This article is reproduced from The Mountain World, 1953, by the courtesy of the Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research.
The southern part of Peru is still today an immense field for the explorer and mountaineer, since a quantity of virgin summits is to be found there, many of them exceeding 6,000 m. (c. 20,000 feet) in height. The best existing geographical maps show the better known giants, but they lack every indication as to a great number of other summits. I had the opportunity to ascertain this on my first expedition to the region in 1950, and it was for this reason that I wanted to return to southern Peru in 1952. As a result of the exploration done during the earlier year, I was certain that entire chains do not figure in the geographical maps of the country, even the most modern ones.
In the course of the expedition in question, we climbed two hitherto unclimbed giants, Solimana and Aussangate, as well as a virgin summit in the Coropuna group and two equally virgin summits in the absolutely unknown region of the Gayangate chain and of the Cordillera which stretches quite close to the great plain of the Amazonas, in a region equally unknown and never before traversed by white men. In this way we had been able to take a great step forward in the exploration of these wonderful Peruvian mountains, but great strides must still be made if we wish to come near to defining the orographic system of this marvellous territory.
From the summits attained during my climbs of 1950, I had several times observed various unexplored giants. However, the opportunity to climb them only came to me two years later, when with the help of two good comrades it was possible for me to make up a new expedition. These comrades were a young Swedish climber and engineer, Anders Bolinder, and the Austrian climber Mathias Rebitsch. I had got to know them at the Himalayan meeting at Munich at the end of September 1951. The business soon developed by correspondence to the point of settling all the essential problems and, among others, the date of the expedition. It is well known that an alpine campaign (and consequently an Andean one) requires good weather above all; that is to say, sure weather, and for southern Peru that means the period from the end of April till the end of July. Atmospheric disturbances are possible even at that time, but in all such cases they are very short; on the other hand, this favourable period is sometimes prolonged throughout the month of August. It was therefore a question of setting out at the end of April or at mid-May at the very latest. Unfortunately, hindrances not only to my comrades, but also to myself, resulted in delaying the arrival of Rebitsch at Lima until 23rd June. As to Bolinder, held up in Sweden by a dock strike, he telegraphed that he would reach Lima some twelve days late.
Indian Porters descending
Aussangate-West Peak, 20,500 ft.
The consequence was that one of the giants we had wanted to climb was, by the time we arrived in the Peruvian capital, already the object of attempts by other expeditions: this was Salcantay (20,552 feet) and its terminal dome was just being climbed by one of the expeditions, which in fact reached the summit on 26th June. Thus we were obliged to abandon that mountain, while undertaking instead the exploration of other summits which figured in our programme. Among these were Solimana (20,746 feet), which I had perceived on 27th July 1952 from the south-western summit of the Coropuna (21,697 feet), and whose geological structure still remains a mystery. Solimana, in fact, has not the normal aspect of a volcano, that is, a more or less conical form, but presents instead the outline of a jagged ridge with pyramids and gendarmes, which by all evidence does not enter into the conception of a mountain formation due to eruptive phenomena.
Our equipment had been entirely prepared in Europe. Rebitsch had been entrusted with the provision of clothing and footwear for the native porters whom we should have eventually to select on the spot; furthermore, he brought with him all the heavy material. He had therefore to come by sea. We had five tents with us (Moretti and Schuster), wadded sleeping-bags and thermic blankets, pneumatic mattresses, drums for water, crampons (Grivel and Mariner), manilla and nylon Fussen ropes, and long-lasting Zeta batteries. Bolinder, for his part, brought primus stoves from Sweden, for burning petrol, benzine, and solidified alcohol, as well as a quantity of vitaminized provisions and pharmaceutical goods. Rebitsch and Bolinder were provided with special lined footwear of Austrian type Mariner); as for myself, I wore special ultra-light amphibious top- boots with soles of vulcanized rubber, which proved excellent in use.
Rebitsch embarked at Genoa on 28th May and arrived at Lima on 22nd June; I left Rome by air on 15th June, and arrived at Lima, by way of Lisbon-lie du Sel-Paramaribo-Caracas-Bogota-Quito, on 23 rd June. I had the advantage, during this long air voyage, of passing quite close to, and even of flying over, some mountain giants of Colombia and Ecuador.
