Climbing Nevado Huascarán in the Peruvian Andes
22 days, 22,205', Jul 1969
Trip Account by Betsy White
On July 3, 1969, we gather, John Larson, Mark Bostwick, Gene White and I at the Continental check-in stand for farewell photos. Carefully, we check in the four Kelties and four duffle bags together, inquire whether it is best to check through to Miami or claim baggage in Chicago. The clerk is incredulous that we should doubt the efficiency of the whole baggage system. With a great feeling of happy anticipation we board the plane. Bob Farley appears, takes a seat farther back.Extremely clean cut looking young blond man gets on, carrying a small hand case. He looks at our ice-axes and introduced himself as a fellow climber, Ray Jardine. Ray Jardine! We have been trying to call him all spring to go on practice climbs but there is never anyone at his house, he is the mystery man. Still mysterious, he settles in his seat, orders a cocktail, puts on the stereo headset and tunes out on everything else. Is he unsociable? Gene and Farley discuss the stock market, John, Mark and I speak of lighter subjects Chicago...more members of this strange group assemble, including glorious leader, John Ebert. To make sure our baggage is transferred we pester the check-in clerk to phone down to the plane and make sure it came over from the other flight and he assures us it has. Everyone eyes everyone else. We discover Ray is not unsociable and he becomes a part of our little group. Miami is a blast of humid air and the discovery that my pack is missing. Tragedy. Continental air lines traces it, discovers it is still in Denver. An oversight. They assure us it will be in Miami by the next day but of course we are planning to leave at 2 am for Peru. The pack will follow on the next flight to Lima. This sounds pretty dubious and I am really worried. My boots, goggles, clothing etc. were in the pack. I could borrow boots but then my crampons wouldn't fit and I couldn't really climb anything serious. We retreat to the bar to cheer ourselves after buying some good cognac in the duty-free store for snake-bite and victory celebrations. Ray tells us he makes nuts. We don't understand for a while then he explains, "single cable climbing nuts". Of course, for wall climbs. It develops that Ray climbs walls in Eldorado, Turkey Creek and Boulder canyons after work every evening. He rarely gets home before 11, after having supper on the way home. On weekends, he climbs bigger walls, and during the winter he climbs ice gullies and water falls (frozen). We discuss the rest of the group which has not impressed us so far. A few young tiger types but mostly a motly mixture of ages and types. As we line up to board Areana Peruana we note four odd creatures who have driven down from Boston, They seem exhausted at the start of the trip. Peruvian air lines makes money by crowding in as many fares as possible; the seats are so close together that even the average persons knees jam against the seat in front; Gene and other tall men have to put their feet in the aisle or perform contortions. We soon realize the only way to get in and out of the window seats is to walk on the seats, it is impossible to slide in front of the seats. A bearded thin fellow sitting in front of Gene pushes his seat into the most reclined position, ignoring the discomfort he causes and refuses to adjust it for the whole trip. He is Frank Knight. Brief stops in Panama and Guayaquil give us a chance to straighten our legs and drink warm cokes. With the dawn we have a glimpse of the volcanos in Equador then a meager breakfast and a breath-taking look at the Cordillera Blanca. Huascaran sticks up out of the clouds above everything else. Arrival in Lima is cool and calm. The weather is cool and everyone is too tired to be anything but calm. Buses take us to our hotel, the Savoy and we collapse on the beds, take showers and after a short rest go out to look over the town. Lima is European in flavor but underdeveloped in many ways; mud and wattle shacks stand next to modern skyscrapers and colonial palaces. John, Ray and Mark join us in finding a good restaurant on the big Plaze by the hotel Bolivar. Reading the menu is no problem and we eat well. Teasing Ray a bit about his first trip out of the country, telling him all the dread diseases he can catch. Big meeting after lunch. Harold Walton tells us what he has done for two weeks in Peru at our expense. Bought food and saved lots of money (bad sign) is saving more money by sending most of the group to Huaras by bus instead of collectivo taxi (another bad sign) has bought no white gas (tragic) can find only twenty donkeys so we will have to carry packs ourselves to base camp, and even then cannot all go on one day. The two doctors advise gradual acclimatization NO rushing up to high altitudes. We wander out again, with Warren and Caroline Blesser this time, end up having supper in the same restaurant. Frank Knight materializes out of the shadows of the restaurant and joins us for dinner. In the morning we breakfast early, prepare to leave for the high country. We and Mark will be in a taxi because we must stop at the airport to look for my pack. We are joined by a natty fellow whose baggage is also at the airport. He wears a prince of wales plaid double-breasted suit, pink shirt, large cuff links, shiny black cowboy boots and his blondish-grey hair is longer than Gene's. In order to travel in Peru, one must fill out a form which includes passport number, age, marital status, occupation and address. We discover our co-passenger is Ed Johann from Portland, age 44, occupation "Bombero" fire-fighter. At the airport we are amazed to find both my baggage and Ed's. Our taxi leaves for Huaraz with happy passengers. The road out of Lima winds along the edge of the sea, a shelf road in a steep sand hill that appears on the verge of sliding into the sea. Our driver, whose sign on the dash identifies as Oscar Gonzales Ramon, looks very serious so I inquire in halting Spanish if the water is very cold. He laughs, yes the water is cold but not too many cars fall in. After a couple of hours we turn inland and leave the paved road. The road is barely wide enough for one car, so when something approaches from the opposite direction there is great screeching of brakes, flashing headlights and honking and one car must back up to a wide place in the road. We proceed up a stark narrow valley, winding in switchbacks up one side and then the other. 