Exploring the Paron Valley

Choosing which summit to climb is not an easy task and in our case it requires in average 2 days to prepare our minds, packs and stomachs. Since Marius had to leave back to Chili, this time Louis and I were on our own. Heavily loaded with food and gear for 5 days we set off for Artesonraju (6025 m), one of the unconsciously most famous summits in the world (it inspired the logo of the Paramount Pictures Studio).

Artesonraju rising

Being tired of the long “collectivo” travels, where people are rather considered as sardines than 1m82 tall Swiss mountaineers with over large backpacks we decided to attempt two summits in one stretch. The Piramide del Garcilaso lies next to Arteson and offered interesting enough lines so our choice was obvious.

The laguna Paron and the Piramide del Garcilaso

After the usual bargaining with the taxi driver, he accepted to drive us for a reasonable price (80 soles ~ 40$) to the turquoise Laguna Paron, the largest lake in the Cordillera Blanca. Following the lake shore the path slowly started to climb decently on a abrupt moraine. The landscape is offered to us in a dramatic manner, soon Arteson appeared in front of us and the Paron glacier. For once we were happy to set our camp on dry and not frozen ground, with the embarrassing snow melting.

The hike up to the camp next to the glacier Paron

The night was clear, and as honest Peruvian climbers in Peru we got up at 1h only to discover that our Swiss friend with his guide were already within the technical section of Arteson. We hurried up across the Paron Glacier, slalomed around the crevasses at the foot of Arteson to be finally confronted with the 700m high South-East face. Darkness let us believe that the summit was not too far, but the weak light of the other team’s headlamps taught us differently. The snow conditions were good, soon the sun was highlighting the whole face of the mountain and our fingers finally awoke from the cold. The “estacas“, a belay device often used in the Andes proved to be very usefull to make quick progression. Ice appeared only on the last pitches, that slowed us down since we had to stop simul-climbing.

Stephan climbing one of the last pitches of Artesonraju

Louis on the icy last pitches

Our summit was just topping out of the clouds, at moments, clearing the view over a boundless sea of clouds and other mountain tops, which was even more breathtaking since we were exhausted from the climb.

Steep repel on the ice

The huge “rimaya” is passed more easily downwards

The 700m of abseils seemed eternal to us but finally we reached our camp without incidents. We decided to spend the night at the same place and only to hike to the Piramide high camp the next day.

Our route on the Artesonraju

Wide spaces again, on the way to our next camp

The cactus in flower

The initial plan was to climb the Piramide from its South face, since the technical climbs from the North-West face seemed to us rather dry and unfriendly. Though, arrived at the new campsite we soon discovered impacts on the snow fields of the “canaletta” on the South face that would have been our route, which were due to a serac hidden in the cloudy upper part of the mountain. We changed our plans and our choice finally fell on the West ridge, however the conditions of which were not very clear. Nevertheless we decided to see on spot and settled for the night. Sleep came at once, only to be awaken by hard winds that threatened to tear apart our tent. A departure at 1am seemed impossible, we changed the alarm to 3am, but the wind kept on blowing as strong as ever. 5am passed, 6am finally the wind gave in. Torn between the decision wether to leave or to stay, we hurried with the preparation and left the camp. The sky was still cloudy and the summit invisible. Suddenly it started snowing, our motivation fell below zero and we returned the 100m to our camp and the warmth of our sleeping bags. At 8am the sky cleared up again, and we were back on the track. Come what may, at least we’re going to have a try!

Inconsistent snow section above a first bergschrund

Soon enough we reached the pass and observed the ridge: An inconsistent sequence of big snow mushrooms, dry rock shoulders, narrow edges,… impossible. The sole way up for us seemed to be a “canaletta” that wriggled upwards between overhanging seracs, over several Bergschrunds, only to reach the West ridge halfway up to the summit. The climb was steep, in average 70° with vertical sections when we were about to change from channel to the other. Soon we too were climbing in the clouds, hardly seeing each other and tired we finally reached the ridge.

