Vallunaraju

Nearing the summit

Nearing the summit

While recovering in Huaraz and eating a lot at some of our favorite haunts (Chili Heaven, Cafe Andino), we poured through the guidebook to decide how to finish the trip with only 2-3 days left.  We looked at Copa, Urus Este, and Vallunaraju.  After reading more about the other approaches, Vallunaraju stood out as a good way to get up high again in only a couple of days.

We left Huaraz in the morning in a "cab" that our hotel had helped arrange.  The driver asked for our names, which Dale said were "Da-le" and "Jefe," so the driver responded that his name was Pablo Escobar, so we referred to him as such throughout the 2-hour extremely bumpy ride up into the mountains.  He left us at the main trail at 14,000 ft, a bit below the lake, and we headed up the steep trail toward the moraine.  We'd originally planned to climb the North Ridge per the book, but it became clear pretty quickly that we'd need to do a lot of traversing to get to that route and that the camp we were headed for would make it quite easy to go up the standard route.

It only took 3 hours or so of hiking to reach the moraine camp at about 16,000 ft, so we set up shop and promptly had a snack and took an amazing nap.  The Type I:II ratio of fun got a bump at this point.  We woke up around sunset to eat some dinner, which we were able to do after many nights of lacking appetite and being sick during our trip up Alpamayo, and then went back to bed.

On the way up after crossing a big crevasse

On the way up after crossing a big crevasse

The route through the rest of the moraine was a choose-your-own-adventure with a matrix of cairns everywhere.  We got to the glacier after about an hour and got our gear on before the glacier steepened.  The route was a low-angle walk up with a few steeper, more interesting bits, but mostly just walking up the glacier with a good boot track to follow.  We reached the saddle between the two summits as the sun began cascading through the gap and the finish up to the taller, North summit was really fun, with a steeper section and then some weaving next to the corniced edge.

Summit views of Ocshapalca and Ranrapalca

Summit views of Ocshapalca and Ranrapalca

Coming back down the glacier to the moraine

Coming back down the glacier to the moraine

The summit view at 18,655 ft was awesome.  We could see the Huayhuash, Ranrapalca's huge seracs, and the looming peaks of Huascaran.  We hung out for a while, knowing that we were ahead of schedule for our taxi pickup and enjoying the sunshine and stillness.  The descent went without incident and we were back at camp well before noon.  So we napped.  Again.  And then descended to the road, unfortunately finding ourselves there at 2:30pm rather than the 6pm we'd told our taxi driver.  Thankfully, we found a cab on its way down and decided to hop in with him, hoping to run into our driver on his way up along the way.

We searched for Pablo Escobar the whole way down and eventually ran into him just on the outskirts of Huaraz.  We switched cars and he took us back to the hotel for showers and a celebratory dinner.  This was a great outing and, realistically, would have been better to do as the entry to the trip and acclimatization rather than at the end.