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Heading to Chopicalqui. Anyone want to share some wisdom?


Original Post
M.J. Hoda · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 0

Hello all,

Me and two buddies are doing Chopicalqui in the last week of August/first week of September this year. I've done a bunch of research so I'm pretty sure I've got the basics locked in. But I figured I'd post here to see if I could find any folks who've done it and want to offer some wisdom.

My main question is about guides and renting gear. We've never used a guide before but this seems like a fitting time to do so, giving the jump in elevation for us and the new environment (highest we've done before now was Pico de Orizaba, and after that Whitney/Rainier). But we're not going to shell out the time and expense required for one of the international guide services. We want to do this thing in five/six days and for less than a couple grand for the whole group, if possible. So we're planning to just show up in Huaraz at the break of dawn one morning and have everything set up to head to Chopi the next morning. Guide/food/gear, all of it. That's the part I could use advice on.

  • I know I've read about there being a central location to hire guides in Huaraz, but now I can't seem to find the information now! Has anyone been and can tell me the name of the place? 
  • Anyone have experience with a particular guide? Doesn't have to be on Chopi, just any guide based out of Huaraz. I've been looking at the website of this guy Cesar Rosales and he seems pretty badass (apparently held and/or still holds the speed record on Chopi). But he doesn't have prices listed and hasn't responded to my request for a quote yet, so I'm not sure if he's in our price range. Anyone know Cesar?
  • Can anyone who's been to the Cordillera Blanca recently tell me about your experience, if any, with guide pricing? There are various forum posts from 5+ years ago saying that the going rate for a guide was around $100/day. Anyone been more recently? I expect the price has gone up. 
  • Anyone rented gear in Huaraz? We don't want to lug the heavy stuff down to SA because this is part of a more extended trip (not all of which involves mountaineering). So we'll have our own clothing and sleeping kit but will need to rent all of our technical gear. Anyone have a ballpark for going rates of technical gear rentals? Also, do they have gear for rent at that hut where all the guides hang out? Or do you have to go elsewhere?
  • Finally, about the difficulty/danger level on Chopi itself. I'm not too worried about this part. I am NOT interested in anyone who hasn't actually done Chopi giving me an earful of armchair wisdom about how I should go train for five more years because I'll get myself killed (sorry, but I just can't stand that kind of condescending forum talk). My understanding, from the research, is that 80% (?) of the climb is relatively low angle, single-axe-and-switchbacks kind of territory. The crux seems to be the steep part where you get up on to the summit mushroom, where two axes and some frontpointing are necessary. That's all fine with me. Just seeing if that description sounds about right to anyone who's done it? 
  • To anyone who's done it, do you remember any portions where you felt particularly exposed to objective hazards?
Alright that's all I've got. MANY thanks in advance for any responses. Hope everyone is getting pumped up for some good objectives this summer. If you respond, I'd love to hear what you're up to in the near future if you want to share!

Best,
M.J.
Fleetwood Matt · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2006 · Points: 630

I'm sure you'll get plenty of responses but here was my experience (from 2008, maybe totally irrelevant now).  My only real constructive criticism of your plan is lack of time to acclimatize.  Maybe there is more to your itinerary to help with that.  If not, at least a few days in Huaraz (which was a great little town in the 90's and 00's) and some smaller training peaks is a really good fun idea.  We climbed/attempted a bunch of peaks and did most of it with just backpacks, meager food rations, and public transportation/ hitching rides in the back of melon trucks.  It's probably all different/ more regulated now so I have fond memories of those good ol days.  With a little spanish you can luxuriously hire a local truck to run you right up to the trail head.  We made it up to the summit slopes and encountered deep deep snow (and getting deeper due to a storm) so we turned around due to our perceived avy risk.  I can't comment on current guide/ rental conditions.  Buen viaje!

Nick Sweeney · · Spokane, WA · Joined Jun 2013 · Points: 661

Hey MJ, sounds like a rad trip.  I'm leaving for my first trip to the Cordillera Blanca in two days. Stoked!

The wisdom of everyone I've spoken with is to spend three nights in Huaraz to acclimatize.  You're going to extremely high altitude on Chopi, so act like it.  This has an added benefit of giving you another day to organize food, guide, etc.  If you're staying at Casa de Zarela, I understand that Zarela (the hostess) will arrange burros, guide, etc for you.  In regard to guide services, I have heard that Skyline Adventure School is highly recommended.

