PICO POLACO, NORTH FACE

Posted on: July 1, 2006


On January 11, 2006, Jarrett Tishmack and I left our advanced base camp below the north face of Pico Polaco (6001m) at 3 a.m. We climbed through penitentes to ca. 5200 meters, where we roped up. The constant shower of tennis-ball-sized stones on the first loose pitch (5.7 R) made us realize that this route would be a bit more serious than those in our familiar Rocky Mountain National Park. Jarrett led a traverse to the left, and after a small route-finding problem, we reached a one-Stopper belay below a small ice step. He continued up the step and found another belay under a rapidly melting icefall. Since the icefall looked a bit rough, we opted to loop out to the left into another couloir that placed us above it. Jarrett took the next pitch (M4-), which gained us access to the large couloir that led to the upper ridge. Following a short run of simulclimbing, we found a cosy bivy, nestled between small penitentes. My lungs burned with each breath and Jarrett's knee hurt, but all problems were forgotten as we melted water and watched the sunset cast its rays on the neighboring Cerro Mercedario.

The next day started off with easy simulclimbing interrupted by a short section of seventy-degree ice. The simulclimbing ceased when we reached the end of the couloir and the beginning of a tight chimney that would gain the ridge. Jarrett hung his pack in order to wiggle up the chimney; I followed with jumars. An airy traverse (5.7) between towers followed, for which I hung my pack. We swung leads through completely unprotectable simulclimbing (5.7 X) to reach a point below the north summit where we made another traverse around a rockband in order to gain an easier line to the summit. Some loose snow cleaning and a short jaunt to the south landed us on the main summit at 5 p.m. with clouds advancing from the east. After five hours of wallowing through snow down the south face, we crossed the bergschrund and bivied. We slept well knowing we had just completed our first, first ascent: An Offer You Can't Refuse (V 5.7 R/X M4- 70 degrees, 1000m).

Scott Vanderplaats, Fort Collins, Colorado

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