Day 26 – Tocllaraju high camp

We allowed ourselves to sleep until 7 and then began packing up camp. I was happy to be able to eat some oatmeal and was feeling better than the previous days.

We left the Ishinca Valley at 9:30am  and arrived at high camp at 12:30pm. About 45 minutes before arriving we saw some porters closing in on us. The race to high camp was on! Within the last 5 minutes or so the porters took a shortcut and narrowly beat us. So much for getting the best tent spot! We found a descent spot anyways after clearing away a bunch of loose rock. We’re now relaxing at camp, getting psyched for the climb tomorrow. This will be the most difficult climb we attempt of the trip, rated a D

Day 25 – Climb Ishinca

We woke up at 4am and quickly readied ourselves for the climb. I forced down a granola bar, giving me a total of 500 calories or so over the past 48 hours. I knew that I would need energy to make it to the summit.

I was going slow the whole day since my energy levels felt quite drained. After an hour or so Vicky and Fernando caught up to us, a Spanish couple who we had been friendly with at camp. We all went up together. At the glacier Alex joined Vicky and Fernando’s rope, while I went solo since there was little danger of cravasses across the path of travel.

We eventually summited and promptly headed down. We met Skyler, the VOCer who was on his way up to Ranrapalca – a highly technical mixed climb, requiring rock protection as well as ice protection. His pack looked huge.

I slept most of the day and had some soup. I figure my stomach must have shrunk, since I felt like I was going to explode after it.


Day 24 – Sick day

I woke up this morning around 6am and was relieved for the night to be over. I was feeling a bit better than the day before. I still didn’t have an appetite, but I wasn’t going to vomit.

By 9am I decided that I should probably eat, since I hadn’t eaten in 24 hours. I kept down a breakfast of oatmeal and also took some medication, cipro, for the diarhea. We went into the refugio to see what it was like, journal, and read the climbing magazines in the refugio library.

I rested most of the day, but wasn’t able to eat anything apart from breakfast. Tomorrow we would be climbing Ishinca.

Day 23 – Climb Urus

We woke up to slightly overcast skies with half a moon for light. Alex hadn’t slept well, so we went at a relaxed pace. The trail goes for about two hours up to a morraine, crosses a boulder/slab field, and then reaches the glacier. Alex initially wanted to rope up, but we decided against it since the route over the glacier was neither cravassed nor difficult.

We reached the summit, took some photos, ate, and napped for a bit. We spent 45 minutes on the summit before descending. Since we had seen glascade tracks on the way up, we decided to take off our crampons and glacier/butt-slide/self-arrest back down to the rocks. It was good fun! We took the more direct route back to base camp, which is a steep and eroded path from everyone sliding down the dirt/scree with their boots. Round trip time – 7 hours.

Back at camp I found that I had very little appetite, which is unusual for me. Things gradually deteriorated until I was with diarhea and vommiting, showing the same symptoms as Alex had at Laguna Cullicocha.I laid around for the remainder of the day, not feeling so hot.

It was a very long night for me – I tossed and turned, not being able to sleep. When I thought the night must almost be over, I looked at my watch and saw that it was 11:30pm. It drizzled the whole night, so we had to sleep with the tent door closed. The interior of the tent got pretty wet with condensation from our breathing

Day 22 – Ishinca Valley

We set off from Caroline’s to the collectivo station, making sure to pick up some empanadas on the way for breakfast. The hike in towards the Ishinca Valley starts at Pashpa, but we couldn’t find a collectivo headed there. Instead, we caught a collectivo headed to Tarica, S2 ($0.67), and would look for a taxi once there.

A note on bags on collectivos. Some collectivos have roof racks, plenty big enough for expedition-sized packs. However, some don’t, so it can be a pain trying to transport packs. When we went to the Llanganuco Valley, our packs took up a seat, so we were charged an additional fare. On the collectivo to Tarica the driver tried to charge us for the bags, but I made sure that they didn’t take up a seat so we wouldn’t be charged. This made the driver a bit mad. Everyone else on the collectivo (Ketchua/Peruvian women) seemed to be on our side and said that bags shouldn’t cost extra.

The collectivo pulled over just after a road marked to the Ishinca Valley. The door-boy opened the door and said that this was our stop. But all at once all the Peruvian women began shouting at the driver. It took me a few seconds to realize that the women were shouting at the driver that this was not the right stop for us and that he should take us all the way to Tarica. Indeed, we were able to catch a taxi from Tarica, but we would have had to walk for hours extra if we had just been let off at the start of the road to the Ishinca Valley.

In Tarica a taxi was agreed upon for S20 to Pashpa. Like normal, it was a windy dirt road that climbed significantly in elevation. I made sure to check the GPS to see that the driver was actually driving us all the way to Pashpa. There is another small town called Collon before Pashpa, but getting off there would have added an extra 45 minutes of walking with our big packs. It turns out that the actual spot where people get off for the Ishinca Valley is even past Pashpa, called Laguna Cochopampa. Getting off there would have save an addition 45 minutes of walking.

