In a place full of awesome places, it is rare for something to stand out. A trip to the Cordillera Blanca can seem like a kaleidoscopic dream of the most incredible places you’ve ever seen. So it’s rare. And it’s full of mountains. Big icy mountains. It is not the sort of place you expect to find a world-class sport climbing spot in the sun.
Even all the people who had dutifully tried to explain how awesome this place was, hadn’t quite managed to convince us that we should definitely go there. We knew we should try and squeeze it in though.
Tourist transport can be arranged from Huaraz but as this was a last minute dash we took a colectivo two hours south to Catac. A short negotiation later we were heading in a taxi across expansive plains staring as the mountains receded into the distance but somehow seemed to keep getting bigger, before switching west into the Cordillera Negra. The track wound its way up through the hills and our taxi scraped its way over the stones as we bounced around in the back grinning.
You arrive to the refugio to a warm welcome and a map and topos of the climbing area to hire for 5 soles. It’s pretty much a book describing what they call the rock forest. I think it looks more like a fortress made from hundreds of granite spires – very lord of the rings.
Having somewhat overshot the mark on the carbo-loading I was very grateful for the range of climbs on offer, anything from a simple French 4+ to a finger ripping 8b. It is somewhere you could seemingly spend a lifetime climbing. And we had one afternoon. You can be sure that sport climbing at 4300m will leave you puffing for the first day.
And of course there are the mountains. Views of almost the entire one hundred and eighty miles of the Cordillera Blanca lit up in the setting sun. Then, if you get tired of that, you can turn around and watch the sun set over the pacific. Part of me wants to keep it a secret. Having hundreds of empty routes to wander around can leaving you feeling a little selfish. But I have now become ‘one of those people’ dutifully explaining how awesome this place is!
Fancy a sport-climbing holiday with a spot of trekking? Or, perhaps some mountain biking thrown in for fun. Project Cordillera is adding new products all the time. Check the website, or call us to discuss your holiday dreams.
By Sam Gibbons Frendo, 7th August 2014
Photographs by Sam Williams and Charlotte Kesl