At Lima we had the assistance of the representatives of our respective countries. On the other hand, the Peruvian Government departments had already been informed concerning our expedition; thus H.E. the Minister of the Interior, Don Manuel Callager, had announced our forthcoming arrival to the Perfects and Military Commanders of the two south Peruvian cities whence we should set out on our various expeditions, that is to say, Arequipa in the southwest and Cuzco in the south-east. The Italian Ambassador at Lima, Baron Enrico Bombieri, had assured us of all his support and so had the Director-General of the Peruvian railways, the engineer Romero Leith, the Director of the Geological Institute of Peru at Lima, Professor Jorge Broggi, and the Faucett Aviation Company. On 26th June Rebitsch and I left the island in a plane belonging to that company. Thanks to a fine clear morning, we were able to observe from close range the southern and western slopes of Solimana, and we drew from this the conclusion that it would be advisable to attempt the ascent of the mountain by the eastern slopes or, perhaps better still, from the north, where the snow-line would probably be higher. At Arequipa, at 7,500 feet, we met the geologist Alberto Parodi, a professor at the University there, with whom I had already been in correspondence from Europe. He willingly agreed to take part in the Solimana expedition, which rightly interested him because of its yet unknown geological structure.
The Prefect of Arequipa, Don Camino Brent, announced our arrival by telegraph to the Sub-Prefect of Chuquibamba, a chief town situated at 10,000 feet, from which we would have to set out to reach the foot of Solimana. The garrison commander of Arequipa, General Perez Godoy, put a sturdy soldier at our disposition, Victor Motta, aged 21. He was always punctual; nevertheless, on the very morning of departure he arrived late, so that it was by a miracle that the bus for Chuquibamba did not leave without him. This bus was known as 'the gondola5, probably because of its undulating movements while on the move. Thus we left Arequipa on ist July; along an appalling road, we crossed the Sihuas desert and climbed thereafter the splendid Majes Canyon, reaching ;our destination at the end of the afternoon after a journey of 160 miles.
We made a quite long stop at Chuquibamba for organizing the caravan. An icy gale raged for three days; nevertheless, Rebitsch and I succeeded in effecting a preliminary reconnaissance as far as the first plateau of the p amp a, to about 13,000 feet, so as to get from there a view of Solimana and to leave a part of our material in a cabin which existed in that region. The bad weather unfortunately prevented any real reconnaissance. Returning to Ghuquibamba, we engaged muleteers and their beasts, thanks to the help of the Sub- Prefect, Don Julio Revilla; we also completed our provisions. On 5th July we set out by car for Tambillo, the lonely cabin of which I have just spoken, the last place which the road reaches with difficulty at nearly 13,500 feet. The weather was splendid. Gradually we saw Chachani outline itself against the sky, quite far off; nearer to us was Ampato, and finally, facing us, was the whole Goropuna massif, majestic and white with snow. On the other hand, Solimana could not be seen.
At Tambillo we found the muleteer, Manuel Montanez, who was waiting for us with four saddle-horses and three mules for the transport of the material. After loading the baggage, we left for the second plateau, situated at about 15,000 feet. We ascended this on horseback for hours in frost and wind, blinded by swirls of volcanic dust. Various passes were crossed during the approach, which led us across a series of high valleys, the country becoming increasingly desolate and cold. It was only at five in the afternoon, from a pass situated at 15,750 feet, that Solimana came before our eyes, still very distant, beyond an immense plateau which had the characteristics of a steppe. We were able to see its whole north-east face, precipitous and covered with snow. We would have to go farther north, whence perhaps it might be possible to find a more feasible route to our goal. We descended for about an hour and towards twilight we camped in a small valley at about 15,400 feet, where the little torrent was already frozen. Luckily we had cans with us which had already been filled with water. During the night the thermometer fell to 31° (F.) below freezing-point.
For two more days we continued the crossing of the high pampa plateau, camping for a second time at 14,450 feet and for a third time at 15,600 feet, at the foot of the north-east wall. During the last afternoon I made a further reconnaissance and the following day we went up all together for a second reconnaissance to above 18,000 feet, climbing, with crampons on our feet, very steep slopes of snow and an ice-ridge. Solimana was right in front of us, but we established that we would have to carry the camp into another valley farther north, since the mountain was easier to attack from this latter side. This we did the following day, after having succeeded in taking our beasts up to 17,250 feet, despite the opposition of the arriero, the chief muleteer. Up there, in the midst of sand and scree of clearly volcanic origin, we pitched our fourth and last camp.
