The normal route up the southwest ridge of Chopicalqui (20,817 ft) has long been one of the most popular and beloved climbs in the Cordillera Blanca. And in recent years Chopi has found itself with the added allure of being the highest mountain in the range with an established trade route most climbers deem safe enough to climb. Huascaran Sur, king of the Blanca and once a popular objective, has unfortunately grown too dangerous for most to consider.
The minimum time required for this climb is about three days. Factor in more to account for possible rest, weather or acclimatization days.
There are three heavily used camps along the route. Base camp is located only 1 mile and 500 vertical feet from the road. If its early in the trip and you're acclimating this camp makes sense. If this is not your first summit of the trip, keep going another steep 2.5 miles to moraine camp at 16,400 feet the first day. Most parties also use a high camp on the glacier around 18,000 feet. The 2 mile hike from moraine camp to high camp takes a few hours and requires navigating a crevassed glacier and possibly a few short, steep sections of snow and ice. Stay away from the rock wall on the right side of the glacier; it sheds rock profusely.
Parties typically depart high camp between midnight and 2am on summit day. Weave around and climb over crevasses and seracs to gain the broad southwest ridge. Hike along the ridge until it steepens considerably and then prepare yourself for several pitches of steep snow. Most parties protect this section with pickets. At the top of these steep pitches the ridge flattens and the famous summit mushroom comes into view. Conditions here vary greatly from year to year. The summit mushroom may be a straightforward 45 degree snow climb or it may have a short 80 degree ice step, or anything in between.
The trail starts at a major switchback (13,800 feet) on the road above Lagunas de Llanganuco, approximately 2.5 miles past Cebollapampa. A private taxi from Huaraz is most convenient, takes a solid 3 hours, and cost $55 in 2016.
Several pickets and perhaps a couple of ice screws depending on conditions. Most parties use double 60m ropes for the rappels but we managed with a single 70m rope and some downclimbing. Due to the popularity of the route you are likely to find existing anchors for the rappels. Ask around about current conditions.
Chopicalqui Normal Route.
The summit pokes out of the clouds as the weather ...
Last of the steep climbing below the summit platea...
Downclimbing a short step about an hour above high...
Sunset at Chopi high camp.
Chopi's infamous summit mushroom.
Sunset at Chopi high camp.