Tomas Franchini climbs fast and light in the Cordillera Blanca, Peru
The report by Tomas Franchini, currently in the Cordillera Blanca in Peru, where he has climbed Nevado Ulta and Nevado Huandoy Norte.
The Cordillera Blanca… what can I say? This is already the third time I’ve decided to travel to these mountains. I have great respect for them and every time I climb here, I realise their complexity and the difficulties of climbing them, whether via a normal route or up a new route. Here things always require a huge effort, you have to deal with the weather, the conditions and the complicated approaches that compared to the past have changed a lot due to the radical climate change that has taken place.
After these two years of the borders being closed, my desire to travel increased dramatically. During this time I also had some health problems to deal with, so I really couldn't wait to get back into the big mountains. This is the perfect place to return into the wild and climb at altitude. Based in Huaraz, you have the opportunity to make "quick" raids into the mountains for a maximum of 5-6 days, and then return to base, allowing you enough time to recover and prepare for the next outing.
I left Italy on my own and planned to join my climbing partners on the other side of the ocean. Alessandro Fracchetti, whom I sincerely thank for his help and support, is from Italy’s Trentino region just like me, but he fell in love with this place and his Argentine wife Lola, and moved to Huaraz a few years ago. He works here and has a beautiful family with his little Cassia who is just 1 year old. Alessandro introduced me to various climbers including Renato Rodriguez from Chile, who turned out to be an excellent climbing partner: highly motivated and really eager to become a mountaineer and climb virgin summits, just like me.
After some acclimatisation alone on some 5000ers, I joined my partners and we decided to attempt a new route on Nevado Ulta 5875m. From a distance, the wall seemed pretty straightforward, but once we started climbing it we immediately understood how complex it really was. Difficult conditions and route finding proved arduous, coupled with not ideal weather. Just short of the summit Alessandro started to feel unwell and didn’t want to continue, a block of ice hit his head and with thoughts turning to his family ... we went back down equally satisfied with our attempt and the great experience.
Then, with motivated Renato we wanted to take advantage of a good weather window. Once again it was Alessandro who came up with the idea, of establishing a route on the virgin spur of Huandoy Norte. Unfortunately, he decided to skip this one and wait for us at home.
In just 4 days we explored the approach, reaching the base of the mountain after negotiating a very complicated glacier. We decided against the rocky ridge because a: 1. loose rock b. progress would be “slow”, and we didn’t have enough time. In order to breach the overhangs we’d have to aid climb but we were climbing at the wrong time of year. As a result we decided to link a series of existing routes immediately to the right of the rocky spur, thus climbing a direct and elegant route in a fast, and extremely alpine style!
It seems to me that climbers here still have a very "slow and heavy" mentality when it comes to climbing the big mountains. Instead, I want to be as light as possible and climb the mountains with long non-stop round trips, resulting in light and fast trips. And safe ones, too. I don't care if we don't sleep and eat, we'll do all of that on the way back! The future of climbing in the Cordillera Blanca is alpine style My partners embraced this approach and will adopt this alpine style on their ascents, too!
Thanks again to Alessandro, Lola and Renato, the other local climbers Jilmer, Micher, Edwin, Miquel, my friend Victor and all the staff of the Caroline Lodge (hostel in Huaraz) where I am now at home.
I will stay here for about 15 days and then return to Europe in my favorite season, autumn. This trip is also teaching me a lot, and my love for the mountains seems insatiable.