The following morning, 10th July, we left our camp at an early hour, climbing not without effort, having regard to the altitude— and even more because this was the beginning of our expedition— the slopes of scree above the camp, and then slopes of snow. After crossing the first glacier, which was covered with pyramids of pinnacle ice, we were involved in a long ice-ridge which took us to a height of about 18,400 feet immediately below the very steep final face of Solimana. We were on a small plateau. After taking some nourishment we took a direct line up the face which rose above us for about 2,300 ft. at an angle in places of as much as 50 degrees. This face, which was partly of ice and partly snow, presented its greatest difficulties in its latter part, very steep and all of smooth ice; it was there, too, that we were at grips with a violent wind, which was the more difficult because we were now in shadow. At last, at half-past three, after having accomplished some acrobatic climbing, and having surmounted the only rock buttress (andesite) in the whole face, we emerged upon the north summit, that is to say the final spur, which was so thin that we had to move along it astride. The altimeter recorded 20,588 feet, and the thermometer 21.6° below freezing.
Besides its northern summit, Solimana comprises a central point of the same height and a lower southern point with the shape of a parallelepiped and by all appearances quite difficult to climb. Before us, beyond the high pampa plateau, rose all the silvery domes of Goropuna. The descent was quite long; we reached camp shortly after twilight. This was the first ascent of Solimana's northern summit.
The following day we crossed the high plateau, passing right through its centre. Thereafter we descended to the river Armas, which flows deeply sunk in a quebrada. To cross this wide and impetuous watercourse proved dangerous. With our mounts we climbed the very steep farther bank, reaching the high steppe plateau once more, traversing it in a long ride until it was dark, to the moment when we had to pitch another camp at 14,750 feet.
On the morrow, while Professor Parodi went back towards Chuquibamba, having business to deal with in Arequipa, Rebitsch and I, with the soldier Motta and the arriero Manuel Montanez, ascended the vast north-western slopes of Coropuna with the object of reaching the foot of the giant mountain and trying the following day to climb its north-western summit, which seemed to us the most central and likely to give us a complete view of the interior of the former crater of Coropuna, of which there only remains today six ice- covered domes and one rock point.
After further numerous entreaties from the muleteer (who, however, was able to run with greater agility than a goat over slopes upwards of 16,000 feet) we arrived with our mounts—one can, in fact, have complete confidence in these little Peruvian horses—at an altitude of 17,700 feet. It was there, quite close to a sort of barrier of great volcanic rocks, that we pitched our camp. The wind was extremely violent and terribly icy in addition. In the night the temperature fell to 40° below freezing.
The next morning we left camp at dawn, despite the very intense cold. Together with the soldier Motta, after surmounting scree and blocks of volcanic rock, we soon reached the north-western glacier of Coropuna. Pyramids of pinnacle ice, followed by a series of large crevasses, some of them invisible and all of them insidious, as well as a deep bed of snow in which we sometimes plunged to our knees, forced us to ease the pace of our march. The glacier, in fact, turned out to be immense, contrary to what we had reckoned at first contact, misled by the clarity of the atmosphere. Rebitsch took extreme care, but that did not prevent him from twice falling into fissures in the ice; fortunately, it was possible each time to hold him up, thanks to the rope. At half-past three we had already reached a height of 19,700 feet; nevertheless we were only half-way through the glacier. Having regard to the late hour—at this altitude the sun sets at six and darkness falls immediately afterwards—we were obliged to regain our tents.
We took a day's rest at the camp: Rebitsch made use of it by instructing the arriero in the use of climbing material, since on the next day he too would come with us. A violent wind obliged us to retire into the tents early; before the sun set, benefitting by the most limpid atmosphere on earth, we were able to admire the imposing outline of Sara-Sara, which rises about 20 miles to the west of Solimana and which, we were told, is still virgin: among the former volcanoes of this region, this is the nearest to the Pacific, having an altitude of about 20,000 feet.
