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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