Adventures in Peru - Arequipa Seven Summits - Cerro Lucmani
By Vic Hanson
Cerro Lucmani - 16,924 feet Dec. 14th
We left my house at a little after 7:00 on Friday morning to drive up to near Hacienda Huambo, the start of climb. However we had only been driving about 15 minutes when we came around a curve to see the road blocked by two men cutting down trees. They had a couple of small eucalyptus trees down across the road and with one axe and one machete they weren't too swift about getting them cut up enough to move out of the road. Finally they cleared the road enough that we could get by, and we continued on up until we were on the open west edge of Huambo crater.
We parked alongside of the road at 13,020 feet and started hiking across the crater at 8:30. There had been a few sprinkles in Cotahuasi in the late afternoon the day before and there was fresh snow higher up on the east wall of the crater and on Lucmani. There was also a solid bank of clouds visible above the high plain beyond the rim of the crater, with a few wisps clinging to the edge of Lucmani. It was getting close to the start of the rainy season so I guess this should have been a warning of what to expect, but we set out on the climb, hoping the weather would clear as the day went on.
Based on previous experience in climbing the crater rim, we followed a ridge going up to the north rim of the crater and then planned to follow the rim around to the peak, which forms what looks like the point of a crown on the northeast side of the crater rim. Actually the point is made up of Cerro Lucmani and Cerro Saraccoto, which is a higher mountain a half-mile or so beyond Lucmani, but that isn't obvious until you get to the top of Lucmani. We reached the rim after a tiring climb up rocks and loose sand and were treated to the sight of another crater just to the north of Huambo. What looks like a rim from the bottom is really a narrow ridge between the two craters at this point, and the drop into the other crater is very steep and long. It makes a nice 3rd class scramble if you stick to the Huambo side, which quickly turns into 4th class or impossible if you veer over to the other crater side. That crater doesn't extend as far east so by about 11:15 we were up on the rocky high plain, heading upwards towards the summit.
There were a few ruins up there, some walls and what looked like an open tomb, but it looked more like it had never been used rather than having been dug open. Maybe it was some kind of a storage pit instead of a tomb. It was now 11:40 and the sounds of distant thunder were not so distant anymore. It was also completely overcast and starting to snow. I was beginning to get worried about getting hit by lightning, but we never really saw any, just very loud peals of thunder that were now almost directly overhead. The route got steeper and rockier as we headed up to the point of the crown, as well as the snow was coming down quite heavy. By the time I reached the summit, Cerro Saraccoto wasn't visible; it had been just a few minutes before when Nathan and Smiley reached it at 12:50. Preferring to be a live chicken rather than a roasted rooster, I convinced them (along with the help of some close cracks of thunder) that the other summit wasn't worth risking our lives for, and we turned around and headed back.
Rather than the slow rim route, we planned on sliding down the steep scree slope of the crater wall but we weren't sure where the best route was. It was hard to decide because we couldn't see very far into the crater due to the poor visibility, but as we got a little lower the visibility was better and we found a fairly good quick route down. Once down to the crater floor our pace slowed down quite a bit as there really wasn't a good trail back to the van, just lots of meandering animal trails and lots of rocky ups and downs. We reached the van at 3:30; total time was seven hours.
On Saturday we went to Huito Rock Forrest above Pampamarca and finally got to see a condor, as well as the tombs along the trail and Uskuni Falls. The next day we drove back to Arequipa, stopping to see the pre-Inca cemetery near La Real with was fascinating. Hundreds of graves, lots of artifacts, bones everywhere, many skulls and even a mummy that was just laying out in the open in a grave. We also stopped at Toro Muerto to see the petroglyphs but we didn't find that nearly as impressive, so cut that short and headed back to Arequipa.
It was a great trip for all us; it was the most mountains any of us had climbed in such a short time. Nathan stayed a few extra days and even managed to climb Volcan Ubinas after a short retreat for an eruption! The weather was mostly good so we didn't have to take any days off for the weather, which enabled us to climb more than we had planned for. I added one more 6,000-meter peak to my list, but still need to go back and get to the top of Ampato, hopefully later this year.
Vic Hanson is the founder of Adventure Cotahuasi Tours, which offers pre-planned and custom adventure travel tours in Cotahuasi Canyon and other areas of Peru.
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