On the morning of 15th July, we set out at first light. Thanks to our tracks we succeeded in reaching the limit of the earlier attempt in scarcely three hours. But the altitude, the increasing steepness of the slope, as well as some formidable crevasses, made us lose still further time. Meanwhile, the atmospheric conditions were no longer as favourable as they were; there was a very violent wind that soon became a real hurricane; furthermore, very deep snow, as instable as sand, presented an obstacle to rapid progress. Thus it was only at half-past two that we succeeded in reaching our goal, half-blinded. The altimeter recorded 21,425 feet, and the thermometer, which we could read only with difficulty, recorded 40° of frost. We got back to camp late in the afternoon.
Despite their rounded structure, shaped like calottes, these summits of Coropuna require considerable effort on the part of the climber, either because of the fact that clouds gather very often around the culminating points, or because of the extreme cold, or the extent of the glaciers which are crevassed in a way without comparison with those of the Alps, or finally because of the bed of powder-snow.
On the next day we started along the road back to Chuquibamba. In order to accomplish this as quickly as possible, the arriero wished to traverse some steep and snow-filled quebradas: there our mounts, which until then had performed miracles, encountered excessive obstacles. Some of them rolled to the bottom of the slopes with their loads, but thanks to the bed of snow there was no damage. Once the high plateau of the pampa was reached, we began a mad ride across the little sandy dales, dotted with a few shrubs, until we reached Tambillo, just in time to load all our material on to the providential bus which connects this remote place with Chuquibamba.
At Chuquibamba we met Bolinder and his young wife. We returned with them to Arequipa. From there our expedition transferred itself to Cuzco by ferrocarillo—that is to say, by railway—a journey of two days. There, at 11,000 feet, we at once began our preparations for our new exploration, the object of which was Aussangate. The Prefect of Cuzco, Don Alhardo Lanfranco, as well as General Enrique Indacochea, gave us very valuable help. Thanks to the general's intervention it was possible to attach a Peruvian N.C.O. to our expedition: Corporal Luis Rojas, a real giant. He revealed himself a clever and useful assistant, as well as a very strong walker; further, he was of great use to us as an interpreter, since he spoke the Quechua tongue.
On 25th July we left the former Inca capital in a car belonging to the Hacienda Lauramarca, placed at our disposal by Don Carlos Lomellini. To reach the hacienda (a word which means 'farm'), situated 13,300 feet up on the great plateau between the Caravaya and the Vilcanota Cordilleras, we had to go first of all to the little town of Ocongate at 11,200 feet, about 60 miles from Cuzco. At Ocongate we were met by the Gobernador and the bailiff of the Hacienda Lauramarca, Ermenegildo Cerillo, who had already brought together the natives and the horses necessary for our expedition. After loading part of our material (about 700 kg.) we reached the farm on the evening of the same day. It is situated in the heart of the plateau of which I have just spoken, in such a way that one can enjoy a magnificent view upon the imposing massifs of Aussangate, which form the dominating group, of Cayangate and of Coyllorite.
On arrival we were preoccupied at once with completing our preparations. Above all we carried out some reconnaissances of the north and east sides of Aussangate. The first of these reconnaissances, made by myself and Corporal Rojas, led me to the conclusion (which I had already reached two years earlier, on the occasion of my first expedition with M. Girando) that any possibility of making an attempt on the northern side—the side facing Lauramarca—must be ruled out: it is, in fact, a precipitous face, down which avalanches of stones and ice fall continually. The second reconnaissance, which I made with Rebitsch and Corporal Rojas, lasted three days, while Bolinder remained at the hacienda to put our baggage in order, and especially our provisions. On the first day, by a six hours' ride, v. e moved round to the eastern side of Aussangate; during the second day we crossed the glacier which lay between our camp and the east face of Aussangate, and afterwards climbed a short way along the same wall, until eventually we decided to abandon any attack from that side, in view of the fact that the approach march would be too arduous for heavily laden porters and entailed some serious dangers from falling stones and avalanches of ice. On the third day we came back to the hacienda.
A whole day was employed thereafter in equipping some native porters in mountaineering style and in teaching them to use the ropes and crampons. This provided more than one amusing episode. On ist August we finally took our departure with eight natives and sixteen animals, climbing arduously up a series of long and difficult valleys, with a view to turning Aussangate on the west and getting around to the south side, the only one possible henceforward, although it was filled with extremely crevassed glaciers. After a ride lasting two days, during which we crossed two passes of over 16,000 feet, we camped at the south foot of Aussangate, close to an : pal-coloured lake. The whole southern side was examined carefully, after which we decided to take the camp up as high as possible under the south-eastern glacier, since this giant's highest summit rose from the eastern extremity.