300 kilometers from Lima we come out over the top of the cordillera Negra at about 13,000 feet. We are on a high, bare plateau, but rising on the far side of the plateau are the white peaks of the Cordillera Blanca. The contrast between the small mud village on the plains, the dark hills of the Negra and the generally sombre tones of the brown and black landscape with those shining distant peaks is amazing. We must stop for photos. We are still a long way from Huaras and don't arrive until almost six in the evening. We stay at the Hotel Monterrey outside Huaraz. It has a big hot spring pool and bath houses, lush garden, tile on the floors and heavy wood work, a sort of classical old place. After much needed showers we relax in the bar and talk with the Eberts. We begin to feel guilty about all the others on the buses as we settle down to our four course dinner. After we are in bed, we hear the arrival of the buses, well after midnight. It was a harrowing trip for the road was dusty, the buses leaked fumes and were really too large for the road. I don't think anyone was happy with Dr. Walton's economizing that day. Gradually, even those people who rode the bus appeared for breakfast, though some were not evident until lunch time. The Monterrey is at 10,000 ft. and altitude was beginning to affect some of the lowlanders. In the bar after dinner we had met two delightful English girls who entertained us with stories of their travels by bus from Chile. We shared a collectivo with them in the morning to go into Huaraz and see the Sunday market. Mark, Ray, John, Ed, and innumerable Indian ladies with chickens and babies shared the car, also. We bought baskets, woven strips of cloth, and ponchos but mostly enjoyed watching the colorful crowds in the street. Gene bought a large amount of coca leaves and the white powder which is chewed with them though none of us knows exactly how to eat it. Returned to the hotel in time for a swim before lunch and more discussion with everybody about who gets to go to basecamp when. We are eager to get into the mountains and start doing something but inertia of the group as a whole is hard to fight. Gene and Ed spent most of the afternoon with Mr. Ebert trying to figure out what things were ready to go to basecamp and how they should be packed. It became evident that the reason Dr. Walton could find only twenty animals was that he wished to hire animals from his own friends only. Mr. Ebert was able to find a man with twenty more animals who said he could have them ready bv ten o'clock the following. day. Before dinner, another big meeting. Hostilities begin to surface as Mr. Ebert unfolded his plan; twelve people who hike to basecamp on the following day "the strongest people and those willing, to work hard to put camp together" half of the remaining people would start later in the day and camp half way, finishing the trip on the second day and the last group of people would continue to acclimate in Huaraz until the following day and hike in then. Gene and I were chosen for the first group, but Mark, Ray and John are told they must go in the second or third group and that their baggage will come in on the last day. We are all going to carry fairly heavy packs, something we had not really planned. Hostilities were drowned in Pieco sours and good Peruvian wine which we shared with the English girls, Phillippa and Catherine. P. and C. told Mark and John that they would boil eggs and potatoes in their room for the boys to have on the hike (Iowa Mountaineers are not providing food until base camp) in return for the dinner which they bought for them. They had rather a gay time boiling eggs until late at night and went swimming at midnight, we later learned. Monday morning those of us in the first group piled into a truck at 6 and drove to the porter Mauricio's house where with hot water to make instant coffee provided by Sonora we breakfasted on expedition corned beef, rolls and butter. It was a long walk, 15 miles and 4,000 foot elevation gain, but I was the second to arrive at the head of the valley, right behind Jim Moore the self-appointed hero of the crowd, with his seven expeditions to Peru. He hiked up a hill in the center of the valley and lit a smokey fire, to indicate that he had decided upon the campsite. Warren Blesser, leader of the group arrived later and didn't agree, but looked at a lower site. Several more porters arrived (Mauricio's son, who had walked in with me said Dr. Walton wanted us to look at three sites and preferred one on the left farthest up the valley. Jim Moore sat and pouted, saying "I don't want to argue with you, lady" while the others investigated all three campsites. I found a cave full of cow dung where a few of us took refuge from the rain. "It never rains in Peru" we had been told, but this was another of our false preconceptions. Mark, Ray, and John (wearing tennis shoes) arrived as we were looking for campsites all with heavy packs. They had left at ten o'clock yet they arrived half an hour before the great Jim Ebert (who had a porter carry his pack) and others of the "strong first group" who straggled in with the burros. Irony appeared in the form of a porter riding a horse carrying Jim Ebert's tripod across his knees. We all wondered if that porter were being paid or not; he probably was. We decide upon the left side of the valley site, up one more little rise. Tempers are short. Jim Moore speaks to no one, does nothing to fix up camp. We all struggled to get up personal tents to protect our gear from the rain. Meanwhile I, as the first woman in camp, am supposed to cook dinner...most people had little or no lunch. We are about twenty, the twelve of the first group and eight or ten tigers who disobeyed Mr. Ebert and walked all the way in anyway. The confusion was overwhelming. One little key, one list, and about twenty black trunks. The stoves were in one trunk, but the funnels to fill them in another. Pots in one, spoons in another, food in all kinds of containers from the locked trunks to duffle bags. The most we managed before it got dark was soup and tea and bread. No one was very happy. Managed to erect one of the big round community tents and decided to unpack all the trunks to avoid anymore searching around for things...get it all out where we can see it, we thought. Jim Moore and Jim Wilkerson, the doctor approached me mysteriously "do they want more soup? I think, no Jim Ebert is on the verge of pulmonary edema and I must translate to the head porter that during the night he may have to be evacuated; a horse and two men must be available at any time. This was quite a challenge for my Spanish and I began to wonder why Jim Moore with all his experience didn't speak a little. The four of us, John, Mark, Gene and I happily crawled into the orange tent for a needed rest. Mark insists upon being in the center because his sleeping bag is cold. July 8 dawns clear and we survey the site of basecamp, a wide meadow used previously and currently as grazing ground for horses, burros and cows. As a result, the grass is green but there is a great deal of manure everywhere. Above us towers Pucaranra, very impressive, and at the head of the valley we can see the ice fall at the end of the Chinchey glacier, also a beautiful wall of the typical Andes ice fluting. A glance at the map tells us Chinchey is over 20,000, so we quietly decide that it is what we will try. "I'd rather fail on a decent peak than succeed on some dinky thing" says Gene and we concur. More immediate is the need for breakfast. John fires up the coleman stoves; he has now become official and permanent stove and lantern mechanic. We tell the porters to fetch water and survey the food. Corned mutton! I had never heard of it. How about S.O.S.? Dana Smith the next lady in basecamp and I try to throw together something edible. There is heavy rye bread, butter and some jam. Tea, powdered milk and grey sugar is found and we mix up the corned mutton with a sauce of milk. Barbara Euser.. another woman, they keep popping up.. feels sick immediately after eating and Jim Ebert (who has recovered from his pulmonary whatever it was) rushes to sympathize. Dysentery is one of the least romantic ailments. Dana, Ed, and I sort food most of the morning and send down a list of absolute necessities with the porters. There is nothing for breakfast, no Wylers, only a few candy bars, but lots of mutton and canned asparagus. No spaghetti, rice or other starches! how will 60 people be fed? At one o' clock, we tire of organizing basecamp and set off to find a route to Chinchey. Barbara comes along, a welcome addition to the group and she is