huaylas valley as we begin the hike in.


Here we are loading up our gear into and onto the van in Huaraz.


The hike in to base camp takes us through a beautiful section of forest consisting of the native trees of the area, the Queñuales. You can see a portion of twisted trunk in the foreground of this shot, with its characteristic papery red bark.


Some local livestock handlers were taking a couple of apparently fierce bulls down from their high pastures to the village. They weren't taking any chances—each bull had four adult men controlling its movements by means of long stout ropes. These guys clearly did not want to get close to the animal, nor risk it getting away. Their tone of voice as they shouted at us to get out of the way expressed their mistrust of these "bravo" bulls.


Our basecamp in the Ishinca valley.


We spent our first full day in base camp hiking to about 5000 meters to get our acclimatization process underway. Ed contemplates the west face of Palcaraju.


Mark went out at sunset to play with the effects of low light on moving water in the stream running through our camp.


The same sunset light on Tocllaraju.


Later the same night, the full moon is veiled by passing clouds.


Our first climb was of Ishinca. We started hiking in the pre-dawn darkness, and sunrise found us near the moraine below Ranrapalca.


Gaining the glacier on Ishinca.


Ranrapalca looms ...


Peter belays a final steep step to the summit ridge.


Back in camp on a starry, moonlit night.


Urus Este was our next climb, we're wending our way up the glacier here below the rocky summit pyramid. Tocllaraju is the pointy peak in the background, with Palcaraju's east summit further away on the far right.


From Urus we had a great view of Tocllaraju, mouse over to show the route we followed a few days later.


A couple of days later it's time to saddle up for Tocllaraju. Here the group contemplates the route and challenge to come.


We placed a cozy high camp at the edge of the glacier. The weather was very strange; high dark threatening clouds that never generated any precipitation to speak of, but lent drama to the scene and suspense to the atmosphere.


This camp was an excellent viewpoint for a very colorful sunset.


The following morning we had a great climb up interesting technical steps separated by wandering glacier climbing around lots of scenic crevasses and seracs. This shot is looking down the final belayed pitches to the summit.


Looking up the same section as the above photo... The summit is just behind the ridge, on the right.


Tocllaraju as seen from base camp with a long lens and a re-located moon (photographer's note: this moon was taken at the same time as this shot, but rotated for plausibility and pasted into this position in this shot).


After Tocllaraju we headed back to Huaraz for a rest and recovery day, and a couple of good night's sleep. On the trek out.


Our animal handler.


The proud owner of the horses that carried our gear, she's having some challenges keeping them close.


Our final goal is Chopicalqui, shown here as seen from our hotel room balcony. Huascaran is the big bruiser looming on the left.


Welcome to Huascarán National Park!


A painful section of moraine on our hike in to camp on Chopicalqui.


Kathy and Melanie arrive in camp.


Our moraine camp has beautiful views across to Chacraraju and Pisco Oeste.


Someone having fun as the sun sets.


The following morning we climbed up onto the glacier along with our porters, and headed for our high camp.


High camp ended up being at a scenic col at about 5600 meters! The sunset again was magnificent. Even the porters were impressed, shooting snapshots with their cell phones.


We ourselves had rarely seen such dramatic cloud-scapes. The north face of Nevado Hualcán.


Another view of high camp at sunset.


Conditions on the mountain were very broken up and complex. After surmounting a couple of steep pitches, a long and gaping crevasse barrier turned us back about 150 meters shy of the summit. Peter here lowers Susan down one of these steeper pitches on the descent.


Here you can see the route we took and our turn around point. Mouse over to show route. This photo was taken from our hotel balcony about 3 days before our climb.


Returning back in camp, "the boys" had tea ready with plenty of snacks.


Chopicalqui as seen from Moraine camp that evening.


Here is our local Chopicalqui team, from left to right: porter Eber; porter and cook for the whole trip Roosevelt, guide Peter (who appears to have just made some wise crack), porter Pablo, aspirant guide William, and porter Martin. Awesome crew, all.


Just another pretty shot of Mark's, I'll use it as a trite metaphor for time which flows so quickly past ... this trip seemed to fly by and was over way too soon. Also, it had been three years since we had been to Peru, and many changes had taken place in our Peruvian friends' lives in the meantime. Here's hoping it won't be so long before we're back again!


Until then, Adios! This is a shot of the Chiquian cheese vendors along the drive back to Lima. Ciao for niao!