WI2 M1 R,
Trad, Mixed, Ice, Alpine, 600 ft, 4 pitches, Grade II,
Avg: 1 from 1
FA: Nick Kuhl, David Byrne, 7/20/2014
> South America
> Cordillera Blanca
> Quebrada Llaca
> Western Ridgeline
While riding into Llaca this season, David and I spied some ice tucked up into a gully high on the western ridgeline of Llaca valley from the car window. As we were spending the summer doing moderate alpine lines to collect science samples for the ACSP, the opportunity to sneak off and bag something interesting was seized. We set off the morning of our first full day in the valley, our heads filled with visions of glorious water ice in a beautiful alpine setting. I post this route here so you won't be fooled like we were.
As far as we could tell from talking to the folks at the Casa De Guias, we were the first idiots to do this line. They had never heard of ice in the area (other than on mountains).
After slogging up the approach (an eternally long steep grassy slope, followed by some scrambling), we reached the base of our glorious climb, and were greeted by 40' of dripping ice. With shrugs, and muttered comments "maybe it gets better up high", we set off.
P1: The only actual ice on the line. Climb the ice, and then scramble up choss and stay right of the rock buttress that splits the gully. Zig back left to the base of a small ice section that leads up and right onto a large sloping choss covered ledge. You'll be just about out of rope. I clove hitched a boulder for the anchor.
P2: Roughly 3.5 ice moves take you over a small rib and back into the corner of the main gully. Follow this dihedral up, you might be able to place some rock gear if you feel like it. Belay when you run out of rope on manky gear just below a small rock step.
P3: head up the small rock step, it feels strenuous because of the altitude, but isn't particularly hard. You could try to follow the dihedral directly, but that was running with water, extremely chossy, and more strenuous. I traversed right on slopey ground, and then back left to the back of the gully. Slog up by now melting snow (you've left the shade at this point) until you run out of rope. I found a horn of mud and rock to sit on.
P4: Follow 45 degree mud (if you get here early enough, it might still be frozen) to the top of the ridge. Rejoice.
To descend, head north along the ridge towards Vallanaraju high camp. From high camp, follow the trail back to the road.
I suspect that this line might actually be ok if there were more precip and a cold snap, so a motivated idiot might find it worth checking out pre-season or off season.
Above the last switchback on the road into Llaca, there's a large grassy slope. At the top on the climber's right, there's a deeply shaded gully. If there's ice on the beginning, you can see it from the road. Choose your own adventure up the hillside, there's no trail. If you want to make it really hard for yourself, you can scramble up the drainage gully the whole way. Think Shoestring Gully in NH, but without any snow, and covered in frozen lichen and running water.
A handful of cams in the .3-2 C4 range. Or something. You could carry a couple screws if you want the weight training. Really, if you're here, and climbing this, you probably have more than enough skills to solo/simul it. It is pretty chossy, but there's not many gear placements.
The start. It turned out we didn't need any of the gear I was carrying. Photo courtesy Dave Byrne.