Posted on: December 1, 2005

Steve House on the summit of Cayesh (5719m), Cordillera Blanca, Peru. In June, House and Marko Prezelj established a sixteen-pitch new route on the west face all free at 6b M7+ in sixteen and a half hours round trip. They also managed the first free ascent of the Italian Pillar on Taulliraju in a two-day push, eliminating the few moves of aid left by Jeff Lowe and Alex Lowe on their 1983 first alpine-style ascent. [Photo] Marko Prezelj

Steve House and I went to Peru with a hunger for some paperless climbing (we couldn't get the expensive permit for our first objective, Kalanka, in India). We started our acclimatization with La Esfinge (5325m), climbing the first three pitches of Cruz del Sur (7c+, 7a obligatory, 800m) to ascertain the rock quality and the protection. The next day we climbed the Original Route (5.11c) free, onsight, in five and half hours. After two days of rest, on June 1, we climbed Cruz del Sur free (all onsight except the first three pitches) in seven hours.

Our next destination was the west face of Cayesh. On June 8 we started from the tent a bit before first light and in sixteen and half hours opened a new line between the German and Charlie Fowler routes. The climbing was uncertain from the start to the summit. After the initial 150 meters of an ice/snow couloir and eleven steep pitches with real mixed climbing, one pitch of pure rock and a last pitch of ice/snow led to the corniced summit. The difficulties were up to M7+ (M8?) on the mixed sections and 6b on rock. Dry conditions and unreliable protection made the route hard to grade, but we managed to free it all onsight.


We rested for two days in Huaraz, then hiked up to the north face of Huascaran Norte, but constant rockfall convinced us to descend the next morning. For our last week, we chose Taulliraju (5830m) and the Italian Route (ED1: VI 5.9 A1, 900m), a logical line to the summit. On the first third of the route, we found good conditions with some dry/mixed sections that we climbed free (up to M6+). On the middle third, the conditions were not so good: deep sugar snow on steep slabs and some dry parts. We bivied in an ice cave under the pillar cornice. During the second day of the climb, we reached the long summit ridge, which was very corniced with poor-quality snow and ice. It took a lot of energy to get to the summit mushroom, where we made our second bivy just fifteen meters below the top. We crossed the summit the next morning and descended the other side of the mountain, having freed all the route.

After this diverse and intense experience, I can say that reaching the true summit in the Andes is an integral part of the climb—not so marginal as one might imagine when reading the reports of climbers who continue only to the "end of the technical difficulties."

Marko Prezelj, Kamnik, Slovenia

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