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Published: July 26th 2012
“No, I need to take the ice axe, what if we come across a Yeti!?” says James to Marco (our trusty Peruvian guide) after Marco has indicated that he doesn’t need the ice axe for the 5 minute walk around the back of the glacier to install our ice climbing top rope. Marco shrugs and starts walking, probably thinking to himself that this is another strange gringo with strange habits…James bounds after him like an excited kid – or rather like a rock climber who is ecstatic about fulfilling his dream of climbing an ice wall, and in the flipping Andes! James wants it noted that glaciers are classic yeti habitat and didn’t want to be unarmed on his first trip onto a glacier.
And so, there we were, back up at 4500m , deep within the llaca Valley staring up at an enormous glacier held by towering rock faces. The glacier is what they call ‘dirty ice’ as parts of it are covered by a thick layer of sand, dust and rock.
Marco and James quickly set up the top rope anchor, using 2 ice screws. James was stoked to have placed his first ice screw, and eagerly
declared it safe enough to hang a house off! I mean while sat and stared at the enormous glacier , listening to the cracks and shifts of the ice within. I really was awestruck that what lay in front of us and all the way behind up til the snow capped peak, was an enormous river of ice.
James strapped on his mountaineering boots and ice crampons, picked up the two ice axes and started up the ice face. The kicking of the crampons and slamming of the axe into the ice was soon filling the silence and showers of ice were being flung out.
He got to the top, gave a ‘hell yeah’ and abseiled back down, sweat dripping off his forehead murmured: “That is flipping hard work, learning to Ice climb at sea level would be a lot easier than at 4500m!”
Next up , me. With boots, crampons and helmet strapped on I glided up to the ice wall as gracefully as a hefty walrus, making its way onto a steep rocky shore from the ocean. Yep, super lady like J
After a few false starts I was getting the hang of kicking
the shite out of the wall to get a good placement for the crampon and moering the axe until it gave a reassuring thud. Sheesh, by the time I was 3 quarters of the way up I was exhausted! My arms were burning and my legs were threatening to give out at anytime. BUT, I DID IT!! AND, I even have a battle wound to prove it! After one of the axe slams, my forehead was on the receiving end of a sharp shard of ice. Nothing serious though.
After a breather, Marco showed us how it is really done and elegantly ‘walked’ up the wall. James got a few technique tips and tried two more difficult routes before calling it a day. He was one VERY happy chappy! At the end of the day we were really impressed how good we felt at 4500m, having been up to 4700m two days ago for Laguna 69. Amazing what a difference being acclimatized can make.
Another awesome day in the big mountains!
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