New British Route in Cordillera Oriental, Peru

The top bivy high on Huaguruncho, 127 kb
The top bivy high on Huaguruncho
© Tom Chamberlain

British Climbers Tom Chamberlain and Tony Barton have made a significant first ascent on Huaguruncho (5723m), Cordillera Oriental, Peru.

Their new line, Llama Karma (1000m ED/ 90·/V, 24 pitches) was climbed over four days and tackles the large south west face of Huaguruncho.

Chamberlain and Barton had tried a similar line back in 2008, accompanied by Olly Metherell, but had not reached the top. On re-acquaintance this year the pair (this time without Metherell) found that different snow conditions forced them to take an alternative line around to the left side of the large spur, as shown in the photo below and right.

Tom Chamberlain describes day two of the climb, after a good bivy on the crest of a spur at c.4850m:

Huagruruncho SW Face showing the line of Llama Karma, 115 kb
Huagruruncho SW Face showing the line of Llama Karma
© Tom Chamberlain
"On 2nd August we started off with rock. 6 pitches got slowly harder, culminating in a very tricky line of finger-tip flakes up the back of a groove, probably alpine V+ or VI. At this point, slightly chossy orange-grey gneiss changed to much firmer pale granite. Also, the angle of the spur kicked up steeply and rock gave way to snow and ice. These pitches started kindly enough: 60° with good rock islands to belay on. However, before long we were grappling with steeper ground, no rock islands any more, and often being forced to cross fragile flutings. Furthermore, while I usually found a reasonable belay, there was a distinct lack of good snow or ice for stakes or screws during the pitches. I often found myself without any gear to speak of in a pitch..."

The team continued their ascent the following day and reached the final ridge late on the 3rd of August. They didn't reach the true summit due to snow conditions, but descended the following day reaching the Matthews Glacier.

Tom explains:

"There was no question of doing the final snow plod to the summit, given the weight of snow sitting on the 30-40° slopes. We down-climbed in the direction of the 1956 first ascent ridge, before Tony took over creating a series of abalakov threads which took us down, across some gullies and flutings, towards the Matthews Glacier. We were heading down the far side of the mountain, which I had only seen in photographs, although Tony had been around there a few years before. It was a worrying descent, with some big lumps of ice and the occasional rock thrumming overhead. We were hanging on a slender thread in a greenhouse of cloud. The sun was there, warming the face to a stifling heat and melting out missiles, which seemed to be heat-seeking and bent on destruction. On our 7th abseil the rope got stuck, but we were close now and worried by the mountain falling down all around us, so we cut down what we could and did the final abseil to the glacier, getting out onto it, away from the fallout area, as quickly as we could. We stumbled down the glacier, getting onto slabs and managing to figure out a way down these just as the sun went down. As the last light faded, and a wall of mist rolled in, we found ourselves in a steep valley, waist deep in damp tussock grass and other weird South American plants. We were desperate to stop, but wanted to reach the floor of the main valley where we knew there was flat ground by the lake..."

A view of Huaguruncho from the acclimatisation peak, 125 kb
A view of Huaguruncho from the acclimatisation peak
© Tom Chamberlain
A view of Huaguruncho Chico from the top of Huaguruncho, 173 kb
A view of Huaguruncho Chico from the top of Huaguruncho
© Tom Chamberlain
Descent route info
© Tom Chamberlain

The expedition was supported by the BMC

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