Kalil Oldham · · Brooklyn, NY · Joined Aug 2006 · Points: 55

I did Chopi in 2014 with Mountain Madness (shoutout Josh and Sebastian from Ecuador!). Your understanding of the route is accurate. There were two sections of steeper climbing. They were pretty short and they snow was pretty deep, not so much front pointing as steep step kicking. Views from the base camp and glacier camp were amazing.

As for your plan, I would also worry a bit about the altitude. I rarely have trouble going sea level to 14,000 in 24 hours, and I found there to be big differences above 16,000 and again above 19,000. We did the climb at the end of 2 weeks hiking and climbing in and around Huaraz (at Zarelas) and I was glad for the time to adjust. I also would think your budget is a little ambitious, but I could be wrong (we used an USA based guide).

One highlight was listening to the Peru radio live broadcast of the Germany v Argentina World Cup final with local guides and cooks at base camp.

Have fun!!!!

Cory Brooks · · Fresno, CA · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 882

I climbed Pisco and in the Ishinca valley last year. I will echo others, take a week to acclimate, then you can crush a 6000 meter peak like Chopi in a few days.

EDIT: BTW - The Cordillera Blanca are SPECTACULAR. You will have an awesome time.

Brian in SLC · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Oct 2003 · Points: 14,423

Having had pulmonary edema at the Chopicalqui base camp, well, see the above comments.

We got stuck in Lima for an extra night waiting for luggage.  Then to Huaraz for a night, then basecamp.  Too high too fast for me.  Take a bit extra time to acclimate is my advice.

M.J. Hoda · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 0

Thanks a million for all the responses, all very helpful and cool to hear.

Based on the above, I'm definitely going to extend the trip by a couple days for acclimation. The only problem is we've got a hard time limit (not ideal, I know, but.....work), but I can get at least a few extra days in there. I've been reading about Pisco being a good warm-up, so we'll add a day or two in Huaraz/hiking first, then try Pisco, then go for Chopi. Kalil and Brian made good points about the exponential difference in the effect of altitude once you're above 15K. I've only been that high once (Pico de Orizaba) and I felt it then, and that's a generally less serious proposition than Chopi in my understanding.

Still hoping that someone can add to what these fine folks have said and provide some information about the going rates for the Huaraz-based guides? I'll be on the lookout. 

John Simmonds · · Fernie, BC · Joined Mar 2017 · Points: 0

I climbed in the Blanca last year; a couple of points:

As above - take some more time to acclimatize.  Your amended plan sounds more realistic.  Pisco is great - but navigating the morraine is awful.

The central point for the guides is the Casa de Guias, but I'm not sure if they have a web presence as a booking portal.  There are a few guide services and shops in the same plaza as the Casa and surrounding blocks.  They range from large dedicated storefronts with multiple staff to a couple of guys with a desk inside a barbershop. I can't speak to rates as I didn't use a guide or rent but Andean Summits were really friendly and helpful with beta.  Cesar Alvarado from Exploring Andes I met by chance at the Casa and then kept running into on different climbs.  Super nice guy, and he organised transport and donkeys for one of our climbs.  If you don't actually need a guide but just want someone to do the logistics of transport, donkeys etc then that may be an option.    

Most guide services have rental gear (varying in age and quality) as well as a few dedicated rental stores.  And it's not hard to sell your climbing gear down there.

My partner and I bailed at the morraine camp of Chopicalqui due to excessive puking and shitting (not due to altitude).  But the crux of the route, in terms of summit success, is likely to be the crevasse near the summit (see pic in Brad Johnson's book)  It was barely bridged when we were going in (mid July) and we figured it would be gone by the time we had a second shot at it so we didn't try.  However, I know Cesar was guiding a group up it just as I was leaving and they were hauling a ladder up to bridge it with.  So you may be fine!

Have a blast!

Logan Ortlieb · · Lima, PE · Joined May 2017 · Points: 25

I live in Peru and I can honestly tell you that every price you see online is a rip off compared to what you find in the town.  $600 for a tour including everything should cost about 500 soles here.  Same tour, same companies, same quality.  You can rent gear for cheap from many places there or ask the guide to provide it for like 5 soles a day.  Don't get ripped off.  If anyone has questions or wants info, write me.  I'm connected with a lot of guides and companies here in peru that I can personally vouch for. I'm here to help!
And... I might be down to climb Chopi.  Let me know what details you have and I can help.

mpech · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 2
M.J. Hoda wrote: Thanks a million for all the responses, all very helpful and cool to hear.

