Nevado Yanapaccha

June 30-July 1, 2022


Cordillera Blanca, Perú

Nev. Yanapaccha locates in the heart of Cordillera Blanca surrounded by numerous giants. At elevation of 5460 m this peak is far from “short” but in this part of the world this is not considered as a tall peak. However, this peak has its unique attraction. Firstly is the incredible views (one of the best in Cordillera Blanca) and secondly is the short but fun technical challenges. This is not a walk-up summit but also not as daunting as giants like Alpamayo. The climb requires two or three pitches of 55+ degrees snow and ice such that this serves as a perfect training ground and acclimatization climb for Alpamayo. The original plan for Lily and myself was to climb Vallunaraju to acclimatize but we changed the plan at the last minute. Due to my sickness (not altitude related) I lacked the energy to carry weight and we thought hiring guides/porters for a walk-up summit was rather wasteful. If we must hire a guide then we preferred an actual climb. Thankfully Sergio from Nuestras Montañas was able to adjust to our last-minute request as the year 2022 was not particularly busy. Our guide William happened to have the next few days available anyway so he would guide us both on Yanapaccha and then Alpamayo, which seemed like the ideal plan.

Nev. Yanapaccha standard route. GPX DL

In addition to the guide we also hired one cook who’s also going to be the porter, as well as the round trip transportation. This peak requires a long and difficult drive on rough roads so the transportation was not nothing. Together we would pay 460 US dollars each for the 2-day climb. Comparing to Alpamayo this cost was rather minimal so none of us hesitated much. The approach day would be rather short with only a couple kilometers distance and a few hundred meters’ elevation gain. The drive from Huaraz to the trail-head would be rather long though so we still had to get up fairly early. I think we eventually left the hotel at 8 am. Just like on Co. Cachijirca and Nev. Mateo our driver was still David but this time we also had William and Juanito (cook/porter) accompanying. The first highlight of this trip was the drive up through Llanganuco valley. We passed two lakes – Chinan Cocha which stands for female and then Orkoncocha which stands for male. We stopped at both lakes for photos. The access past Nevado Pisco/Laguna 69’s turn-off had drastically downgraded to a narrow Jeep road. Thankfully our driver had his element and about 2 hours later we arrived at the proper trail-head at 4600 m not needing to walk any extra distance. David would drive back to Huaraz in the afternoon and drive back up here the following day, while Juanito spent the next half an hour preparing the snacks for the group. With only 1 porter Lily and I had to carry ~35 lb packs whereas William’s pack easily weighed over 80 lb.

Chinan Cocha at almost 4000 m. Even seeing this lake was worthwhile
That same lake from a slightly different angle.
Me with the lake behind in Llanganuco valley
Me with the second lake, Orhoncocha behind
Purple lupines in front of Llanganuco valley on the drive up towards the trail-head
The two lakes and Nevado Huandoy massif from the trail-head
Nev. Huandoy massive with the true summit being the middle one.
Llanganuco valley with the two lakes
The majestic Huanscán Norte
Juanito wasted no time but preparing our food
Our driver, David with Nev. Pisco behind
David now with the two peaks of Nev. Huascarán massif behind

Right off the bat I was struggling with the weight as I was definitely feeling lack of energy due to the sickness but I tried really hard to keep up the pace nonetheless. Thankfully William had the experience to lead at a slow pace so I never had to call him to slow down or to call for a break. Lily and I had some talks about our pack’s weight and the decision was to hire an additional porter for Alpamayo to increase our chance of success. The view from this approach was incredible with Huascarán, Chopicalqui, Huandoy, Chacaraju etc. looming around. It’s worth noting that this approach had fair amount of undulating terrain with probably over 50 m of elevation loss in total, which would surely suck a day later on the return. The final ascent to the campsite at 4700 m was also quite steep and consumed a lot of energy out of us. We reached the camp in about 2 hours and we had a few more hours to kill. William and Juanito would then set up the tents and cook hot water and dinner so Lily and I didn’t really need to do anything, but resting.

William, Lily and their heavy packs with Huandoy and Pisco behind
Now finally started to see Nev. Chacraraju, another 6000+ meters peak
Lily taking a rest break posing in front of Huascarán
William also taking a rest break. The pack weight was rather ridiculous
Lily now with Nev. Yanapaccha in front
William looks tiny with Huandoy behind
William and his backpack…
The route up Yanapaccha was mostly seen from this angle.
Taking another much-needed break. I was very tired at this point.
The glacier coming down from Yanapaccha was mostly bare ice and very broken
As you can see this approach had lots of micro-terrain and descents
Finally got down to this lake where the campsite is located
Lily resting at camp while William and Juanito prepared the tents and food
A while later the tent’s set up
It’s now dinner time. The cooking equipment was very luxurious
The last sun rays shone on the summit of Nevado Yanapaccha
An unique but cool purple/orange skyline behind Chacraraju
The dusk horizon behind that lovely lake near our campsite