I spoke to an arriero (donkey driver) for the first hour or two of the hike. He was following the same trail back to his farm. Once within sight of his farm, he remarked proudly that we could see his donkeys and bull.

Total time from Pashpa to base camp was about six hours. There were quite a few people on the trail and at one point there was a hold up because a donkeyhad fallen/gone off the trail. Camp set up, dinner made, and we were off to bed, ready for a 4am wake-up.

June 22nd

Just doing a quick update as we head out to confirm our plan. 6-7 days to the Ishinca Valley to climb Urus, Ishinca, and Toclaraju. Back in a week!

Day 21 – Packing

Packed today, went food shopping, preparing for 7 days in the mountains.

Day 20 – Rest day

Nothing too much of note today. I had more time to read my book than ever and enjoyed making progress through it. Pancake for breakfast at Caroline’s, some walking around during the day, and Alex got his appetite back. It became his mission to try to regain all the strength he lost over the last couple days.

Another S3.5 lunch upstairs in the market, some ice cream from our favourite ice cream store, and chicken from our favourite chicken place with another traveller from the hostel.

The tentative plan at the moment is to have another rest day tomorrow, then head into the Ishinca Valley the following day to climb Ishinca, Urus, and Toclaraju. We’re debating whether it would be worth it to rent an ice tool for climbing Toclaraju. If all goes well, we’ll come back to Huaraz, take a rest day, then try to do Huascaran in 4-7 days after that.

Day 19 – Return to Huaraz

Luckily Alex slept through the night and was starting to feel a bit better. He had decided the night before to try to put his pack on a donkey if it was heading down this morning. We slowly got our things together and Miguel made us breakfast – eggs with bacon and a “soup” of condensed milk with flour. It was actually pretty tasty. Alex wasn’t able to eat much, but did have a small amount of soup.

When no donkey came, we began to head down. We were going to hike down to Hualcayan and hopefully get a car back to Caraz from there, which would save the 3-4 hour hike to Cashabampa. Miguel warned us that it was Sunday and that there would be less traffic. We said our goodbyes to Miguel and left him our cheese and sausage as a token of appreciation. Alex also left him some money. Miguel said that we were welcome back any time.

It was about 3.5 hours back to Hualcayan. We arrived in the early afternoon. The whole way walking down the valley we could see the one road into Hualcayan and I was watching for cars. Not one in the whole time we were descending! I was reminded about how small Hualcayan actually is.

I asked the one person who was there in town with a car and asked about returning to Caraz. He said that there wouldn’t be any cars going back to Caraz this afternoon and that it would cost S90 ($30) for a private taxi back to Caraz. I said that we only had S20, so he said that we could catch a ride with him when he went into town at 4am the next morning.

After about 4 hours of waiting, I had given up on a car a while ago, a car came and I ran up to it and asked if he was going to Caraz. When he said si, I jumped with joy. Neither Alex nor I had been enthusiastic about the prospect of tenting a night, waking up at 3:30am, and commuting back to Huaraz in the wee hours of the morning. It was about 1.5 hours back to Caraz down a very poor road that switchbacked endlessly down the mountains and back to the valley where the main highway is.

We payed S7 each for the ride to Caraz and the family that was driving us was very kind and drove us right to the collectivo station. We arrived just past sunset and then got on the 1h40m collectivo back to Huaraz, S6 again.

I had been crossing my fingers that they’d have a spare room at Caroline’s Lodging, our hostel in Huaraz. I was worried that it would be full since we were arriving so late. Luckily there was a room available, though it was tiny and a matrimonial. We were relieved to be back and went straight to sleep.

Day 18 – Sick day at Laguna Cullicocha

We woke up and Alex said that he had hardly slept last night. He was feeling sick, so we started the morning relatively slowly, though keeping in mind that we were to have an 8 hour day ahead of us.

We had breakfast and realized afterwards that Alex wouldn’t be able to make the day’s hiking. Through the morning he continued to be ill and we decided that we would re-assess the next morning to see whether or not we would continue. It’s unlikely that it was altitude related since we have been well-acclimatized for a while now. We think that it was food poisoning off either street food or restaurant food from cheap restaurants (with symptoms of vomitting, diarhea, fever, weakness).

There is a shack on the barrier of the lake where a man works (15 days on, 15 days off) and takes readings of the water level and regulates the flow of water to generate hydroelectric power. The man, Miguel, was very kind and gave me some medication to bring back to Alex. He also lent us a thermometer, and found that Alex had a fever of 37.7. He ended up walking over to our campsite, a few minutes from the building, and I spent most of the day talking with him (up until then I had been reading my book, Mexico). He also said that later on we could stay in a spare room in the shack/building that had spare beds.

Around sunset we headed over to Miguel’s place and he made us dinner of chicken soup, eggs with bacon, and yerba. Note that there is a distinction between yerba and tea in Peru, where yerba is generally dried or fresh herbs that are steeped with water. Alex hadn’t eaten all day and still wasn’t able to eat at this point.

We watched sunset, finished talking, and Alex and I headed to bed. It was very comfortable – I was happy that we had met someone so hospitable.