During the 2014 summer break the Outdoor Activities Department undertook an Expedition to the Cordillera Blanca, Peru, completing the 4 day Santa Cruz trek and then a planned ascent of Maparaju (5,326m).
Arriving in Lima after a 12 hour flight we stayed overnight before travelling via coach for 9 hours to Huaraz (3000m). After a night at this altitude we set off for the Lazy Dog Inn (3,650m) our base location from which our three acclimatization treks were centred. The three treks allowed us to explore the local area, walking into Quebrada (valley) Llaca and Cojup, and up to Laguna (lake) Churup. Each trek was a stunning reminder of why this part of the Peru is well respected as being one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world.
SANTA CRUZ TREK
Once we had completed our acclimation days we arrived at Cashapampa (3,000m) for the start of the Santa Cruz trek. Starting out in the midday heat of 28 degrees and accompanied by two ponies the 800m of ascent was hard going to reach our campsite at Llamacorral (3,750m).
Day two of the trek was the most beautiful. Varying terrain and fantastic views of numerous 6,000m peaks, including Alpamayo made the day easier. Our campsite at Taullipampa (4,200m) was located in an amphitheatre of snow peaked mountains.
The following day we crossed the highpoint of the trek, the Punta Union pass at 4,750m. The views and proximity to some majestic peaks certainly made the climb worth every short breath step. This was our longest day, some eight hours of demanding trekking eventually arriving at our campsite at Cachinapampa (3,755m).
Our final day was the shortest as we worked our way steadily downhill through agricultural small holdings, including guinea pig farms (a Peruvian food source!) before crossing the valley and an ascent up to the trailhead at Vaqueria where transport was waiting for us. The bus journey along a single track unmade ‘road’ up to the head of the Llanganuco valley with a steep zig zag descent the other side was an experience but the views of Huascaran and Pisco were awe-inspiring. There was a hugh sigh of relief when we finally reached a tarmac road for the final stretch back to Huaraz.
On arrival back at the Lazy Dog Inn for rest and recuperation our planned ‘community day’ included a guided walk around the local area with lunch to sample local dishes of vegetables and meat dishes including guinea pig!!!
It was obvious during this period that many of our group were not in a fit state of health to attempt an ascent of Maparaju (5,326m). Plans were hastily revised and the group split. Those not able to climb helped with a volunteering group, or observed the making of adobe bricks before travelling back down to Huarez visiting a large and colourful agricultural market followed by a trip to some natural cave thermal baths on the way.
ASCENT OF MAPARAJU
The final climbing group consisted of four pupils, Giles Skrine, Edward Biggs, Theo Featherstone and Hamish Lorimer. It was a steady 4 hour trek to reach Base camp where we rested briefly before starting out at 2.20am the following morning.
Our Guides kept up a steady pace through the moraine gradually ascending until the first rays of sunlight greeted us at the glacier. Donning helmets, harnesses and crampons and gripping our ice axes we made our way across the glacier in 3 rope teams. The climb was full of interest, numerous crevasses were crossed as the terrain became steeper and oxygen harder to find.
At 09.06am the last rope team summited Maparaju 5,326m, a remarkable achievement given our general health and it was the first time pupils had climbed in crampons. With the weather worsening we decided to head for home after recalling the events of ‘Touching the Void’ (the 1985 account of Joe Simpson and Simon Yates’ successful but nearly fatal climb) which occurred very near where we all stood. Our climb had taken 10 hours over 2,000 metres of ascent.The following day we trekked out from Base camp back to the trail head and the Lazy Dog to be reunited with the remainder of the group.
Despite numerous illnesses which affected the trip all those who on it enjoyed themselves, learnt a lot and gained invaluable knowledge that will be of huge benefit for future travelling.