Climbing Huascaran

Climbing Nevado Huascarán in the Peruvian Andes

22 days, 22,205', Jul 1969

Ray Jardine

In 1969, Ray climbed Nevado Huascarán, Peru's highest at 22,205' with Gene and Betsy White, Mark Bostwick, and John Larson. It was a 22 day trip into the Quebrada Quilcayhuampa Valley and Cordillera Blanca.

At the summit: Ray, Betsy, Mark, John, and Gene. Photo by John Larson.


On the lower part of the glacier, where the crevasses are open and easily avoided, no climbing rope needed.

Background: bouldering in Colorado before the trip. I was an aerospace engineer but spent most of my off-work hours climbing. (I dug this photo out of my collection because of the red long-johns.)

Hanging around in a butt-bag on Canary Pass, Eldorado. This was in winter, hence the red long-johns.

Same location, different day, and taken from a different angle.

Part 1: the Quebrada Quilcayhuampa

A clean-shaven engineer goes to Peru.

Loading our bus in Lima. The bus was crammed and it was a wonder we didn't lose anything off the top.

Sunday market in Huaraz.

Typical shop selling coca leaves, legally. The white powder is "ilucta," used to soften the leaves. It's said that chewing coca in most SA indigenous communities is like drinking wine in France or beer in Germany. I didn't try it.

On the way up to basecamp: this mule is apparently not used to creek crossings, it is afraid of the fast flowing water.

After a day's hiking into the Quebrada Quilcayhuanca, from Huaraz, we reach our basecamp at 13,600'.


We begin acclimatization to altitude with our first jaunt. This was first time above 15,000' for some of us.

The view is outstanding! And the clatter of the icefall is incessant.

Mark climbs onto the Chinchey glacier.

Camp at 16,300

The Chinchey glacier.

Gene, Betsy and John traverse the expansive glacier under the watchful eye of a UFO. (Just a blemish in the 35 ml transparency, I'm sure.)

Barb Euser, Gene, Betsy, and Mark.

18,000' our high-point above the glacier.

The following morning we noticed the hairline crack running under the tent had widened to 3/4". Time to move!

Mark strolls out of the Quilcayhuanca, headed back to town.

Part 2: the Cordillera Blanca

Returning to the Hotel Monterrey, outside Huaraz, we soak in the big pool, naturally heated by hot springs.

Our first view of the mountain. The highest summit is the one on the right.

The kids of Musho visit the expedition, and Warren shakes hands.

The expedition in Musho. The men standing with hats are muleteers hired to take our gear and supplies to basecamp.

Hike up to basecamp.

Base camp (14,000') on Huascarán. I had a small bivouac-like tent, so it was up to me to camp close to our food tent (shown here) to protect our supplies from the "Zorros." I had no idea what Zorros were, but was told that they were savage animals. The joke was on me when I later learned that they are normally timid, but they will raid a supply of food if left unattended. I never saw one, but later residents of the camp told of them getting into their supplies.

Reaching the base of the glacier above basecamp, we're putting on our crampons.

Betsy begins the climb up the glacier.

A porter carrying a load of tents and supplies for stocking our high camps.

Warren leading our three porters up to Camp 1


Porters going down with empty packs.

Going down from Camp 1 with an empty pack.

Warren and two porters (Antonio Vargas on the right) after carrying loads to Camp 1 and returning back down to the edge of the glacier.


Betsy stepping over a crevasse.

Camp 1

My blue tent (homemade) at Camp 1.

Camp 1

I'm following Warren up to Camp 2. We are climbing unroped (not recommended) because this part of the glacier was uncrevassed.

That wall of seracs is 2,000' above us, and several hundreds of feet thick. A dangerous place to be climbing.

Reaching Camp 2.

Camp 2; still there, thanks to the pickets.

I'm sharing a tent with Warren Blesser. That evening we were almost killed by an avalanche that swept down from the seracs 2,000' above. We heard it coming - sounded like a freight train. Warren looked out, and yelled for me to crawl down deeper into my sleeping bag, while he did the same. The blast of wind nearly flattened the tent, but the avalanche stopped a short ways above us - emptied into a yawning crevasse just above our camp, we later learned. That was a close one. So close, in fact, that after this trip I decided to quit high altitude mountaineering, and stick to rock climbing. (Tragically Warren later died in 1973 on a descent of the Matterhorn after climbing the North Face).

The next day Gene, Betsy, John and Mark arrive at Camp 2, with three other climbers.

Camp 2

Camp 2

Note the ominous wall of seracs, above.

Climbing the avalanche chute above camp 2. Avalanche chute is outlined in red, and Camp 2 in green.

Climbing the avalanche chute above Camp 2. The force of the avalanche had taken away the top layer of soft snow, and the heat of the avalanche (by friction) had melted the new top layer. So it was an excellent surface to climb on, compared to the surrounding slopes with their soft snow.



Gene and Betsy taking a short break at 21,000'.


We're up so high, the sky is getting dark. With a little imagination, a person could almost see stars. At least that's how it seemed to me at the time.

Mark was my rope-mate for most of the climbing we did.

Betsy is an experienced mountaineer.


That's Gene in the lead, and to his left is our soon-to-be Camp 3.

That's the north peak of the mountain, not the one we're heading for.

Mark at 19,000 feet, climbing the wall of a crevasse below Camp 3.

At Camp 3, Mark and I shared a Gerry Himalayan tent.

Setting off from Camp 3, I fell into a crevasse just here, nearly up to my armpits. I think my backpack frame caught on the edge and stopped me going all the way in.

The storm that saved my trip. Summit day, and I was having a bout of altitude sickness, and never would have made it, had not the group turned back because of the storm (and also because we were off route). The photo is blurry, but that's about what the scene looked like to me, in my weakened state. We retreated back to Camp 3, and tried again the following day.


Betsy and John showing the disappointment of a failed bid for the summit.

Setting off from Camp 3, again, John adjusts something on Gene's collar while Betsy looks on. Note the supergators made for crampon use.

On the Col between the North and South peaks.

Gene takes the lead of his three-person rope team, with Betsy in the middle and John following. Mark leads our two-person rope team with me following and taking the photo.

Well above the col, we're looking over the mountain's backside to the NE toward the cloud-covered Amazon. Pictured: John and Mark.

Slow going at 21,500 feet.

Nearing the summit.

My team mates at the summit, with me behind the camera taking the photo. Mark Bostwick, Gene and Betsy White, and John Larson

The man on my right, in the red parka, changed my life. Gene was living a life of adventure.

Photo by John Larson.

Gene on the summit.

Heading down.

Much further down, one hundred feet from the edge of the glacier, one of my crampons snapped in half, rendering it useless. fortunately I was able to hobble down to bare ground.

Our descent from Camp 3 (on the col between the two peaks) was 9,000' and took us all day. Then at last we reached Musho.

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