from Colorado, too, so she fits right in with our label, "That Colorado Group". An old track along the top of a wild mud cliff takes us to the foot of the moraine and by 4 we are on the edge of the glacier. It appears that once we get up on the glacier it will be smooth going to the pass between Chinchey and Pucaranra. We are full of excitement as we rush back to basecamp and plan the things we will carry up the first day to our Camp I. We figure we will have just enough time to climb the peak slowly (two carries per camp) if we start out on the 9th. After another slightly nauseating meal we have a campfire meeting. Warren agrees that we can make our first carry with two or three porters, but Jim Moore starts speaking as the wise old man and telling us that on past trips most people stay in camp and climb little hills while the climbing leaders go out and find the routes and establish Camps on the mountains. He seems ignorant of the fact that many of us are planning to leave for Huascaron on the 15th and don't want to sit around until then. We still try to plan to leave in the morning. Again, it rains in the evening. Strange. [Handwritten notes:... person drink from their water bottle; no boots inside tents; 3 people on a rope; everyone roped on the glaciers; do not send porters out alone; everyone wears 2 prussiks, has hand loop ] In the morning, our plans are shot down. The "porters are needed to set up base camp" not enough tents are available, etc. We are already running out of gas, so there isn't enough to establish a camp with. Mr. Ebert and Dr. Walton arrive with more burros and food but the quality doesn't change. A bit of real poetic justice occurs when Mr. Ebert's tent is missing. He is furious that we unpacked all the trunks and are using them as stove stands, tables, etc. Those are expensive trunks! They must be sent back to America! You were not supposed to open them all! We always keep everything locked in the trunks so it can't be stolen; we wonder why Mr. Moore with all his experience on these trips or Jim Ebert didn't tell us this before or while we were unlocking and emptying the trunks. The day is spent by many packing the trunks again and putting up more tents, one for supplies, one for a cook tent. After breakfast, Mr. Moore gave a lovely demonstration of ice and snow rescue techniques, how to tie knots, etc. A very cold wind is blowing. In the afternoon about fifteen of us climb the 16,000 foot peak above basecamp. I arrive at the top right after Steve Anderson, find altitude no problem. Frank K night looks and sounds, with his asthma like he is going to expire, but he doesn't. July 10, we are finally allowed by Moore and company to take a couple of animals and 4 porters up towards our Camp I. Moore himself has to lead us, of course because we might forget the way. At the edge of the ice, instead of sticking to the rocks he plunges out into the seracs with our line of 14 heavily laden people. Flailing around the seracs for 2 hours we notice it is beginning to snow, so gallant leader Moore suggests returning. We leave the loads and hurry down to the valley. As we descend, the snow changes to rain and by the time we arrive in basecamp we are thoroughly soaked, even the tips of our toes. Most of my warm clothes are up in the cache on the glacier, also our tent, so on arrival I shed the wettest garments and crawl into John's tent where luckily I have left a shirt, two pairs of long underwear a pair of socks and my down sweater. It's a funny looking outfit but it's warm and dry. John is in for criticism because he didn't bring his brandy and tonight, soaking wet and faced with asparagus soup and weiner stew, we really need it. As we have no rain gear (it never rains in Peru, remember) we have to wrap ourselves in the rain fly of the tent to get over to the eating area. Where, because we really have run out of gas, the cooking is being done over a very smokey pit fire in the rain. Chuck Armstrong of Chicago, whose many-colored Peruvian hat and strange eye give him the air of middle-aged pixie, has brought a guitar to camp. We retire to the equipment tent, sitting on Ebert's precious trunks and listen to Barbara and Ray play the guitar. Ray is a man of many talents. We discuss our hunger and thirst and Ray exhibits his talents as "midnight Skulker". In the rainy dark he can go to the food tent and come back with treats undetected. First is oranges, next trip pans of pineapple, apple, then candy, then Wyler's, and we must send someone else down to the polluted stream for water. We eat until we are satisfied, for once, and Ray keeps pulling chocolate bars from his pockets, he has a vast appetite. Retire to the tents in the rain; we use John's while he doubles with Ray and no one knows exactly where Mark spends the night but we suspect a small blue tent up the hill. In the morning, after drying clothes, it appears we are finally going to get up on the mountain, only 2 1/2 days late. There is little chance that we can actually climb Chinchey, but at least we will get away from the throngs and start to eat the good high altitude food which we have been stuffing into duffle bags for two days. Gene and Ray scouted a route up the easy rooks and snow onto the glacier, ignoring Moore's serac folly. The four porters are very happy to carry for us, and Antonio is full of questions about who is going on Huascaran. "Senora Blanca y Antonio, al cumbre del Huascaron" big smiles. He is happy we are 'all going there, el Nino, too. Ray is El Nino or el Muchacho because of his youthful appearance. The porters run down the glacier after telling us that we won't make Chinchey because we don't have enough time. With great excitement, we unpack the high altitude food in the four-man tent. Someone has removed the ham! Ham in cans was Walton's idea of high altitude rations and we carefully had packed some but in the repacking on later days, it had been removed. But there is instant rice, good soups and lots of candy. We help ourselves to small toffees from the two large sacks that we have and discover it is bubble gum! Walton's Spanish is so great he gets bubble gum instead of candy. We are really impressed. Bubble gum is nauseating. We start to cook, everyone in high spirits, finally up on the glacier and our altitude of 16,000 is an altitude record for many of the group. ~ sharing water bottles - we break a lot of those rules ~ We cook steadily for about two hours and melt lots of snow, finding it very pleasant to be a small, congenial group that can eat sitting down, no fighting in line for meager portions, we eat as much as we want up here. Gene and I sleep in the two-man tent. It is a windy night and at six it is snowing. Everyone had carefully packed his things before leaving basecamp; but it is inevitable that things get lost. Gene and I constantly ask each other for things, where's the salt? Where are the APC's? Where is the special wrench for crampons? The answer is always, in the blue bag, the red bad, or nine times out of ten, the orange bag. We have more than one orange bag and inside the tents our yellow bags look orange, so there is confusion. Mark loses things easily, especially his flashlight. We all have little yellow Mallory flashlights, ours and Mark's are unidentified, John (always organized) has JTL on his and Ray has a tie-off on his, a small loop of avalanche cord. All of Ray's equipment has tie-offs, so that when he is on walls he can clip everything loose to a piton. He even has tie-offs on his clothing. In the morning, when Ray finally gets up, he finds