We woke up at 1:30 am after basically zero sleep and soon off we went. Lily and I followed William’s lead over more undulating moraine on game trails to the edge of the glacier. To get onto the glacier proper required one short pitch of hard ice right off the bat. I was a bit too excited to test my ice climbing skills so I swung the tools a bit too hard. The ice was rather shitty that they broke upon a hard swing, but whatever. We all got up the pitch without needing to be properly belayed. It was then a long and tiring slog on increasingly steep snow following existing tracks. In the pitch dark we couldn’t really see anything so the job was to simply follow the person in front and not thinking about too much. The slope angle increased to 45+ degrees eventually and we all took out the second ice tool, but the pitched climbing didn’t really start until just below the bergschrund. William led three pitches of 55+ degrees snow or snice and Lily and I followed up with ease. The crux was actually to break the cornice to hop onto the summit ridge, which required a few ninja moves. Lily climbed up through using some ice climbing techniques that looked beautiful and aesthetic, whereas I awfully used my knees and belles…

Day 2, William leading the ice pitch onto the glacier
A few hours later here’s William starting the real technical climbing sections
Nev. Huandoy and Nev. Pisco in the pre-dawn time
Lily now belaying William crossing the bergschrund
A sideways view to show Nev. Huascarán massif in the pre-dawn light
Lily following up the steep pitch of very hard snow or very soft ice
Alpenglow on the two peaks of Nevado Huascarán, highest in Perú
More about the morning alpenglow on Nevado Huascarán
William now about to lead up the crux, an overhanging channel through a cornice
Chopicalqui and Huascarán from just below the summit ridge
Looking back at Huandoy, an extremely difficult peak in this area

Once topping out onto the summit ridge the technical difficulties were all behind, but the ridge traverse to the summit wasn’t trivial. We still had to be extremely careful as the ridge was still steep (over 35 degrees) and exposed. William led in front short-roping the two of us onto the summit plateau. I then noticed a knife edge that appeared taller, so William then belayed us to check out the true summit. The views were as incredible as expected and we lingered for a while to fully soak in the experience.

The summit of Yanapaccha finally in sight
William doing his rope management
Lily and me ascending onto the summit. Photo by William
Me on the summit of Nev. Yanapaccha with Chacraraju behind
Lily on the summit of Nev. Yanapaccha
Summit Panorama from Nevado Yanapaccha. Click to view large size.
A closer look at Nev. Chopicalqui at over 6300 m elevation
The two peaks of Nev. Huascarán, both over 1000 m taller than Yanapaccha
Nev. Chacraraju massif.
This is Nev. Contrahierbas. A few days earlier we were at its foot climbing Mateo
Nevado de Copa in the far background with Poroquingua and Hualcán in front
We could still see Llanganuco valley from the summit, with Cordillera Negra behind
Huandoy, Pisco and part of Chacraraju from the true summit pinnacle
Chopicalqui and some typical scenery in Cordillera Blanca
This is an eastern view from the true summit
William approaching the true summit of Yanapaccha
Lily and I on the true summit of Nev. Yanapaccha

I then led us descending back to the technical parts and then William led two rappels to get off the face. I rappelled last to clean up the back-up gears. To descend the lower glacier Lily went ahead to set the pace and we zoomed down to the edge of the glacier in a single shot. The snow condition and the steepness and the fact we were roped up made the descent rather awful and less enjoyable. We located a pre-existing v-thread so we quickly set up a rappel to get off the ice pitch on the edge of the glacier, and then easily slogged back to the camp.

William leading down the first rappel
William still on the first rappel, but much lower down
The glaciers on Yanapaccha are very broken as you can see
The seracs and ice falls that kept threatening the route at times
More about the small seracs on this face
We then zoomed down the glacier with very minimal stops
William guiding the team from behind
More about the glaciers. We missed all of these views in the darkness
Lily now rappelling that ice pitch at the edge of the glacier
Another look at Nev. Chacraraju from the edge of the glacier
Almost back to camp where Juanito was patiently waiting
The next group arrived, apparently with a lot more supports than us…

We opted to rest for over an hour to recollect as I was definitely feeling the illness and the lack of energy. The hike-out was particularly miserable given the pack’s weight but I was able to keep up the pace so didn’t say anything, but in my mind I was actually thinking to possibly buy a new ticket to just go home. But in the end I decided to hire an additional porter to help carrying weight on Alpamayo and stick to the original plan. Maybe I would start to feel better as who knows. Once back to the trail-head we were glad to see David patiently waiting for us there, and about 4 hours later we were back to Huaraz. We opted to take one rest day before starting Alpamayo’s expedition.

A few hours later it’s time to leave
Lily traversing around that lovely lake
A lot of elevation regain as you can see. This part was exhausting
A review shot of Yanapaccha with me in front. Photo by William
A long while later we were directly above Llanganuco valley again