Nevado Pisco rises to 5,760 Meters (18,871 Feet) and rests in the Cordillera Blanca (white mountains) mountain range in Peru. This range has 33 peaks over 5,500 meters including Huascaran, the highest mountain in Peru at 6,768m, and Alpamayo, voted “the world’s most beautiful mountain”. All of this is accessible from the city of Huaraz.
I came to Peru to sight-see and hike, I never intended on climbing anything. I found Huaraz on a hiking forum and decided to stop in during my trip around the country. When my travel companion Carolyn and I arrived in the city surrounded by mountains, I fell in love (easy for me). This place was beautiful.
We hit the street and stopped by a shop to see what kind of deals we could get on an excursion. They plopped a binder on the desk for us to look through and BAM! Just like that, I knew this was a good decision. I could have stayed here for weeks; it has tons of trails to hike, mountains to climb, and areas to explore. You can learn ice climbing, rock climbing, mountaineer, anything you want at the good price of the peruvian dollar. It was overwhelming.
I wanted to do some hiking, but when I saw that I could learn to Mountaineer and actually scale a snow capped mountain. I threw the multi-day hike aside. I brought up the idea to Carolyn, and she was sold too, what an awesome girl! We found Mt. Pisco and picked it from the others for several reasons.
First, I liked the name Pisco. The name was already significant to Peru because I liked Pisco sours, and I had slammed 10 shots of Pisco in 10 seconds in a race against a local in Huacachina. So I figured I’d add another Pisco notch to the belt I don’t wear.
Second, I had always been interested in Mountaineering, and this was a good climb to introduce me to the sport. The mountain is rated a PD (French for slightly difficult with snow and ice slopes up to 45 degrees) which was right up my alley considering my only experience in Mountaineering was walking a mule around the Wassuk Range in Nevada for 2 weeks. This mountain was calling my name. It instantly became something I HAD to do. I wasn’t leaving Huaraz without climbing it. Stubborn me.
The month was May of 2012. We arranged our trip with Galaxia Expedition and they supplied us with everything for about $400 each, for a 4-day trip. It was just me, my guide Roger, and the cook Tonyo (who had the athleticism to hike all 3 of us on his back to the top of the mountain). We got a ride all the way up to Ceballopampa where we would set off on our hike to Pisco base camp.
Day 1 was easy, we had already hiked to Lake 69 a few days prior to acclimate and Pisco base camp was around the same elevation. We took our time walking up and had a chill evening eating popcorn and dinner in the tent with Roger and Tonyo.
Day 2 we hiked to Moraine camp and slept in the rocks, the area between the beginning of the snow and the end of the vegetation. This hike was more difficult because it was less of a trail, and more of hopping from rock to rock.
Day 3 we woke around 0 dark 30 to set off and summit the mountain before the sun softened all the snow. Up to this day we hiked in regular gear, but today we wore harnesses, tied ourselves together, slapped on our crampons and boots, and set off with an ice-axe a piece. Roger led the way and I took up the rear.
I enjoyed the hike up because I was happy to finally be in the snow. Every time I stabbed the ice-axe into the snow I felt like a champ. The elevation didn’t hit me until the last 200 meters, and after that every step took a lot effort. We could see the summit but it wasn’t close enough for the energy we had left.
We summited just in time for the clouds to clear away for a view of the surrounding peaks. I will never forget that moment. I had never been on top of a mountain like that before and it’s a high that I want to feel again.
We came down with a prideful strut yelling for Tonyo to make us some food. We’d checked that box and now I wanted to do another one. The other options in the area were far more technical and required more time than I was willing to give (I wanted to meet up with a friend in huanchaco), so we spent our last 2 days in Huaraz drinking and playing scrabble in our favorite restaurant Café Andino.
If you’re in Peru, definitely stop in Huaraz. If you’re not a climber, check out the Santa Cruz hike, if you’re not a hiker, stop by to take in the surrounding mountians. It’s an area you don’t want to miss.
I’ll be back for Alpomayo