Formidable cataracts of ice defended access to it, and it was a question of attempting—or forcing—the passage which I had found closed in 1950, during my first expedition. This time the season was farther advanced than on the first occasion, since we were already in the month of August. After much solicitation of the muleteers, together with offers of propina—that is to say, tips—I succeeded in reaching 16,700 feet with our horses, right to the lower edge of the fall of seracs. Our camp was pitched quite close to a little glacier lake. We built up small walls for the kitchens and shelters for the natives, Bolinder having brought several large pieces of canvas in the baggage.
For several days we endeavoured to make tracks across the seracs, with the object of getting above them. The snow was often knee- deep, the labyrinth of crevasses impossible to describe, while the seracs which threatened to fall on us from above were innumerable. There were also numerous snowfalls, the weather in southern Peru not being very favourable in 1952. Every evening we returned to camp after hours of work, sometimes in fog and finding difficulty in following the pennons with which we marked our route. It was often necessary to have recourse to manoeuvres with the rope. Rebitsch climbed up over vertical walls of seracs, previously pitonned; he performed every possible kind of acrobatics from the splits to descents en rappel. We tried various routes, but everything proved of no avail and we had to beat a retreat.
After a further examination of the immense south face, which we made from the peaks facing Aussangate, we decided to transfer the base camp nearer to the centre of the giant and attempt a route rising vertically above the new camp, which was pitched at 15,900 feet. So as to make the march of the laden natives secure, we had to fix ropes both to the polished rocks below the lower fall of seracs and to the first part of the passage across the seracs. The natives behaved manfully, both in crossing these first obstacles and in ascending the upper fall of seracs, which was steep and exposed.
We finally succeeded in pitching a tent at 18,000 feet, on a small plateau, right in the middle of crevasses and seracs. But that was the safest point in this immense labyrinth. The natives went down again with Bolinder, while Rebitsch and I spent the night up there. The next day, with the greatest difficulty, in snow which reached above our knees, we traced a route towards the final ridge of Aussangate. The following day we were rejoined by Bolinder and by the porters with further loads. On the third day, having improved our track, it was possible for us to ascend all together and pitch a high camp of two tents at 19,850 feet, just below the ridge, access to the latter being barred by tremendous crevasses. We knew then that the Indios would not be able to go any farther, because of the complicated nature of the upper region. But Corporal Rojas, on a single occasion, carried that far a load of 50 kg. (c. 1 cwt.). During the night the thermometer fell to 43° below freezing.
The next day, 15 th August, leaving shortly after dawn, we opened up a route across the extraordinary maze 6f crevasses by going down into and climbing out of the chasms. The track, made through deep snow and up very steep slopes, was taken as far as the final ridge. This being reached at last, we began its traverse, which lasted two days. This interminable shoulder stretches from west to east for about 2 miles, part of it being thin and exposed, with cornices which, being sometimes of ice and sometimes of deep snow, entailed numerous dangers.
So, at the end of the afternoon of the first day, having overcome innumerable obstacles, including two ice-walls at an angle of about 50 degrees, we arrived below the central summit, that is to say, about half-way along the ridge. At this point, two enormous crevasses, at right angles with one another, seemed finally to bar our way. Earlier, we had already been forced to find alternative routes on either side of the ridge, cutting trenches through the overhanging humps of snow. But here there was no choice, if we were not to go back. Doubly secured from above, Rebitsch began the passage of the vertical crevasse on top of an absolutely precarious snow-bridge, then ascended the opposite lip of the crevasse and reached the central summit at 20,834 feet. It should be noted that below the vertical crevasse just mentioned there was a precipice of ^.000 feet and that the final wall before reaching the highest point of the medial ridge was almost perpendicular. After reaching the central summit, Rebitsch wished to discover if it were possible to proceed beyond it towards the eastern summits, and this, in fact, did seem so to him. He then descended and all together we started the return—since it was hardly possible to remain up there—to the upper camp at 19,850 feet. It was late in the evening, darkness having already fallen, when we reached the tents.
