The advance camp established by Camilo Lopez and Anna Pfaff directly below the South Pillar of Colombia’s Ritacuba Blanco. The pair made the first ascent of the pillar, via the Lopez Pfaff Direct (IV: 5.10d AI3, 600m), this February. [Photo] Anna Pfaff
On February 21, Camilo Lopez and Anna Pfaff made the first ascent of the South Pillar (5179m) of Colombia’s Ritacuba Blanco (5350m) via the Lopez-Pfaff Direct (IV: 5.10d AI3, 600m). The highest mountain in the Cordillera Oriental Ritacuba Blanco, known as Ritak’uwa by the native Uwa people, can be easily ascended on its west face via a diminishing glacier. A handful of technical routes exist on the peak’s east face but this was the first climb on the mountain’s south face.
The Lopez-Pfaff Direct (IV: 5.10d, AI3, 600m). [Photo] Anna Pfaff
The duo took a jeep to the last farm on the road and then began a three-day hike with all their gear to a base camp at Laguna del Avellanal. Afraid that their good weather would break, the duo quickly set up a high camp at the base of the wall, undeterred by rockfall from the pillar’s summit. On their sixth day, the pair rose early and climbed the route in alpine style. Moving quickly through the compact and blocky sandstone Lopez and Pfaff reached the “loose and sketchy” summit tower under clear but windy skies. An unstable hanging serac threatened the traverse from the South Pillar’s summit to the main summit, so the pair rappelled their route, leaving webbing and piton rappel anchors.
Lopez leading under blue skies. [Photo] Anna Pfaff
Pfaff writes, “The Sierra Nevada del Cocuy is definitely the most beautiful, unique, pristine alpine area I have ever been to. It is a place like no other.”