Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Quimsa Cruz, Part Deux

I was able to take another trip to the Quimsa Cruz last week.  Strikes and road blockades were forecast for the entire country so we took the back roads to the mountains.  The first part of the journey took us along the river Choque past Mecapaca through Rio Abajo.  At one point, we went through this small tunnel:

After an hour and a half, we started the long climb to Cahoni, a small village on the west flank of Illimani.  We passed this family sedan on the way there:

The climb to Cahoni rose several thousand feet:

The view from the back seat:

Illimani through some coffee plants:

After Cahoni, we had to descend about 10,000' back to the river.  Here is the last part of that descent:

The river, at last:

Next, we had to climb back up another 10,000' or so to the Quimsa Cruz.  The south face of Illimani from near Quimsa Cruz:

We camped near the Chokue Makayo mine again and the next day found us heading to the El Obelisco pass:

I had seen this cliff and its four prominent cracks from La Flama the week before.  Sadly, the cracks were wider than we hoped and they bottomed out and were filled with moss so some cleaning would have been required.

We dropped a bit lower and popped around the corner and this amazing splitter came into view:

I had to climb it.  It was a little dirty at the bottom but the slightly overhanging bit at the top was perfect with some choice foots holds right where they were needed to keep the grade within my abilities:

Although the difficulties of the route consumed me, my partners report that this condor buzzed me several times within a few meters while I was climbing.  Maybe he expected a cheap meal?:

Eduardo and Roberto thought the route was 6b so we are going with that rating.  I thought it was easier but I was quite focused on the task at hand and so I defer to their judgment.  We found a sling at the top which may have served the crack I climbed or the chimney to the right so we aren't sure if this was a first ascent.  I tend to doubt it as it is the most obvious clean crack in the area.  It would be a classic for its grade in Yosemite.

Next, we set about bolting the arete to the left of the crack.  The 100' wonderfully featured arete took seven bolts and you could use a piece or two of gear near the end if you want.  Here I am checking it out from the new two bolt rappel anchor at the top:

Eduardo made the first lead after we each had top roped it and I placed the bolts.  Here is Roberto making his lead while I belay:

Roberto just past the crux section:

After we finished the arete, we bolted the 100' face to the left which climbed this amazing well featured granite:

Searching for the best way between the arete on the right and the crack on the left:

The weather was iffy all day but never turned too cold to climb with proper clothing management despite the 16,000' elevation:

Getting ready to bolt the other line with seven bolts over 100':

I made the first lead of this route.  Here is Eduardo having his turn:

The sun came out again which helped the morale even if we were in the shade during the afternoon:

Gran Moralla with La Flama and El Obelisco to its left:

Some pleasing afternoon light:

Eduardo is satisfied with our day:

Me too!:

The basin to the southwest below Cuernos del Diablo:

Just 2,000' to descend to our camp:

At least we get some sun to start the descent:

Back in camp, we get our usual nightly visit from the local pero.  He is too cute to resist:

The next morning, we head in the direction of Saturno:

The easy path takes us past the mine where they use this water to wash their mineral before packing it by hand for transport below:

After less than an hours' walk, we arrive at this glacier lake.  Apparently, the miners have hunted the local trucha to extinction using dynamite.  I guess that's one level lower than bait fishing for trout fishermen:

Given the snow in the col above on Saturno and the abundance of sun on the cliffs to the right, we go in search of new rock routes.  Here, Eduardo battles the pacha brava with no protection over the first thirty feet of this route which we believe is a first ascent:

A little higher the vegetation disappears but the difficulties remain as the crack is generally too wide for protection:

Eduardo alternates between laybacking and offwidth technique to overcome the difficulties:

The moves are fairly consistent in difficulty:

Eduardo nears the top of the steep section of the climb but he still has a challenging offwidth section to surmount with the protection below his feet:

Roberto climbs just below me:

It wasn't the easiest thing in the world to take a photograph of Roberto with one hand and hold onto the crack with the other.  I am glad that I did not drop the camera:

Roberto joins us on top:

The clouds roll into the other side of the valley but we remain in the light:

After several hours of walking the cliffs, we settle upon this potential line:

The cliffs on the opposite side of the valley were quite impressive:

Roberto belays Eduardo after the first pitch of our intended route:

It's sweet to hang around in a t-shirt at roughly 16,000':

Sadly, the next pitch would require bolts, or climbing without protection, so we decided to come back another day for the higher pitches: 

Saturno and its subpeaks:

Detail for Saturno's subpeaks:

Heading back to camp with the Hand on the left and Saturno above: 

Eduardo leads the way:

The product of the mine waiting for a truck to take it away:

Llama skull waiting for nothing:

Dos Vacas y Una Luna:

Time to start our long drive back to La Paz.  We hear that all the main roads are blocked but we believe we can pass the backroads on which we came.  Illimani:

Viloco is a little to the south of Bethlehem in more than a geographical sense:

Team Quimsa Cruz:

Roberto contemplates the washed out bridge and the eight crosses:

Past the first river, we have to ascend to Illimani's west shoulder and then descend again to the same river:

Some of the best produce in Bolivia comes from the slopes of Illimani:

Not a real bloqueo, it's just the local schools having a gathering of their sports teams and blocking the only road through town:

We got to Mallasa on the outskirts of La Paz just as the real bloqueo was clearing.  No real problems for us but no traffic moved all day prior to our arrival.  Finally, we got home and my assistant helped unload the gear:

1 comment:

  1. So those aren't coal mines? What minerals are they mining? Beautiful, beautiful photos. When summer comes around again, will you get me some good photos of butterflies?