MM Collection
Checking in from the Condor's Nest on Illimani, Bolivia. MM Collection
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July 13, 2015

Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

Alpamayo has been coined the most beautiful mountain in the world. Long-time Mountain Madness climber Jeff D. has had the stunning photo of the West Face of Alpamayo on his phone screensaver for a number of years now. After he saw this magnificent peak on trek through the Santa Cruz Valley, he made it his goal to climb this technical climb that stands just under 6000 meters. 

Alpamayo base camp. Marc Ripperger photo

Jeff and I (MM guide Marc Ripperger) had first met through a Mount Baker Alpine Ice Climbing Course. Jeff told me of his climbing asperations and goals of developing the skills to give him the opportunity to possibly stand on top of Alpamayo one day. After many email exchanges and conversations Jeff came out to Ouray and climbed with me this winter to really hone his ice skills. After a week of completing some classic ice routes in Ouray we marked our calanders for our trip to the Cordillera Blanca. 

Jeff D. Marc Ripperger photo

Around the same time, long-time climbing guest of mine, Cynthia A., asked me where she should go for a trip of a lifetime. I told Cynthia she should come to Alpamayo. Years ago, Cynthia was ambitious to jump into this endeavor however I encouraged her gather more experience on ice before attempting such a technical climb. After ample time ice climbing, she was now ready. 

Cynthia A. Cynthia Adams photo

The summer rolled around and we were all ready for our trip to Peru. After a whirlwind of late flights and running to bus stations, we arrived in Huaraz, the mountain town that sits at the base of the Cordillera Blanca. Long time MM guide Alejo Lazzati met us at the bus station. We did an accimitization hike and then got right to business with climbing the seldom-visited Huamashraju, a small introduction into the Cordillera Blanca. As it turned out, that small endeavor was quite larger than expected. The ambitious schedule we created found us sucking air at 17,000 feet and climbing unexpected steep snow-ice rock. Jeff and I forged on and the views on top were breathtaking.

After our major effort, we returned to Hauraz and recovered from the unexpected but worthy warm-up peak. Now we were all more than ready to take on Alpamayo. Cynthia, Jeff, myself and local guide Fredy Tipan packed our bags and burros and marched into the beautiful Santa Cruz Valley. This famous trek provides stunning views of the Cordillera Blanca and, with the company of porters, we were able to do some fine dining and have some luxury items along the way. We slowly worked our way up the mountain enjoying blue skies and warm temps. As we got closer to high camp at 17,800 those blue skies began to vanish and the winds picked up. That night was a whirlwind of blowing snow and a summit attempt was not going to happen. Fredy assured us that the weather would change tomorrow. We hung around and rested at high camp and, sure enough, the sky opened up and our alpine start was accompanied by moonlight and dazzling stars.

Alpamayo. Cynthia Adams photo

We made our way up pitch after pitch of 60 to 70 degree frozen snow and ice. The sun rose and we continued our climb in the morning light, eventually all finding ourselves on top of the most beautiful mountain in the world. Celebration was in the air and we did 8 rappels back down the route to find hot drinks and lunch waiting for us back at camp. After the preparation and anticipation for Jeff and Cynthia, they were able to complete a lifetime goal! Congratuationls to you both!

On the summit of Alpamayo. Cynthia Adams photo

You would think this blog ends here, however Jeff and I had several more days left on our trip. Across from Alpamayo sits the classic Paramount Pictures mountain Artesonraju. With plenty of high pressure left, we coordinated some more food to be hauled into basecamp. A short walk across the valley put us in position to climb yet another amazing mountain. During the next several days we made our way up to moriane camp and studied our route. The north ridge of Artesonraju is climbed, but few parties had visited this year and only one other group had actually summited.

Marc Ripperger photo

We took off for our summit attempt on the full moon, weaving through cravasses and dramatic saracs each step of the way was engaging and adventurous. The mountain became continually steeper and steeper as we got higher on the route. Jeff and his tenacious spirit forged on and up. After our final pitch we arrived at the summit ridge and walked gloriously over the the summit, well maybe a few  steps and lots of stops along the way in order to catch our breath from the huge effort we both put forth. Jeff may never look at the Paramount pictures movies the same again. We ended up being the second party on top of Artesonraju this year.

On the summit of Artesonraju. Marc Ripperger photo

I want to highlight the amazing effort put in by both Cynthia and Jeff. I see all of my guests put in tons of time, training, planning, and mentally preparing for expeditions. I can say it is so rewarding to me to be a part of trips like these where everything aligns and the mountains allow us access to beautiful sights and deep personal fulfillment.