Day 27 – Climb Tocllaraju

We left camp bright and early at 3am. It was nice being able to rope up and attach our crampons right from camp. We started off about an hour or 1.5 hours after a guided group with 4 Australian clients. As we went, we would occasionally see their headlights far off in the distance. Vicky and Fernando started off at about the same time as us.

There was an hour or section through avalanche rubble. Both of our feet got pretty cold, since the sun was still a ways off from rising. We got to the base of a bergshrund and had to wait while the guided group went up first. Two ice screws were used for protection. The slope was perhaps 60 or 65 degrees at the steepest part. I led up the bergshrund, placing screws which Alex reclaimed on passing them. There was then a 60m slope, which we simul-climbed in 2 pitches.

This gave us access to the ridge, which we arrived at just after sunrise. It was then another few hours to the summit. We did the final summit pyramid in 2 pitches. At the base was a crevasses with a few snow bridges across. I figured this would be a good chance to show Alex how strong snow and ice are. I asked him to give me a tight belay and I cautiously headed over the smallest snow bridge, maybe just over a foot wide at the thinnest part and eerily skinny. But lo and behold, it held, and I was across, leading the first of 2 30m pitches to the summit ridge.

We pushed with our last remaining energy the 5-10 minutes to the summit. It was motivating being able to see the summit as we pushed forwards. Maybe 15 minutes spent on the summit taking photos and having a snack before the descent. We were thinking that one of us would have to downclimb one 30m pitch, since with only 2 30m ropes, we could repel a maximum of 30m.

Just as we got to the top of the pitch, Vicky and Fernando got up on their way to the summit. Since they had 2 60m ropes, they left them with us to rapel while they went onwards to the summit.

The rest of the way back was straightforwards, with a tricky bit at the bergshrund. Since it was 60m, I belayed Alex down from a picket, where he had to take his weight off the rope to pass over the knot. I then downclimbed the 60m

Round trip time from high camp: ~11h. We relaxed for a couple hours once back, feeling exhausted. It then began to hail, so we quickly packed our things and started back towards base camp. We were pretty drained for the way back and the boulder field for the first part of the way back was slippery. When we arrived back at base camp, we bought a couple beers for S5 each ($1.67) as we passed the stand, we set up camp, and went straight to sleep. We left the door closed since it was drizzling most of the night.

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