an extra flashlight inside his sleeping bag, and it doesn't have a tie off so it must be Mark's. Another one of Ray's talents became obvious when we figure out that he had been in the tent from 7 in the evening until 10 in the morning and during that time had consumed a large amount of liquids. Mark had been obliged to come out of the tent at 7 am to relieve himself, but Ray seemed to be the champion no one could come near his staying power. We eat a leisurely breakfast but start out at 10 when the weather clears. Proceed up the smooth glacier to the foot of the col. There are six inches to a foot of new snow on the glacier but as soon as we start up the steep slopes of the col, the snow gets deeper. There are several crevasses to cross on the steep slope but the snow is so deep when you probe with an ice axe you can't feel resistance anywhere. Progress slows as the snow finally is up to our waists. Gene continues to forge ahead and Ray offers to take over the lead but finds he just can't fight all that snow, it's not like a rock wall. We sit down on a snow drift under a cliff and let Gene and John without packs go up and see how close we are to the actual col. It is 5 pm and rapidly getting darker. They report deep snow that continues and at least and hour more to the safe part of the col, free of danger from falling seracs. We look over our little group and decide it would be safer to descend and camp at the foot of the col, considering the hour, fatigue and the snow. We have all been carrying heavy packs, 35 to 50 pounds through this deep snow. We descend and find that we are more tired than we thought. We had been at about 18,000 ft. but camp down at 17,000. We cook ourselves another long, generous dinner. We have only two days until we have to leave the valley, so obviously we can't climb Chinchey. We feel cross again at the organization for having delayed us 2 days. Determined not to let anything or anyone get in our way on Huascaron. The dawn of July 13 on the glacier is incredibly beautiful. Because we are planning to go down, there is no rush and we indulge in an orgy of picture taking and breakfast. Rice pudding, fudge no. 8 in a hot drink, cocoa, chocolate bars, bread, and bubble gum for those who wish to indulge. Discussion of the record-breaking number of days we have gone without alcohol. Gene feels he may have experienced withdrawal symptoms. It's a long walk down to basecamp and our welcome from John Ebert is a simple inquiry of whether of not we got to the top. Mark says no, so he just walks. The fast from alcohol is ended for Gene, John and I when we join the Blessers and Bennetts in the Blesser tent for wine and pisco; a pleasant interlude. Warren had been suffering from an acute case of "La Turista" but announced in the morning that Pisco had cured him. July 14 is a day of rest in basecamp. John, Ed and I volunteer to cook dinner; Ed makes the comment, "If you get one of this group you get them all, don't you?" We are becoming notorious. We lie in the sun, bathe, try to avoid sitting on manure, and find we are bored. (Put that in your haiku and smoke it ! ) Dinner is a masterpiece of ham, noodles, green beans, custard and hot chocolate. Everyone is pleased, except Mr. Ebert who hates to see anyone taking things out of the supply tent and Chuck Armstrong who doesn't eat pork, thinks it is unclean. He doesn't look or seem Jewish so we wonder, is he Moslem? He also doesn't like pepper on his string beans, too bad. The midnight skulker does a little more work so we will have lunch to eat on the trail in the morning. The walk down to Huaras is not too tiring, we don't carry heavy packs. The final seven miles of the trail goes through several villages where children are just getting out of school. They gather beside the roadway and point. The more adventuresome come forward with hand extended to ask for plata, silver coins. Someone has taught them to ask, but I don't think they really expect to be given anything. There are lots of noisy little dogs, but luckily no really large threatining ones. I remember Chuck Armstrong saying that the absence of large dogs indicated that the local populace ate the dogs when they got of a certain size. His reasoning was not that good, though guinea pigs are eaten here, I doubt if dogs are. There is a good deal of human and animal traffic on the trail, including whole flocks of sheep and some funny black hairy pigs. Every family has a few pigs and they follow behind the people like obedient pets. We wonder why we haven't seen pork on a menu anywhere. People are friendly though the women and girls are quite shy. Everyone greet us with "Buenas Tardes, Gringo" and one old man calls me "Gringita". In these remote areas gringo does not have a pejorative meaning; it is simply the name given foreign visitors. Upon arrival at the porter's house we are pleased to discover that he sells beer. Ray and I are the first arrivals and soon the rest of our group of about fifteen appear. The family of Mauricio has to send for more beer from the next little shop down the road and the local populace has a grand time watching the loco gringos take off their shoes in the dust, drink beer and take pictures of each other. The charm of the moment begins to pale as we wait for a second hour; Walton had left at five in the morning to arrange transport for us, but of course he hadn't really arranged it. Finally Gene runs down the road and comes back shortly in the arranged truck. Hotel Monterrey looks great. We head for one of the big bathtubs tubs and indulge in a variety of sensual pleasures in the hot water. It's great to be clean. Gene Dana, and John go off to purchase goodies for Huascaron while others rest, read and repack. We have a cheap room with no bath and the saggiest bed I've ever encountered so we don't sleep too well in spite of the wine with dinner and cognac after. Adams Carter and his wife are at the hotel and I have a pleasant chat with them after dinner, Warren monopolizes them, though they had said they hoped to meet Gene because we had written to them from Pakistan an number of times. Steve Anderson, Ed Johann and some others plan to stay with the lotus eaters for another day or two, but we are eager to be off to our peak and all pile into a pick-up truck at 9. Dana, Bill, and I sit with the driver and listen to Radio Huaraz as we drive along. Amid the gay Indian songs periodically and without explanation there comes a record of "Happy Birthday to you" in English. We laugh each time but don't understand. Winding along the dusting road, Huascaron and Huandoy loom larger with every turn. Several photo stops are necessary. Must also stop to buy gas for whole Huascaron expedition, with our own money. At the small town of Mancos we must all fill in an impressive register with the usual information of age, marital status, occupation, etc. It seems Dana has put down several different ages, is she 30 or 32? Burros are waiting at the town of Musho, for once a sufficient number so we don't have to carry ourselves. After a picnic lunch and the purchase of two dozen eggs, we proceed to basecamp. The peak looms over the town, so the only way to go is up. Its a much steeper way in, but not as long as the first valley. The burros really balk so each of us does his stint of burro driving. Arrive at 14,000 at four pm. Gene and Ray much later, not feeling too well. Had a good dinner for our smaller group, now only a dozen or so, but we and the porters are saddened by the lack of sugar, salt and other refinements. Slept well, though it. is not