US-Colombian trio complete a new route on Peru's Concha de Caracol (5640m)

Posted on: July 23, 2021


The line of Cerveza, Pan y Acido (ED: 90 degrees, 700m) on the south face of Concha de Caracol (5640m) with the location of the open bivy marked near the top. [Photo] Courtesy of Anna PfaffThe line of Cerveza, Pan y Acido (ED: 90, 700m) on the south face of Concha de Caracol (5640m) with the location of the open bivy marked near the top. [Photo] Courtesy of Anna Pfaff

On July 13 and 14, Andres Marin, Anna Pfaff and Alex Torres completed a new route on Concha de Caracol (5640m) in Peru's Cordillera Vilcanota. Cerveza, Pan y Acido (ED: 90, 700m), which translates as "beer, bread and acid," is the second route on the mountain's south face, after Oriol Baro, Ferran Rodriguez and Guillem Sancho established Via Pirenaica (TD+: 550m) up the center of the face in 2019.

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The ascent of Cerveza, Pan y Acido was not without drama. Marin, Pfaff and Torres weathered an open bivy below the summit at 5500 meters. Marin and Pfaff suffered frostbite on their feet, from which they are currently recovering.

Pfaff outlined the trip in a press release:

On July 5...[we] met up with Vilcanota local Luis Crispen in the small town of Pacchanta located at the foot of Nevado Ausungate. There we organized logistics and horses for an exploratory mission into the range. With information and photos of unclimbed alpine lines from our friend Nate Heald [author of many American Alpine Journal reports] and Cusco Mountain Guides, we were stoked to see what was ahead. We started the trek around Ausungate and arrived to the basecamp of our first objective, the south face of Mariposa [5842m] on July 7. After climbing a huge portion of the face we were forced to turn around approximately 150 meters below the summit. The snow was the consistency of powdered sugar and the route became an unprotectable snow slab. We down climbed and quickly retreated.

[Photo] Courtesy of Anna PfaffStarting Cerveza, Pan y Acido on Concha de Caracol. [Photo] Courtesy of Anna Pfaff

With a huge array of other objectives in the area, we quickly decided to backtrack and set up a base camp just below Jampa Pass [at approximately] 4800 meters. Early on July 13, we set out for a new route on the south face of Concha de Caracal.... We had been looking at it since we arrived and it was a recommendation from Nate.

With a light alpine rack of screws, pins and cams, we started up the face, each of us leading in blocks of two pitches. The climbing quickly became steep and thoughtful with a variety of ice, mixed and snow conditions. The last pitch required everything of Alex to dig through the sugary snow on the summit ridge. The limited daylight here in Peru at this time of year found us rapidly concerned about the descent and we opted to open bivy just below the ridge at 5500 meters and continue on to the summit in the morning.

After a an extremely long and cold night with little sleep, we continued up the summit ridge to the top of Concha de Caracol. We rappelled the same ascent line and returned to base camp around noon the next day with cold toes and an amazing adventure to remember.

[Photo] Courtesy of Anna Pfaff[Photo] Courtesy of Anna Pfaff

[Photo] Courtesy of Anna Pfaff[Photo] Courtesy of Anna Pfaff

Bundling up for an open bivy at 5500 meters. [Photo] Courtesy of Anna PfaffBundling up for an open bivy at 5500 meters. [Photo] Courtesy of Anna Pfaff

Pfaff is from the United States and has previously climbed with Marin, who describes himself as Colombian American.

"I was born and raised in Colombia," he told Alpinist. "I have dual citizenship and have lived half of my life in each country. Alex is Colombian as well. We've known each other for quite some time from climbing—he is an awesome and super strong mountain climber!

"I also want to send a huge shout-out to Nate Heald, since he is the one who knows these mountains better than anyone around here and was instrumental on giving us directions, logistics and information," Marin added.

A 2014 AAJ report by Heald that contains more history about Concha de Caracol and other surrounding peaks can be found here.

Pfaff was interviewed for an episode of the Alpinist Podcast this past April—you can download or listen to it here.

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