The following day, thanks to the fact that the previous day's tracks had become firmer, we made the same passage in about three hours and continued across new obstacles and dangerous cornices. The farther we moved away from our last camp, the less did the weather inspire our confidence. Fresh difficulties arose when crossing some crevasses which opened up on the very ridge, as well as some rock spurs. At a quarter past two, when a few snowflakes began to fall, we at last reached one of the three main eastern summits: the altimeter, duly rectified, recorded 21,326 feet, and the thermometer 25° F. below freezing. This immense ridge had been vanquished and the mystery which until then had surrounded the possibility of traversing it could be regarded as solved, since the most difficult of the summits had been conquered. After photographing the flags of Italy, Sweden, and Austria floating from our ice-axes, we began the return journey in the midst of a tempest. Luckily its violence was about to slacken and this saved us.
At half-past six, when the last ray of light was about to fade, we arrived at the last slope, just above our tents, at 20,000 feet. The morning after, while I remained in wait for the porters who were to ascend to the camp and pick up the material, Rebitsch and Bolinder went up onto the ridge again to take some photos; they took advantage of the fact that the porters had not arrived by climbing another neighbouring summit, the north-west point of Aussangate, a thin vertical needle, completely ice-covered, reaching to 20,500 feet, which had always seemed to us from below as something belonging to the ether. At ten o'clock they had returned to the tents. In the afternoon the tempest arose once more; however, in the evening the sky became clear.
I then decided to take my revenge. Having left the camp very early, I was able to climb that attractive needle in my turn: on that morning I went almost as far as the ridge, being conditioned to the altitude after so long a stay up there. On my return to camp at about 8.45 the Indios at last arrived, so that we were able to take down the tents and descend to the base camp without stopping. On the morrow we left the base camp in order to return to Lauramarca; on this same day there was an eclipse of the sun, a great cold developed, and in the afternoon a storm broke out which was to last for four days.
During the reconnaissance of Aussangate at the beginning of August, we had observed on the nearby chain of mountains to the east—that is to say, in the direction of the Gayangate, which is quite unknown—a series of ice-covered giants of formidable aspect. We therefore decided to explore it, once Aussangate had been climbed. After a few days given over to new preparations, we left Lauramarca on 25th August with a train of Indios and horses. Having crossed some high passes of about 16,500 feet, where we were surprised by snowfalls (one of which rendered the descent into the next valley very dangerous because of the steepness of the slope) we entered the heart of the unknown massif, taking the direction, to begin with, of the summits of Gayangate, the most important group.
As it was given to us to establish later, Gayangate itself constitutes a considerable mountain group with various summits, three of them absolutely precipitous and all of them difficult of access, either by reason of the crevassed glaciers, full of seracs, or of the vertical ice- covered walls. We camped in the bottoms of narrow, snow-filled valleys, afterwards crossing further passes, until we arrived facing the grandiose northern wall of Gayangate. In view of the insurmountable character of such a rampart, we were forced to turn it in the hope of finding a weak point in its last bastion to the northeast. We gave the name Cayangate III to this latter summit.
It was necessary to cross moraines with a surface of ice, where our little horses, nevertheless, performed miracles. On the fourth day, 29th August, leaving our 15,400-foot camp at dawn with one native porter we ascended a glacier scattered with ice-pinnacles and were forced to turn Cayangate III on the north-east with the object of seeing if there was a possibility of climbing it on that side. Thus we arrived at a pass which opened on to this north-eastern side at a height of 16,400 feet; from that point we had before our eyes another fantastic chain of ice-covered peaks, one of which, the most imposing of all, was called Colchecruz by the natives, or 'Silver Cross'. Without further ado we decided to explore that chain during the ensuing days. Meanwhile, having pursued our way across steep slopes and along a ridge of ice, in the afternoon, despite the usual storm and after performing some climbing acrobatics across a rock wall, we arrived below the final pitch of Cayangate III which, from this side too, seemed to us inaccessible. The summit being conquered that day, we named it ‘Verena' after Bolinder's wife, who had always helped us in our various camps.
The next day, after crossing another series of passes of 16,000 feet, we came into the Colchecruz valley, where we were able to admire some glacier lakes, one of them coloured like mother-of-pearl. We camped that evening in the middle of the valley, ascending it the following day. At one point the valley divided into two: we pursued our way, ascending the right-hand branch for an entire day, securing a view upon superb summits and reaching, after having crossed a glacier that was over 7 miles long, the highest pass in the region at 18,000 feet. Apart from the purely geographical success, from there also we were obliged to declare that the eastern ridge of Cayangate III was inaccessible.