a good campsite, on such a steep slope. Gene decides to take a day of rest while the rest of us, included the three porters carry loads up to camp I. The glacier is very rough and cut up in lower portion but quite passable. Lots of blue crevasses to be jumped, but we don't rope. The porters tie in with hemp and carry many coils..what they will do if one falls, your can't guess. We leave loads at 16,200 and follow the flags of some other party back to the edge of the glacier. There we spot two people, heavily laden and moving very slowly off the upper edge of the glacier. It is an Argentine and a Peruvian lad who have climbed the north peak after 7 days of virtual bivouacking of the glacier. They are very tired, so we help them with their stuff and invite them to have supper with us. After dark, the second group begins to arrive with great confusion of burros and people stumbling in the dark and the sorro, fox, snatching what candy and cookies he can. Gene feels better, though grouchy and John gets sick after dinner. It's those tinned weiners again. We get a letter from home, says all is well. The second group and their belongings are spread all over camp in the morning and a rather humorous exhibit is on the rock where we cook...a plastic container with what appears to be dozens of "Sheiks". It is with other items labeled Anderson, so it must be Steve's. A call is made to the morals committee! July 18 and we are finally leaving for our mountain. Four porters and eight senors Bill Glinkman, Bill Isherwood, Dana Smith, Ray, John, Mark, Gene and I. We have heavy loads because we are carrying enough to supply camps all the way up the mountain. The porters will make one more carry on the following day and another later to camp II. We arrive at the site of camp I at noon and after lunch and some tent platform chopping Gene and Ray go off see the way to camp II. There is a track on the glacier from a previous party, but we don't know how far it goes or how good it is. It is very hard to put tent stakes into the hard ice here, so a couple of ice screws are put into use and some of the ice pickets. There is water available in holes in the ice at all hours so we are saved from the task of melting water and won't use as much gas. A beautiful sunset and a calm evening so we cook outside the tent. We discover again that our packing and dividing of loads was faulty for we have no sugar and none of the ham. If the food for high altitude had been packed properly or even planned on paper as we assumed it would be, these confusions wouldn't occur. Ray and I had carefully scraped off the lumpy brown sugar and packaged it in plastic containers for the high camps; it and the hams were in the pile of things to be carried up, but we had left the actual packing of porter loads to Steve Anderson while we packed our personal gear. "Milo" cocoa is not very appetizing ~ without sugar. The boys sleep in the four man tent, we in John's two man and Isherwood and Smith in Ray's tent. Bill Isherwood has been elected morals committee chief since he is the only fellow in our group with the foresight to bring along his mistress. We establish a personal high altitude record for making love. Next day, Ray claims a sick headache and Mark has an upset stomach. We pack up loads, however and decide Ray can stay back in camp to direct any porters or others who come up with loads for camp II. A few hundred yards from camp, on the first steep hill, Mark finds his dysentery out of control and decides to return to camp, take polymagma and rest. The rest of us continue up along the old track. We see three figures coming down the ice fall! With great curiosity we hurry along until we meet at an old campsite. They are three Americans, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Peru, his brother and the brother's bride. The young lady fascinates us. She is very cheerful, but she's wearing blue jeans and a straw hat, over a wool hat. She says she has no overpants but that she wasn't too cold. It is her first experience on a mountain, and the party reached a point at about 20,000 ft. before being turned back by the difficulty of climbing on very hard snow and ice, steeper than they wished to climb without cutting steps or belaying, which would have delayed them a great deal. We are sorry they didn't make it, but can't help being a little glad that we won't be following someone's foot steps the whole way to the top. We do continue, however in their tracks to a point directly below the ice fall at about 17,400 ft. We scout around a bit and decide that the site is sufficiently safe from the avalanches that sweep the ice fall regularly. We sit down to wait for Bill Isherwood, Dana and Bill Glinkman who are coming up with loads. The glacier, is more rolling here and the snow sparkles on top of each little hill. As we survey the scene, three more people approach, the porters Antonio, Marcelino and Maximilio. They tell us the fourth porter who was sent from basecamp down to Musho to buy gas spent the gas money on getting Borracho, drunk, so there is no more gas in basecamp. We have enough up here, however, to make a try for the summit. We wend our way down the glacier and meet Warren and Ray (now recovered) coming up unroped...how may of Mr. Moore's rules are they breaking? They plan to stay in camp II and scout the route to camp III in the morning, putting up any fixed ropes or chopping what steps are necessary. Having seen the American party with one unexperienced member come down the ice fall, we doubt if much route preparation will be necessary, but we know Warren feels he has to play leader a little. The following day, we all move up to camp II but are amazed on the way to see Ray and Warren running around the glacier level with and below camp II. Why aren't they above scouting the route. they are really wandering around in a strange way. Having stayed at Camp I until 11 to talk to Ed Johann coming up from Base, we don't arrive at camp II until after one. The explanation from Ray and Warren is that during the night a huge avalanche came down the ice fall and though it stopped quite a bit above their camp, the powder snow cloud and wind that it produced buffeted their tent violently. They really paniced and in the morning looked below the campsite for a safer place and even dug a snow cave. They had not gone above camp as high as we had yesterday to see how protected it was. Finally, we convinced Warren to go up a little and look down; he discovered that the avalanche had stopped a considerable distance above the camp, so we proceeded to erect more tents and sort food for the high camp. Although the camp looked safe, we all preferred to stay there the shortest time possible. We started eating our own food this evening, Beef Stroganoff. I make the mistake of asking Ray to clean the pot and he finds it an impossible task. He ends up abandoning the sticky pot with soap and brillo frozen into the mess. Why did someone purchase soapy brillo? It is almost impossible to rinse a pot well at these altitudes. We watch for evening avalanche while melting water, but it doesn't come until late in the night, we hear at least three, but they aren't close enough to be disturbing. Sleeping in Mark's little tent, we are bothered by frost accumulating but the wind noise is not as bad as in a larger nylon tent. July 21, Warren feels he has to be leader again, so he takes off before 7:30 without breakfast. Antonio and Bill G. are supposed to be on his rope, but he is carrying the rope and Antonio doesn't go anywhere without breakfast. Warren