Based on the above, I'm definitely going to extend the trip by a couple days for acclimation. The only problem is we've got a hard time limit (not ideal, I know, but.....work), but I can get at least a few extra days in there. I've been reading about Pisco being a good warm-up, so we'll add a day or two in Huaraz/hiking first, then try Pisco, then go for Chopi. Kalil and Brian made good points about the exponential difference in the effect of altitude once you're above 15K. I've only been that high once (Pico de Orizaba) and I felt it then, and that's a generally less serious proposition than Chopi in my understanding.

Still hoping that someone can add to what these fine folks have said and provide some information about the going rates for the Huaraz-based guides? I'll be on the lookout. 

Given your hard time limit with work- it may be worthwhile to rent an altitude tent to pre acclimatize for your trip...

Bogdan P · · Boulder, CO · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 318

In Training for the New Alpinism Steve House and Scott Johnson suggest two acclimating schedules for Denali climbers. Denali is roughly at the same altitude as Chopi, so that resource may be a helpful reference. See the chapter on acclimating. The fast schedule still asks for 8 days before summitting (10 total) and has climbers at 14k ft by day 3, which strikes me as pretty ambitious and will be tricky to achieve given the logistics of getting from Lima to Chopi base camp. It may however be a good reference point.

Bring energy gels (from the states, because you won't find it in peru). You will likely struggle to digest things at altitude, particularly if you aren't well acclimated, and on your summit day the gels will be helpful to keep your energy levels up. You'll be less likely to puke or shit yourself from the gels than from energy bars or whatever else you might normally take as trail food.

The gear situation in Huaraz, and Peru more generally, is not good. I don't know what you intend to rent, but it will all likely be old and worn. You also can't easily find good gear to buy either. I don't think you'd need more than pickets and screws for Chopi, but the pickets available locally suck (although they are cheap, 25 soles or so). Bring as much of your own stuff as you can.

Finally, the water in town and in the mountains is not potable, and if you get sick on your schedule you're hosed. Your best solution is to bring a steripen which is also not available in Peru. This will be helpful both in the backcountry and in town to make sure you don't get sick. Baring that iodine tablets are good, but are exorbitantly expensive locally and hard to find (3x what they cost here), so make plans for how you're going to get your water before heading down there. At those altitudes simply boiling will not be effective.

It may also be prudent to talk to your doctor about prophylactic acetazolamide use (aka Diamox). It's doping, but if I were in your shoes on that kind of schedule, the thought would definitely cross my mind.

Good luck and enjoy.

Logan Ortlieb · · Lima, PE · Joined May 2017 · Points: 25
Bogdan P wrote: The gear situation in Huaraz, and Peru more generally, is not good. I don't know what you intend to rent, but it will all likely be old and worn. You also can't easily find good gear to buy either. I don't think you'd need more than pickets and screws for Chopi, but the pickets available locally suck (although they are cheap, 25 soles or so). Bring as much of your own stuff as you can.
Casa de Guias has A LOT of guides who own their own tour agency.  Stop there when in Huaraz to check out their gear to rent, barter, and test the stuff.  They'll be happy to help.  Walther Francisco from Inkandina trekking has some new stuff from what I saw when I went with him a couple weeks ago.  



Nash Wilson · · Salt Lake City, UT · Joined Dec 2017 · Points: 0

Just got back from climbing Urus, Ishinca, Yanapaccha, and Pisco. Spent 2 nights in Huaraz before going into Ishinca Valley. Climbed Urus, rest 1 day, climbed Ishinca. No altitude sickness. I live in SLC, and hike frequently at 10,000+ which helps. Your doc will prescribe you diamox and dexamethasone if you want. Didn't find either necessary. You can rent what you need in Huaraz, but it won't be high quality. Bring your own food! Don't hire a guide unless you really think you need one. I think they're like 350 or 400 soles... Good luck!

M.J. Hoda · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 0

Thanks again everyone for the responses. I've been using all this info in my planning! Nash, that's awesome to hear that you had such a great run! 

Logan Ortlieb · · Lima, PE · Joined May 2017 · Points: 25

You can buy Diamox over the counter here, along with pretty much anything your twisted little heart desires haha.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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