Nevado Pisco, Urus & Ischinca Expedition
Getting to Lima
The Lead Up:
The lead up to Peru 2004 included climbs in Rocky Mountain Park and the Tetons in an effort to get into shape and hone some of the skills that would be required in the Cordillera Blanca. The main goal was endurance and for this we took as many opportunities to get above 13k as possible. In April we made a long trip into RMNP to climb Mount Meeker, not by the ordinary Loft route but from the south instead. The Dragon’s Egg Couloir was just what the doctor ordered with its 3000 feet of vertical gain on hard snow after a multi mile approach and bushwhack.
We also made a trip into the Tetons to get some steep slope time and a touch of snow camping. While the weather did not cooperate, we were able to practice with the Megamid, camp on a bit of snow and carry some awful amount to weight too far up the trail to the Middle Teton. The snow and rain precluded any chance of getting up either a Teton or Teewinot but we did get in some misery and a touch of elevation.
Our final prep climb was an epic traverse of Longs Peak by way of the Flying Dutchman Couloir, the upper Loft, Clark’s Arrow, summit, North Face, and finally back to our Chasm Lake bivy via the Camel Couloir. It was a trip that included a night out, some steep snow and a steep ice pitch, all good practice for the upcoming Andean climbs.
Other than a hard climb at least once a month, we both hit the exercise rigs, the road, and or the bicycle to stay in shape between outings. While we were doing our thing locally and living at 6000 feet, Jim was also getting a head start on being ready for the altitude. Since Jim lives on Guam and never sees snow but for our trips or other adventures outside of the Northern Marianas, he made plans to spend four days in Estes Park before the start of the trip. One day would be spent with a guide from CMS, reviewing crevasse rescue and avalanche awareness and three more hiking some of the more popular routes in the Park. He managed to get to the Keyhole on Longs after his first attempt was confounded by weather,. . . not a bad show for a sea level guy. The main point of the early start for him; however, was to start the acclimatization process so that we could hopefully trim one day off our stay in Huaraz at the base of the Cordillera Blanca.
Though the trip seemed far off for so long, departure day arrived soon enough and we were off to Lima.
Day 1 – Rendezvous at Denver International
July 1, 2004
The trip from Cheyenne to the Denver Airport is much easier now that the new toll road is open but it is still a good 2 hour ride by the time you’re are dumped off at the curb in front of the terminal. Since our trip to Peru began with an early morning hop to Houston, we planned to overnight at one of the airport hotels to sleep in a bit later than the 3 a.m. that would otherwise have been required. We would not arrive at our hotel in Lima until after midnight so there was even more reason not strike out from Cheyenne on the morning of the flight.
G and I took up the invite of our expedition transportation captain and accompanying sanitary consultant, which consisted of an early evening departure on the first, a decent dinner enroute and delivery to the hotel at around 9 that evening. All went according to plan and at a bit after 9 we had a room and awaited the arrival of Dr. Shart Strangelove, the third member of the expedition. Jim knocked at the door perhaps one half hour later and soon we were being regaled with the long anticipated dissertation on the feminization of America, the genuine stupidity of the front desk staff, and the effect of tribalism on the legal system of Guam. This of course was but the first installment of a lecture series, not scheduled to conclude for two weeks.
Now that the group had officially assembled, we concluded our conversations surrounding adventures to be had and turned out the lights, knowing all too well that our 5 a.m. wake up call would come all too soon.
Day 2 – The Trip to Lima
July 2, 2004
The alarm rang all too early, bringing the promise of Peru but only at the price of lugging too damn many heavy bags to the lobby and later into the terminal. Climbing gear is heavy and there is simply no getting around that awful fact. My bag came in at 72 lbs on the check in scale, leaving no doubt as to the horrendous job that lie ahead for some four-legged Andean burro. We checked in and made our way to the A concourse and all was going smoothly until Jim remembered that he had packed one, not both, but only one of his crampons in his carry-on luggage. Well, that would likely go over like a fart in church with the TSA folks so off he went to beg the forgiveness of the ticketing agent, we went on through security in search of breakfast.
Jim caught up with us in the food joint located near our gate as we were finishing something that was masquerading as edible. Jim selected something as well and after eating, we headed for the gate and our not so far off departure. Soon enough our seats were called and we were Peru bound, no turning back now. The flight path took us south to Houston after passing down the Front Range and a view of Pikes, the Crestones and then the Sierra Blanca.
We arranged for a 4-hour layover in Houston on the assumption that the standard one-hour layover proffered by the airlines simply would not jibe well with the hope of baggage arriving in Lima on the same day we did. Remember, one flight into Peru and one out per day, so even the simplest airline oversight carries the price of a one-day trip delay. Sitting in sea level Lima was not our idea of acclimatization by any means. The flight to Lima is about 6½ hours and crosses the Caribbean to Merida, then across Central America before going down the spine of South America to arrive in Lima. Our flight was smooth and on time, arriving in Lima at a bit after 10 p.m.
You get off the plane in Lima, the old fashioned way, walk down the stairs. Then it is onto a bus to make the trip to the customs and immigration hall where the third world greets you head-on with a long line to wait in to get your passport stamped and claim your baggage. Once admitted, we went to the baggage carousel and prayed that all the gear made it on the same flight. It did. We dragged it through the customs lines and on out into the main terminal.
The main terminal is a cross between La Paz and Mexico City. There is a crowd waiting to greet the incoming passengers, the usual assortment of friends, family and thieves one would expect. But the crush is not too bad and fortunately for us, there was the guy I hoped to see . . . a dude with a sign with my last name on it. Halleluiah, the first piece of the puzzle fell into place and I did not have to do the Peruvian find a taxi and not get ripped off fandango after a full day of travel.
Our man led us to the waiting car, arranged in advance by the Hotel Aleman, and we jointly surmounted the dilemma of getting all our gear into a Toyota Corolla. You can do it, but you will be sitting with your gear for sure, meaning three in the back set, the trunk full and the front seat equally jammed with duffle bags. Off into nighttime Lima we went.
Lima is no small town but a serious city with a population of about 8 million. The trip from the airport took us through a nice selection of downtrodden areas and past industrial plants surrounded by high walls, each festooned with a guard tower on each corner. The sights were typical Latin American city night sights. Tiendas open to the wee hours, people out and about, street vendors still hawking their wares and enough traffic to keep the cabby’s hand pressing the horn at every significant intersection. We made some small talk with the driver but mostly hoped that as he weaved his way through progressively darker and more foreboding streets that he indeed was simply taking a short cut and not cutting our lives short instead.
After 40 minutes we arrived in the Miraflores district and our lodging, the Hotel Aleman. They were expecting us and had the gate open and a room key in my hand in no time. We chose this hotel from the Lonely Planet guide for Peru due to its central location and mid range cost. The reservation was made by email, as was the airport pick-up. We sent them a quick confirmation the day before we left and everything fell into place. The Aleman is also located right across the street from a high end supermarket that carries anything one could possibly want, I mean better than any big chain supermarket in Denver.
We were there, Lima Peru. Our next job was to get some sleep before making our way to the bus terminal the next afternoon enroute to Huaraz. Lights out . . . sleep was not long in coming.