Looking for a way over the bergschrund on the Piramide del Garcilaso

It was 2pm, 4 hours of light left, 300m to the summit, the only distinguishing feature was Louis in front of me… we gave up and started the abseils. Unlike the classical routes we had to equip the belays ourselves, using estacas which we left or Abalakovs.

Putting in place the Abalakov to descend the Piramide

Just before dawn we reached our camp, preparing our food and falling asleep instantly.

Our route on the Piramide, Stephan lost in the “penitentes”

We were happy that we gave it a try, even though we did not reach the summit.

On the way down to the Laguna Paron, loaded as usual

One problem remained. Laguna Paron was a tourist place and in the high season a lot of taxis drive up tourists for short walks along the lake shore. However September is not any more high season in the Cordillera and visits to Paron become more rare. Arriving at the parking lot at 11am, we pulled a long face, not a single car! In other words 15km of walk only to have a single bar on our cell phones… Desperately we prepared a tea, ate our last piece of chocolate and got ready only to find a taxi with three clients coming our way. YEEESSSS!

Happy to find a little place in the trunk of the only car that drove the 15km to civilisation

Over the now few climbs on high peaks around Huaraz, each one implying between 3 and 6 days of autonomy, we have learnt how to plan meals which represent a compromise between what:

– is available in the shops of Huaraz
– is light to carry
– is easy to cook in one pan
– is vegetarian
– makes us walk or in other words what is energetic and balanced from a nutritional point of view.

After a few attempts and continuous improvements, we are proud to present a series of dishes (in growing order of weight so that we eat them in chronological order) that we eat for supper and that contribute in a non-negligible way to the motivation of the day:

– pasta with precooked tomato/mushroom sauce and boiled soja and onions with parmeggiano
– mashed potatos with chopped and boiled vegetables (carrots, turnip, lettuce, cilantro)
– Quinoa with with dry mushrooms, dry seitan, milk (powder), parmeggiano
– chinese noodles with boiled peas, onions and carrots

and almonds/nuts/dried fruit chocolate for dessert.

When we are back to town however, we take great care to recover the kg’s lost on the mountain. The diet is not quite the same: tropical salad (advocado, cauliflower, brocoli, palm spruces), fresh fruit juices (mango, orange, pineapple, papaya, banana), grilled chicken, hamburger a la frances (with bacon and mushrooms), chaufa (fried rice and vegetables), tallarines (fried pasta and more), apple pies, alfajores (pastry with dulce de lecce), empenadas (pastry with egg, spinach and sausage), cuban rice (with fried bananas), …
but this is another post.

Vegetable soup

Mashed potatoes with vegetable

Some more picture can be found here.

7 Comments

Filed under Ice

7 responses to “Exploring the Paron Valley

  1. Marius

    Congrats, Chicos ! Well done ! I am still one the eating-mode. Seems like I haven’t reached my steady-state weight yet. A big hug from Chile !

    • louisbugnion

      hola jefe, the good point is that unlike most people we do not care about our own weight but mainly about the weight of our backpacks:) but i confirm that our appetite is never filled up and that we yield every culinary temptation at every pasticeria and jugeria of huaraz… i heard the good news and i wish you a good start in your new activities and projects!
      cheers
      louis
      ps we had our first series of estacas made in a ferreteria (7 pieces for 80 soles, perfect shape and size and weight and holes locations, true artwork!)

  2. Cesar

    Nice job guys, I really enjoy reading your news from high mountains. I’m in Chile till first week of october, i have done a couple of mountains but not as big as you. Depending on your plans we can do something here if not good luck. Marius are you already in Valdidvia? next week I go to Pucon and Villarica area

    • Marius

      Cesar,
      yes I am in Valdivia. Next week I will be probably heading further South to explore Northern Patagonia with Skis. Would be good to meet you. Tell me which dates you will be in Pucon.
      Un abrazo
      M

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