Adventures in Peru - Success at Last - Huambo Part 3
By Vic Hanson
Recently I wrote about my attempts to get up to the ridge above Huambo, an extinct volcanic crater above Cotahuasi. I got up to 15,000 feet both times and had to turn around due to the time. I finally got back there today with my friend and co-worker Fredy. I really wanted to get up to the summit this time, as I needed the high altitude practice for our climb of Coropuna a few weeks later, which is 21,079 feet high. Unfortunately, Fredy was supposed to be back in Cotahuasi for a youth meeting at 5:00 pm so he planned on turning around at 1:00 pm and heading back down, while I would continue on to the summit.
We had talked about driving up to the last place where the trail crosses the road going up out of the canyon to save time, but decided to hike the whole way for the training benefit. We left Cotahuasi (8,880 feet) at 7:45, only 15 minutes behind schedule, enjoying a beautiful sunny morning. We hiked up the same way I did last time until we got to the high plain at about 12,000 feet. There we climbed gradually up through the fields and pasture area in the middle of the crater. We arrived at the base of the crater wall, which is at 14,000 feet, at about noon and stopped to rest and have lunch. By this time Fredy was getting "summit fever" and decided that he could turn around at 2:00 pm, hoping we could make it to the summit in two hours. In less than an hour, we were up above the rock at 15,000 feet where I turned around the first time, so it looked promising. However from there on, we slowed down due to the altitude, scree, and route finding, as we had to work our way around rocky cliffs below the rim. Fredy became determined to make it to the rim, even if he was late for his meeting (I guess I am a bad influence on him!).
Finally at about 2:30, we climbed up the last bunch of rocks and were treated to a beautiful sight of snow covered Coropuna, as well as Solimana, off in the distance. Unfortunately, we didn't have a camera as mine didn't recover from a 10 minute dunking in water, even after spending $43, which was supposed to fix it. We agreed that we wouldn't continue on up to the high point on the ridge, especially when I saw that it wasn't the summit anyway (there is a higher peak behind that, that wasn't visible from below). We didn't want to return down the same way, as we had climbed up rocks as much as possible, which would be harder going down, so we headed over to the sandy slope near the point on the rim. We reached 16,180 feet, which made me happy, but not quite 5,000 meters, which Fredy was hoping for. This gives us a good excuse to return, as the summit is over 5,000 meters and we both want to climb to the top, which is probably close to 17,000 feet.
We had fun "skiing" and sliding down the slope of the crater, which turned out to be not the best place to descend. Hopefully it will be better on the other side of the point, which it looks like it will be. We will see next time. I don't know how far we hiked, but we gained 7,300 feet in elevation, which compares with a 6,137 foot gain in climbing Mt. Whitney from Whitney Portal. Oh, Fredy missed the meeting completely, we got back at 7:35 after an almost 12 hour day.
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.
If you are interested in your own adventure in Peru, check us out!
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