waits up two or three slopes above, but it seems very inconsiderate to make these two others come up to him across crevassed glacier without a rope. We leave camp at 8:15 and are amazed at the foot of the ice fall to see Warren leading his rope up a steep side slope when there is more moderate slope in the center of the ice fall. Antonio is trying to chop steps and put in the ice pickets and he doesn't look very happy about it. We ignore the fixed rope and proceed more directly up the center, pausing to belay on one steep section only. There is some question about the route at the top of the ice fall; Gene goes off across a steep soft snow slope to the right while I belay and eat jelly beans. We are still in the shade and Gene is heading for a little point which is in the sun. By untieing I am able to give him enough rope to get there. He sits in the sun and announces that he must warm his feet; they are cold because he did not put his boots inside his sleeping bag last night. Meanwhile, John and I are stuck in the shade on a little shelf whose slope is slightly less steep than the surrounding area. We eat more jelly beans and decide to send Ray and Mark around to the left to check that out. Gene tells us that above him the slope is deep powder snow but we can see that the left slope has been swept clear of snow by avalanches because as the sun reaches it, the ice glitters. Ray marches up with no difficulty though the angle is fairly steep. We are, unfortunately, carrying heavy packs with all our personal gear plus the tents for camp III. Warren with the light pack is supposed to be finding the route for us, but he is somewhere far below, still hammering ice pickets or something. Finally, Gene's feet are warm enough that he will come back to us and we can follow Ray to the left. We're glad to be in the sun, too, and want to hurry because the same sun that warms us is warming the seracs above and could cause them to avalanche. I'm not used to traversing steep ice with a forty pound pack and momentarily panic until someone reminds me to "just stand up straight and stomp those crampons in". It works and we all get up beyond the ice fall to the smooth slopes of the col. There we rest and eat and wait for glorious leader, Warren. We thought we were at the col, but Antonio tells us it is still another two hours. We are in a white world of ridges and gentle valleys that gradually slopes up to the actual col. As we go upwards, the wind increases; wind seems to funnel over the wide pass between Huascaron's two peaks, always coming from East to west, towards us. We try to find a protected spot for camp III but protection is only relative. It will be a very windy campsite. Tent pegs do nothing in the deep soft snow, so every ice picket and ice axe is used to erect one four-man tent. Warren, Antonio and the two Bills are returning to camp II but will join us tomorrow after we have either scouted the route or climbed the peak. They leave us, the Colorado five, with our orange tent the only spot of warm color in a blue and white landscape. Camp is on a level spot between two large crevasses. We hope the high lip of the upper crevasse will protect us from the wind. No one dares venture very far from the tent for personal needs because of the proximity of crevasses, after a few days it won't be a very attractive campsite, but it is so cold that odors will be no problem. We crawl into the tent to escape the wind and the brightness of the sun at about two pm and start the stove about four. We must melt lots of snow because everyone is dehydrated. We melt snow for a while and then cook dinner, a freeze-dried dinner of steak, beans, and pudding, and of course soup. We have been eating steadily since arrival in camp so at least we all have good appetites. Ray feels a little under the weather with a headache. Cheerfulness is evident and conversation ranges over a variety of topics. We wonder if the astronauts have reached the moon, Ray especially is interested because his work at Martin is in the field of space exploration, in fact, he says "I fly to Mars on my computer all the time." The moon and stars look very close up here and we see the Southern Cross. It is a clear night, but very windy. Night of course is twelve hours long here near the equator, so we will have a long time to lie in the tent. After our sumptuous dinner we melt bottle after bottle of snow, each time one is full, it is passed around the tent and comes back empty. Breaking another one of the Iowa Mountaineer rules, we not only share water bottles but sometimes have to share spoons! The Recreational Equipment four man tents has the longest tunnel entrance imaginable, about 8 feet long. It's a bit difficult to extend one's arm through it to fill a pot with snow, but we manage. Ray comments, "It's really swift to have a broad to do the cooking". We have to sleep all in the one tent because we don't have enough pickets or ice axes to put up another tent, though we have two more. We're also a bit lethargic. Ray and Mark take one side of the tent, Gene, John and I the other. We're glad to have our double sleeping bag because there is plenty of room in it to put water bottles and boots so neither will be frozen in the morning. The tent flaps violently in the wind all night, large amounts of frost accumulate inside from our breathing and with the crowding we have to roll over in unison. No wonder no one sleeps very well, but we are resting and each time I wake up I can hear that some other people are snoring. At 4:30 we awake and try to start the stove to cook some hot fudge number 18. The stove is balky, tempers are short, and the tent is mass confusion as everyone tries to put on knickers, overpants, boots, overboots, down jackets, windjackets, mittens glasses, hats, hoods, climbing harness, etc. Things that should be in orange bags are not and those that should not be, are, in spite of all the careful sorting we did the previous evening. Mark has lost his flashlight for the fifteenth time. In the shuffle, we give up on cooking and Gene has lost his klettergirdle. We crawl out into a windy morning and still have to put on crampons, boots, the climbing rope, two prussic slings and goggles. We are finally off at 6:30. We proceed into the wind up onto the wide flat surface of the col itself, crossing several big crevasses on flat snow bridges. The snow on the col is over a foot deep and crusted so it is very fatiguing to walk in. Gene manages to follow what he thinks is a track and we turn up to the slopes of the peak at the edge of the col. I question whether we would continue to the left as Dr. Walton had told us, but Gene says the snow is too soft, we'll give it a try here on the right. We discover as we get up onto the harder surface of the wall of the peak that we are following tracks, some very nice footsteps chopped in the steepest corners and a few flags. The angle increases as we go up and so does the wind. At about 20,000 ft. we try to cross a steep slope with deep powder snow. The snow blows violently around our faces so we can't see. Gene decides that this is not the route, or at any rate it is too dangerous. I am surprised to hear Ray say, "We'll leave it up to you". He is our tiger and he doesn't want to forge ahead? John and I are reluctant to turn around, but we do. Going down is more difficult than going up and we realize that the route was not the best sort of place to be. We try to belay, but the snow is very hard and in some place the ice axe won't go in at all. As we reach the level col, Ray just