Cordillera Blanca, peru

An Expedition to the High Peaks of Peru - 2005

After two Alaskan climbing expeditions in 2002 and 2004 to climb Denali, it was time to experience a new region of the world. I convinced my climbing partners, Jay & Luis, to join me in the Cordillera Blanca of Peru to attempt three peaks in quick succession starting with Artesonraju (19,767’), which is pictured above.

Unfortunately, the day that we were to depart for the mountain, I fell ill to a Peruvian digestive bug. Virtually everyone I know that has visited Peru has succumbed to one of these heinously violent ailments. And, not quite being 3rd-world-travel-savvy yet, we did not have Cipro with us to help kill it in its tracks. Therefore, I suffered the requisite 36-hours and then we were off to the peak.

We trekked to base camp with our 80 pound packs before moving up to high camp (15,300’) the next day. We spent several days at high camp acclimatizing and waiting for a good weather window. Finally, the weather cleared and we departed high camp at midnight for the summit. We traversed the lower glacier quickly and climbed the lower icefall, but ran into a large team that was making slow progress up the rock band (17,200’) leading to the steep upper face. We waited for well over an hour in the freezing cold, but they made limited to no progress, so we made the tough decision to head down.

Once back in Huaraz, we regrouped and departed to our next peak, Pisco. Now acclimated, we moved straight to high camp (15,500’). We awakened at 2pm to being our ascent and made quick progress to the toe of the glacier. However, I was laboring. My stomach started feeling all-too-familiar, so I dropped the rope and returned to base camp, while Jay and Luis proceeded to the summit successfully. I spent a miserable day getting violently ill and increasingly dehydrated near camp.

Jay and Luis returned just in time to meet our burro driver (arriero), who was to help us bring our gear down to the lower camp. They stayed with the gear and I proceeded to descend to camp on my own. I was so dehydrated though that I would lose track of where I was, and I hallucinated seeing a Kodiak brown bear (in Peru of all places), which was frightening in the moment, as well as some US Special Forces camouflaged backpacks that turned out simply to be ornate rocks.

Eventually, I made it back to camp well after dark and passed out from exhaustion and dehydration leaning back against a rock with my backpack still on. Thankfully, Jay discovered me there due to my headlamp bobbing in the dark as I slept, and he pulled me into the tent. I decided the next morning to return home to recover, while Jay and Luis remained in Peru and climbed one additional peak.

Upon returning home, I proceeded to get violently ill every 7-10 days, so I finally went to the doctor after about a month. A series of tests did not reveal anything definitive, but he put me on Cipro, which finally did the trick, so it must have been a stubborn bacterial infection that would get mostly flushed from my system with each bout that I endured, leaving just enough behind for it to flourish to the point of making me violently ill again. Rinse and repeat. Never again, Peru!