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Major Attempt on East Face of Huascaran Norte

The east face of Huascaran Norte (6655m), Cordillera Blanca, Peru, showing the progress of Silvia Vidal and Youri Cappis. The pair made it higher than any other previous team, establishing a route that falls short of the summit, named Entre Boires (6a [5.10c] A3 80 degrees, 970m), on August 9, 2008 after more than two weeks on the face. [Photo] Oriol Baro and Jordi Corominas

Vidal cleaning the roof on Pitch 4 while fixing ropes. [Photo] Silvia Vidal collection

On August 9, Silvia Vidal of Barcelona and Youri Cappis of Switzerland nearly completed a new route on the east face of Huascaran Norte (6655m), Cordillera Blanca, Peru. Vidal (experienced big-wall soloist, author of “Life is Lilac” in Issue 23 and featured in the Solo Series) and Cappis (just learning to use ice axes and jumars but seeking what would be his first experience on a big wall) spent eighteen days on the face climbing capsule style. They did not reach the summit due to weather, ice conditions and the danger of descent. However, their efforts are certainly noteworthy: their modern route, Entre Boires (6a [5.10c] A3 80 degrees, 970m) or “Inside the Fog,” was climbed in poor weather and despite significant avalanche danger. Vidal believes their line marks the first time the east face has been climbed, even if not to the peak’s summit.

After a week of acclimatization and preparation Vidal and Cappis began from advanced base camp (5200m) on July 23, 2008. “Access to the wall is pretty dangerous because of the avalanches from the serac in between the two Huascaranes,” Vidal noted.

The pair also were burdened by fog and snow. “There was an intense cold that froze our water bottles, and that caused some troubles with our feet, hands and noses,” Vidal said.

Vidal jumaring the big roof from Wall Camp 1. [Photo] Silvia Vidal collection

Cappis supported Vidal, who soloed many of the wall’s pitches, by hauling, cleaning and–perhaps most important–providing company on the wall. The two climbers worked together through most of the three main sections: overhanging roofs down low, then snow and ice up to 80 degrees, then extremely steep terrain with varying rock quality. Despite Cappis’s inexperience, Vidal noted his efforts and success were “really worthy.”

Cappis at the portaledge in Camp 2, at the tenth belay. [Photo] Silvia Vidal

Needing to descend with their haulbags, and avoiding the potential problem of not being able to return from the summit–“to go up was hard because of the ice conditions… but to rap down was the biggest problem”–they descended from 6150 meters.

In general the route’s overhanging nature protected them from regular rockfall (that still cut their fixed lines in two spots), but made the descent difficult. Vidal and Cappis spent two and a half days rappelling through the roofs, traverses and snowfields.

Source: Silvia Vidal

Vidal climbing an 80 degree ice wall on Pitch 10. [Photo] Silvia Vidal collection