My mood was a little dark on this last foray into the mountains above Laguna Parón. Conditions in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca this year are much worse than when I visited three years ago. In the past week a Canadian and an American, in two separate events, were struck by avalanches and died on Piramide de Garcilaso, crown of the Parón Valley. We arrived at the trailhead as the rescue team concluded the body recovery. Needless to say, my tolerance for climbs with any sort of overhead hazard is approaching nil. Perhaps my climbs this season will amount to little more than staring up from the valley bottoms at moonlit summits.
This week also marks the anniversary of the loss of two friends in these mountains. Two years ago, the indomitable Gil Weiss died while descending Palcaraju after climbing a new line on that peak. One year ago, Miguel Gamarra was struck by an avalanche while attempting a new route on Huanstan and fell to his death. His nephew, Henry, standing a meter away from him, survived and has not returned to the mountains since. I climbed my first ever technical high altitude climb with this pair.
Here’s to them, and their world – the Cordillera Blanca after dark.
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