lies down on his pack and announces he is finished. Altitude sickness. I am still eager to see what the possibilities are for a route farther to the left, so Gene decides to descend to camp with Ray while Mark, John and I investigate. It is only 10:30, so we have plenty of time. The way across the col is slow going in the breakable crust, but when we get to the far side we are rewarded with a great view over jagged peaks and brown hills streching away to the amazon jungle. We are also happy to see what appears to be a shelf going through the seracs of the upper slope. We eat our lunch in the lee of a serac, for the wind is still blowing hard. We are now eating lunch food we brought from America ourselves home-made beef jerky, salami, and jelly beans. Expedition food we eat is limited to candy bars. We follow our shelf for a while until we can see that it at least will take us up part of the steep section of the slope. The shelf itself is on quite an angle, but it is possible to kick steps. Feeling optimistic about the route, we return to camp III though it is a long tedious slog across the flat col in the deep, wind swept snow. Bill, Bill, Dana and Antonio have come up and are lying in the four man tent, so we erect the two two-man tents, using the ice pickets they have carried up and begin cooking at 3 pm. Freeze-dried pork chops with corn and applesauce this afternoon. With soup, tea, and lots of lemonade, we stretch the dinner out to occupy most of the afternoon, and retire early. Ray and Mark share a tent, John, Gene and I have the other. We are not too impressed with the frost liner and a great deal of frost accumulates in spite of it. I am warm, as usual but not too comfortable. John on the low side of the tent is being squashed all night. We are overjoyed to discover that there is little wind in the morning. We set out at 7 after a cold breakfast of Wyler's lemonade and fudge and chocolate. Enough to make a dietician have nightmares. Ray has recovered from his illness but Dana is not going to climb. The tracks from yesterday across the white expanse of the Garganta (the wide col) have disappeared with the wind, so we must trudge again through the breakable wind crust and loose snow. We are proceeding along the first part of the flats, guided by the flags we left when we hear a call from behind. Looking back, we see Mark staring with disbelief at Ray who is suddenly only two feet tall. A few moments of deep thought and we realize that Ray has fallen through the snow covering of one of the largest crevasses on the mountain. Mark plants his ice axe firmly (he was carrying it under his arm like an umbrella) and Ray pulls himself up and crawls forward onto the solid snow. He is shaken, a bit angry at Mark for being so slow to secure him, and slightly bruised, but nothing serious enough to prevent his continuing. On the descent, he insists upon a belay from Mark and then slides on his stomach across the snow near the dangerous spot. The rest of us walk gingerly around "Ray's hole", noticing its deep blue color and the fact that the crevasse is ten feet wide...ten feet to be crossed on unstable snow bridging those awesome depths. We follow the route that we three had scouted in the afternoon and find that it does go with very little difficulty. It is dangerous in spots but not difficult. We climb over a crevasse and are confronted by a long snow slope, the side of the "dome". Antonio shouts, "Cubre del Huascaron" but our altimeters still read just above 20,000, meaning there are still almost 2,000 ft. to go. The snow on the dome, like that on the col, is deep and wind crusted, so no one objects when Antonio offers to go first. He went with such enthusiasm that this rope, with the two Bills, reached the top at 2 pm. They began to descend before we got there at 2:30. We met them just below the summit and all shook hands happily. As they continued down, I said to Bill Isherwood, "Have the soup ready for us". The summit came sooner than our altimeter indicated for it was in error by 500 feet. Finally, the north peak slipped below us and we were on the top of the snow dome; nothing higher than us in sight anywhere. I was really excited and rushed up to give Gene a victory kiss. We started a frenzy of taking pictures of each other, kissing each new arrival on the summit, eating, getting the ropes tangled, and talking enthusiastically. Ray was the last to arrive and said he was really dragging, but once on the top, he revived. Some foggy clouds are blowing around us but the wind, which plagued us the preceding day, is mild. Even on the last slopes to the summit, we hadn't been suffering; two breaths to the step, no headaches, in fact, Gene took over the lead because he said John and I were going too fast. The feeling of elation on the top of a really big peak is only matched by the feeling of comraderie with the others there. We spend a happy 45 minutes on the summit and decide to descend mostly because of our hunger. Mark and Ray go first, then we follow with me in the center of the rope, Gene in front. Gene is really tired and doesn't like descending steep traverses, also many photo stops as the evening light makes weird effects of the clouds. So we go very slowly and don't reach camp III until 6. Anticipating bowls of hot soup handed to us by the welcoming committee, we are more than a little shocked to find that the first party and Dana are flat on their backs in the big tent and haven't even started the stove. Mark is coiling a rope and Ray has also collapsed. We took off our boots and crawled into the tent to cook. John went through the messy project of filling stoves. Ebert food, corned beef, etc., didn't appeal, so we cooked soup, rice pudding, and oatmeal, handing a pot of each over to the big tent. We melted water as long as we could keep our eyes open and then went to sleep, or tried to sleep, it was a restless night. Gene was on the low side of the tent and found he was lying in water. A crisis occurred while melting water when we discovered that the water in three bottles tasted like gas; I had reached out the door of the tent to fill the pan with snow and gas bad been spilled on the snow. That water had to be thrown away and more melted. July 24 is another day without breakfast. We pack up and leave camp III at 8:30. With a few belays we proceed down the ice slope, passing Warren Blesser and the eleven people of party two on the ice fall. They don't seem to be moving up very fast. Ed Johann hands us letters from home while belaying the others on his rope. Antonio falls. Jim Ebert, without sunglasses and gasping for air, struggles past. We walk casually down the lower slope where Warren has put a fixed rope. Crossing below the ice fall, I hear a noise, and looking up see a four foot ice picket hurtling down; I break into a run, difficult to do at 18,000 ft. with a thirty-five pound pack. I'm so hungry and tired that I fall, a little later when a soft snow step collapses. I slide about ten feet and stop on a fairly gentle slope, though there is a huge crevasse below me. Gene has done a self arrest and his holding me so tightly that I can't stand up, but John come up from the end of the rope and laughs seeing me sitting on the snow, gasping for air with the rope so tight, he relays the message to Gene to give me some slack so I can stand up. Finally 10:30 we arrive at camp II, sit in the sun to read our mail, remove long underwear, and eat. We open cans of fruit and ham and polish them off. We can't understand why the other party (Warren's) is moving up so slowly