We had thus already come to 1st September. On that day we ascended the western glacier to 16,570 feet. The result of our exploration was that throughout this valley the surrounding summits proved more or less inaccessible because of the extent and the crevassed nature of the glaciers, as well as the jagged ridges, all covered with ice, on all the slopes, barring access to the summits- All these valleys were deserted. However, on the last day an Indios describing himself as chief of the little community living in a neighbouring valley close to the great Amazonas plain, came to our camp. He told us that the lovely lake of mother-of-pearl was known as Ereratinte and that the valley with two branches was called Moya- cocha. He offered to guide us to his valley the next day; its name was Yanacancha. So we arrived, after a long and arduous ride, on the other side of Colchecruz, which from this side too seemed to us very difficult of access. Would this imposing giant now become the object of further expeditions?
In the evening we camped in front of the cabin of our friend, the Indios chief. Towards the end of the afternoon his wife came back from the pasture bringing a large herd of alpacas. The hut was situated at about 15,750 feet, just below the last pass (about 16,400 feet) we had crossed. After the usual evening storm we saw on the horizon another valley stretching to the south of the Amazonas plain, with a countless series of glacial peaks rising from both sides. We decided that the next day, 3rd September, we would climb the summit which was closest to the plain in order to secure the best view of that immense basin and to see if there were other chains beyond.
After a few hours on horseback, we ascended a crevassed glacier which presented some strange formations in festoons and stalactites of ice. Following a long ridge thereafter, we arrived in the midst of hail upon the chosen summit, which reached to 18,000 feet. To achieve some success in photographing at any cost the fantastic world which surrounded us, we stayed for three hours on the summit. During various clearances, it was possible for us to verify the marvellous character of this exceptional viewpoint and the assembly of tremendous summits rising up on all sides except to the north-east. We had thus come in close proximity to the great Amazonas basin, the north-eastern side being the only one where there were no mountains.
On 5th September, late in the evening, we were back at Lauramarca and, on the following day, at Cuzco. Our expedition then broke up. For my own part I was still able to spend some ten days in making a few further explorations in this very interesting country. With the Swiss climber Felix Marx, conqueror of the first summit of Salcantay (a summit which is about 300 feet below the highest point), I made a few trips into the Yucai and Veronica Cordilleras, north-west of Cuzco, which are also unexplored. There are ice- covered summits in these massifs which reach to about 20,000 feet. In the two massifs in question, the bad weather prevented us from pushing on beyond 16,400 feet, but we were able to reconnoitre some great glaciers and some ice-covered walls, studying meantime the best route for future explorations. Interesting material was also collected concerning the flora of the Veronica massif.
In southern Peru entire valleys, with immense glacial stretches, still remain to be explored, while all their summits are yet unclimbed. The geological structure is a little different from one Cordillera to another, but the basis is always volcanic, with varying infiltrations, belonging for the most part to the crystalline. On Solimana I found quarzites with olivine; on Coropuna, limonite with iron silicates; on Aussangate, crystalline quartz and other species with an absorption of hematite. On Cayangate I was able to collect specimens of rhyo- litic rocks with inclusions of quartz; on Yucai, rhyolitic volcanic rocks and olivine silica, as well as silicates with felspar; on Veronica, finally, quarzites with hematite and iron idrosside.
The snow-line also varies from one Cordillera to another; in general it lies at about 16,700 feet on the north-facing slopes, while on the south it descends to 15,700 feet. The flora in the south-east of the country, at about 13,000 feet, consists only of a few thickset grasses. In the Veronica massif there exists, at an altitude of about 10,000 feet, a typically equatorial forest in full development with giant heaths, lianas, and multicoloured epiphytal garlands hanging from the trees, like those I have seen in the jungles of Ruwenzori. This is due to the special conditions of the soil and sub-soil, which are different from those existing in the other Cordilleras of southern Peru, especially the arid and desert western sector. The proximity of the Amazon regionas also has its influence.
The fauna is restricted to a few cameline kinds, of the lama and alpaca species; on the other hand, very rare is the vicuna; gardunas are found (beech-martin species), pumas, foxes, rabbits, condors; finally, there are the usual domestic animals, among them the innumerable quantities of dogs, small but vicious.