Tuesday 12 August 2014

Day 89: Cordillera Huayhuash trek (day 7) - Avoiding The Void

Sarapo at dusk from our tent in the Sarapococha valley
This morning we had to make our first about-turn of the trip.  We began ascending the terminal moraine at the end of the glacier on Siula Grande's west face, skirting the ice beyond.  Hundreds of metres of loosely-consolidated debris reared up on our left side, while the rocks in the moraine pile felt loose and treacherous. It was time to cut our losses and avoid the touch of Siula Grande (apparently some climbers set up a route there called 'Avoiding the Touch' years after Joe Simpson and Simon Yates's epic in the area) so we returned down the same valley as the Americans to the village of Huallapa.  From our cold high campsite, life began to return to the world as we descended.  Waterfalls instead of avalanches gushed down the mountainsides, while insects and flowering plants returned to the biome.

The Simpson/Yates campsite. We had planned to stay here
but it was covered in cow pats!
In the village of Huallapa we encountered all kinds of novelties that we haven't seen for a while.  There were a couple of grocery stores where we bought a whole carrot plus eggs and tomatoes to accompany our noodles.  Purchasing an egg is definitely one of the most exciting events known to man.  Not only that, there was even a shop selling beer, although the drink was blighted slightly by the fact that Argentina appeared to be defeating Holland on penalties as I was buying it.  Bother.  After a week in a news vacuum we had no idea which teams were left in the World Cup (or what was happening in Iraq, the Ukraine, or anything else important).  For us, the mountains were still high, the river was still wet and drinkable, the sun dried our tent in the morning and the dew wet it at night - that was the news.

Huallapa campsite is located in the village football pitch and, when we arrived, a swarm of small boys grabbed the edges of our tent and began pitching it for us.  At this attention, I exhibited my usual level of maternal instinct: "Guy, don't let the kids in the tent; they've all got snotty noses."  Guy meanwhile played the part of the benevolent big brother who played football with them and led one of them home by the hand when he fell over and hurt his head. 

Once they were gone, we thought we had the pitch to ourselves but the bull in the adjoining enclosure had other ideas.  He was fenced in by a barrier so fragile that even a member of the English football team would be able to kick it in the right direction.  The bull certainly made short work of it and spent the night rampaging around the field, bellowing and kicking our tent at intervals.

So much for staying in a village with beer and eggs - we'd have been better off in the hills!

The glacial lake at the end of the valley with Siula brooding in the background. We'd originally hoped to go over a
pass on the left of the photo (between the yellow and orange peaks on the ridge). 
Susan looking apprehensive as we head up the gully on the Simpson crawl route.
With heavy packs and no obvious path, the dangerous moraines
didn't seem worth it.
Another view of Siula and the lateral moraine next to the glacier 
Back in the Quebrada Calinca
Passing a local farm on the promontory opposite

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