because the sun is on the ice fall now and it could become dangerous, the fixed rope is there for the only steep part, Ray's lead around the left Side which isn't that steep anyway. After a good rest, we continue to camp I where the third party, Steve Anderson and company give us a cheerful welcome. They are interested in hearing about our climb and our route, though they are somewhat bitter about the schedule which left them sitting in basecamp for days with nothing to do. We take down our tents and increase the weight of our packs with them as we proceed to basecamp. Basecamp is almost deserted. The only permanent occupant is Dr. Wilkerson. There are a couple of ice-gatherers and two American climbers, Roman Laba and a friend. We discuss our plans and have a quick swig of whiskey, breaking a record eight days without alcohol. The Americans are impoverished but planning to make a wild climb on the north peak of Huascaron for which they need equipment. They agree to carry some of our packs in return for Hard Hats and insolite pads. The bargain is made, so I put my boots on again and we continue down the steep hot slopes to the town of Musho, where we know there will be cold beer and hot food. We arrive at 4:30, having descended from 19.000 ft. to 10,000 in eight hours. Beer is called for immediately, mas cerveca! Antonio gets a recommendation signed by all, also Gene's ancient Terray down jacket, John's glacier goggles, etc. He already has a pair of my knicker socks which he wore to the summit. He is very happy with his gifts and assures us if we ever come to Peru again he will be happy to work for us. Roman and his friend depart on foot for Mancos where they hope to get us a truck to take us to Yungay, the nearest large town. The sun sets obligingly casting a photogenic pink hue over our mountain. We are just arranging for a woman to cook potatoes and eggs for our dinner, and Ray's rope is stolen while we are arranging, when Roamn roars up in a big truck. We pile into it happily and speed to the Hotel Commercio in Yungay. A quick wash of the hands and we walk down the street to one of Yungay's two restaurants. At a large table we are joined by another American and Roamn and his friend. We have a delicious soup, fried potatoes and beef steak washed down by copious quantities of a rather poor rose wine which tasted pretty good at the moment. Wiser members of the group drank coca cola also to overcome their dehydration, but I stayed with the wine and by the end of dinner I thought I could fly back to the hotel. We collapsed into some of the saggiest beds imaginable, but awoke during the night, me thirsty and Gene thinking he was in a snow cave suffocating. I get up at six and use all the hot water in the hotel to take a shower and wash my hair. Sensational to feel clean again. Breakfast lasts for over an hour, in the same restaurant as last night's dinner. We have omelettes, tea, coffee, cokes, fresh bread with butter and jam, which the waiter had to send out for. How pleasant to eat breakfast again and to do so sitting down, surrounded by tropical flowers and able to see our peak shimmering in the early morning light. A Frenchman at the next table strikes up a conversation. We wander around the bazaar to take photographs and find a young man with a bus (VW) who is willing to take us to LLanganuco lakes but not before the only other gringa in Yungay has come up and spoken to Mark....the wife of a graduate student doing research in the area, Mark has a certain magnetism. The dusty ride to llanganuco is interesting and the lakes are beautiful. Ray is entranced by the huge cliffs lining in canyon. Gene gets the worst injury of the trip when he stubs a toe on a rock getting out of the bus. We are all kind of lazy, so none of us venture far from the road. We later learn that if we had walked across the valley floor near the lakes, we would led have had magnificent views of Huandoy. We return to Yungay and after lunch proceed to the Hotel Monterrey in Huaraz, arriving very dusty at 4:30. We were disappointed to find no water available for the hot spring bath rooms and had to take showers. I took mine first and by the time Gene took his, the water was cool. Other members of the group are at the hotel, including the great Jim Moore who does not condescend to say hello or inquire about our climb, he is too busy playing chess. Apparently earlier in the afternoon John mentioned to him that we had done the climb, but Mr. Moore wouldn't want to waste his time talking to any of the rest of us. Mrs. Ebert makes up for his taciturnity by bubbling over with enthusiasm. Janet Anderson sits in the bar with us eating a piece of bread, her dinner she says, because she is trying to be very economical. We order a special dinner of trout which John refuses, just to be ornery. Therefore, Mark and I have double portions. The white wine is not as good as Peruvian red wines, but it is pleasant. After dinner a little cognac really sends us off to bed in a stupor. The hotel is crowded with French, German, and Peruvian travellers. It is Gene's birthday. After waiting around for a couple of hours, during which time Roman appears to collect the hard hat we owe him, our taxi arrives and we leave for Lima. The cognac is in my new basket purse so en route the bottle gets passed around, mostly to Ray, who seems to need a swig every hour. Radio Huaraz is playing Happy Birthday to You again, very appropriately. Discussion of religious beliefs and lack thereof accompanied by cognac helps to while away long hours in the collectivo. We are sad when we turn down the canyon off the high plateau and wave a farewell to the cordillera Blanca. We stop at the airport at 7 pm and get four seats to Miami on the 11:45 flight. We rush into Lima to the Savoy hotel where our city clothes are after leaving climbing stuff at the airport. Only John plans to stay on a few days. We all shower and change in the same room, quickly because we want to go have a proper dinner to celebrate the climb and the birthday. Gene and Mark have suits, but, alas, no socks. We lend Ray a tie. We are going to trece Monates, supposed to be the best restaurant in Lima. Our taxi stops in front of a huge carved door, a small door in the big door is opened by a white jacketed waiter. We cross the courtyard and are kept at the door of the restaurant, the waiters muttering about "el saco, el saco". Men must wear coats so the waiters get some from unknown sources for Ray and John. The dinner, service, wine, and atmosphere are perfect. The evening is climaxed fittingly when, as we walk out, Mark is kissed by the prettiest girl in the restaurant...turns out she is an old friend from Stanford and a fellow radical. She and her friend (also young and female) are leaving for Machu Picchu in the morning, on a tour of Peru. We leave the restaurant, must hurry to the airport. On a corner after a few blocks, John says to stop the car. He borrows Marks jacket and tie, gives me a kiss and leaps out. We zoom off, leaving him on the curb, hoping he is smart enough to go back to the restaurant and escort Mark's friend or at least find his way back to the hotel safely. The rest of the return continues at the same frantic pace; a twenty minute connection in Miami an hour in New Orleans, and we are back in Denver at noon. Mark gives Ray a ride from the airport and we happily pick up Greg and Eric, both looking much more mature than when we left. Has it been only three weeks?
Gene White (1934-2008) In-Memoriam rugrabbit
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