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Home » Climbing Notes » PICO POLACO, NORTH FACE


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