17 Down Under:
17 DOWN UNDER. "A celebration of moderate grade climbing in Victoria". 184 pages. 285 images. Father & son team, Steve & John Morris, embark on a journey to climb and photograph 50 of the best rock climbs in Victoria, grade 17 & under. Inc bookmark $50.00
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Matt and I got back from Laguna Parron yesterday. We spent about 7 days there and climbed two peaks - Piramide and Caraz II....
After our initial arrival at our camp late in the afternoon, we were full of beans, and decided to climb the NW face of Piramide the next day. We started well, but found that deep snow, a heavily crevassed glacier and lack of acclimitisation slowed us down. We popped onto the ridge about 200 metres from the summit, and turned back to our camp. The weather was crap, and a total whiteout, so we didnt really miss much.
As there is still alot of snow above 6000 metres, we decided to change our plans somewhat, and go for Caraz II, which is 6020 metres. So after a rest day at camp, we moved our 35kg packs up to a rocky knoll below the glacier, about 2.5 hours walk from the start of our intended route.
Caraz II has 3 couloirs, or gullies, that run up the East face to approximately 100 metres below the summit.
The next day we walked up to the base of the route "for a look". A French team had climbed the left hand gully two days before, and then the final headwall to the summit. It took them 2 whole days, due to the amount of snow. They had convieniently left an awesome trail for us through the snow to the base of our route, and also set up an abseil descent down their route - viva la France!!!
We intended to climb the right hand couloir to about half height, then pop onto a series of snow/rock ribs leading up to the summit headwall, about 150 metres right of where the French team ascended the summit. The headwall was alot shorter at this point, only about 35 metres high.
We left our tent at midnight, and made great progress to the base of our route. From there we climbed the 70 degree snow "short-roped" together, side by side, until we hit a great steep section of ice. We simul-climbed this for about 50 metres before it eased off again. Another hour later and we were underneath a steep rockband, about 350 metres vertical up the couloir.
The sun was just beginning to rise, so we moved left onto a small ledge and had a break.
Our "battle" with the mixed terrain of snow/ice/rock then began. In all, we climbed about eight 60 metre pitches. The climbing ranged from beautiful ice and solid rock to the absolute crap Peruvian honeycomb snow.
At one point I was excavating overhanging snow looking for a section of ice thick enough to take a screw. The snow would not consolidate at all, so I had to dig for close to an hour just to make 10 metres of progress up onto an arete. Welcome to Peru Gringo!
It took close to 10 hours to make our way to the headwall. We were about 80 metres left of the summit, and had to overcome the next 30 metres of overhanging, blank granite. Unfortunately it was my pitch.
So after drinking the last of our gatorade and donning down jackets, we began the onerous task of getting up the headwall.
The first 20 metres went at about grade 15, which was pretty hairy when wearing crampons. By then our anorexic rack was depleted - just a few hexes and most of our stoppers left. I banged in a knifeblade, and Matt prussiced up to the small edge just below me.
Armed again with our 5 cams I then did some really dirty alpine aiding to approximately 3 metres below the final weakness in the headwall. From there it was a really blank slab, with a large crack just out of reach to my left.
Fortunately I was too tired to appreciate how delicate the next moves were going to be, and it was now dark so I couldnt see anything below me.
I managed to find a "bomber" wire placement under a flake, and then moved up to put a small cam under the same flake, just a little higher up. As I weighted the cam came the recognisable smell of sulphur. The cam had popped and I had fallen back to the wire - my crampons sliding down the rough granite. Fortunately the flake did not break. So I pulled out a leeper cam and hooked up the flake to the large crack.
The 3.5 cam went into that crack so bloody fast - I was pumped. 3 placements later I was under the weakness in the headwall, wondering if it was in fact going to happen.
Again using the hook and "home made" sling etriers, I reached up and cleared the snow from a hold - it was positive. We were there! A few quick moves later and I was front pointing my way up the summit snow.
Matt began the tiresome task of prussicing up the headwall, with both our packs. That last pitch and prussicing had taken forever - it was now night and windy. We were both freezing cold - it was 6000 metres. A rope got snagged somewhere below on the headwall when we tried to retrieve it. Matt went down again, freed the rope, and then prussiced back up to the belay. A champion effort (he would have killed for some jumars).
We blindly searched around the summit for some protection from the wind, which we found underneath a large snow mushroom. Out came the stove, and we began the process of re-hydrating, shivering and waiting for the sun to come up. We both would have killed for bivvy sacks or sleeping bags.
Dawn was beautiful. Peaks such as Santa Cruz and Alpamayo glowed pink in the morning light. We got ourselves together and climbed a final pitch of crappy snow to the summit.
The descent and walk back to our camp took 12 hours and 15 abseils. In all, it was a 37 hour climb.
The route is (originally) titled the "Australian Route" and is 720 metres high. We have graded it TD+, W3, V+, A2.
We are now in Huaraz resting for a few days - too tired to drink beer.
Our next climb will be a hell of alot easier!
Nice one, pics please!! Dying to get over that way myself.
Soon Paulie, got to get the slides developed - so around end of August.
well done anthony!! thats some real bloody serious climbing. one day i hope to climb there myself...for now i shall live vicariously through your adventures...and after that climb i think i need a rest!!
That's the real deal, congratulations and well told
Here is photo of the route we did on Caraz II.
Will put some more photos up when I have them scanned...
'Australian Route' - ED1 720m, W3, V+, A2
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