Slovenians score two new climbs on Hualcan in Peru
This year the Slovenian Youth Alpine Team travelled to Peru to sample some climbing in the Cordillera Blanca. After acclimatisation, four members of the team immediately started preparing for the North Face of Hualcan (6122 m), which had been in our minds for over a year. Previously, the face has only been climbed by Aritza Monasterio and Alik Berg, without any other known attempts. Aritza has a very long history of climbing with the Slovenians, so when we were in contact with him about coming to Huaraz, despite the age gap, he was very keen to climb with us.
Our team consisting of Matija Volontar (26), Bor Levičnik (21), Matevž Štular (25), Blaž Karner (25) and Aritza Monasterio started its journey from Huaraz early in the morning on July 15. The walk to the base of the face is usually done in two days, but we decided that we were all sufficiently acclimatised to do it in one long day. After 8 hours of walking with a heavy backpack, we finally established camp on the glacier at the base of the wall. Looking at the face, we decided that Matija Volontar and Bor Levičnik would try to climb a new route staring on the N face and then continue up NE ridge to the top of East summit. The others, namely Blaž Karner, Matevž Štular and Aritzia Monasterio, would try their luck on the right side of the N face, climbing a system of pillars, rock bands and snow slopes to W summit.
Virtual Insanity - 1500m, 70° - 90°+, M5
Matija Volontar, Bor Levičnik 16 - 17/07/2021
We started climbing on the far E side of the N face and quickly reached the NE ridge line. From the glacier the line seemed easy, so in our minds we had envisaged that one day would be more that enough to reach the the E summit. While climbing the first pitches of the NE ridge however, we quickly realised that we were moving way too slow to get anywhere near the summit in one day. The climbing was steep, sometimes even overhanging, with poor protection. There were, however, a couple of pitches of very good neve/ice and rock. We reached the top of the first part of the ridge in about 10 pitches. While we expected the next part of the ridge would provide mostly walking on cornices, we couldn't have been more wrong. Instead we encountered massive snow mushrooms, that were almost impossible to cross. We resorted to traversing onto the N side of the ridge. When even traversing was not the option anymore, we did three (non sequential) sideway rappels on the N side in order to reach solid ground.
Exhausted, we reached a small plateau at around 5700 m, where we set up our tent. In the morning we started climbing at around 7.30. Our plan was to start a bit later than usual in order to climb in the warmth of the sun. We were again short on our luck since the sun was almost immediately covered by thick fog. In addition, strong winds picked up. The good thing is that we had photos of the upper part from the glacier, otherwise navigation to the E summit would be have been very hard.
On the second day, we mostly simul climbed steep snow and ice in various conditions. What stands out the most on that second day is the last pitch, that was mentally the hardest. At least 20 m of almost vertical powder snow, with very little to grasp onto and no protection. We reached the E summit of Hualcan at around 15.00. Since it was almost a complete whiteout, and the weather was getting worse, we immediately descended across a complex glacier towards Laguna Cocha, where we spent another night. It took us approx. 8 h from the E summit to Laguna Cocha. From Laguna, there is a nice path that took us to the road and back to Huaraz.
Knights and days - 1000m, 70° - 90°, VII, M5
Blaž Karner, Matežv Štular, Aritza Monasterio 16 -17/07/2021
In the morning of July 16th we made the approach across the broken glacier to the right side of Hualcan's N face. The initial pitches went by smoothly, offering easy but interesting mixed climbing up to M5. The most obvious crux of the whole route was spotted from the glacier the previous day: a steep rocky pillar with a lot of dihedrals, none of which seemed easy. We planned to bypass the steep section in the bottom part of the pillar by the apparently easy couloir on the left but after observing significant rockfall we decided to traverse over smooth slabs into the middle of the pillar. Some technical pitches were followed by steep and exposed climbing up to VII (6b) on the pillar itself. We ended the day in search of a suitable bivi spot, which proved to be more difficult than expected and after an hour of digging we settled for a meter wide snowy ledge.
From the bivi, technically easier pitches followed with difficulties up to M5 and also some nice pitches with amazing ice. During the day the weather turned for the worse and fog provided some route finding difficulties. We climbed the last mixed rock barrier at nightfall and pitched a tent on top of Hualcan West (6107m). The next morning we were quick to discard any hope of descending the normal route to the village of Hualcan because of zero visibility, snowfall and strong wind, so we spent another day and night on top, awaiting better weather. There next morning, after 36 hours on the summit, we quickly packed the tent in high winds and descended the glacier, ending our five day adventure in the village of Hualcan.