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The northeastern sector of the Cordillera Vilcanota, showing Garache (ca. 5900m, the large snow dome on the left) and the new route (TD+: M4 AI 4 60?, 650m) on Colque Cruz I (6102m) climbed by Rufus Duits and Alistair Gurney on July 31. [Photo] Lindsay Griffin

British climbers Rufus Duits and Alistair Gurney have pulled off a coveted first ascent of the southwest face of Colque Cruz I, at 6102 meters the highest of the Colque Cruz Massif in the eastern sector of Peru’s Cordillera Vilcanota. On July 31, the pair made an arduous two-day approach from base camp over immense moraine and crevassed glacier, then completed a rather less complicated ascent of the 650-meter face in around eleven hours at TD+: M4 AI 4 60 degrees, rappelling the route from Abalakovs. However, their climb was the least eventful part of the trip: Gurney’s equipment was robbed at gunpoint on arrival in Lima; Duits suffered from mountain sickness after first arriving at base camp, forcing the pair to retreat to Cuzco; Gurney sustained frostbite during the climb and later needed hospital treatment, while on the descent to base Duits fell nearly fifty feet into a crevasse and was fortunate to escape without injury.

Colque Cruz I has seen remarkably few ascents. The unclimbed southwest face was first inspected in 1983 by a British party, which after retreating in bad weather from a bivouac below the face was violently attacked by bandits and robbed. This area has seldom been visited since by climbers but in 2003 Americans Amy Bullard and Peter Carse climbed to 5900 meters on the face before forced down by an electrical storm. The following year heavy snowfall prevented both Slovenian and British expeditions from making an attempt.

If one team in the area wasn’t rarity enough, earlier in the season the same base camp was used by Americans Chris Alstrin, Andrew Frost and Mark Hesse to climb a new 550-meter route up the snowy northwest face of Colque Cruz’s higher neighbor, Jatunriti (6106m), before moving west into the central Vilcanota to complete a fine line on the previously unclimbed east buttress of Cayangate (6110m). The three climbed this elegant 1100-meter spur with two bivouacs at 5.9 and M5+.