Situated in the remote northeastern reaches of Peru’s stunning Cordillera Blanca, Alpamayo is one of the country’s most scenic and popular mountaineering destinations.
Its distinctive shape and massive ice walls means the peak stands out on the horizon and can be seen from many other summits in the range. In spite of this, the peak was relatively unknown until the first attempts to summit it in the 1950s.
During the high season, Alpamayo’s base camp can be quite crowded and parties often have to wait their turn to climb the mountain. In spite of this fewer than half of climbers successfully make it to the summit due to the difficulty and exposure of the main routes.
Quick Facts about Alpamayo
- Due to its remote location, Alpamayo can only be reached on foot. The most popular route is to follow the traditional path of the Santa Cruz trek.
- Alpamayo’s reputation for its natural beauty precedes it and base camp is often full of eager mountaineers. Be sure to build a few extra days into any climbing expedition to take into account potential delays caused by overcrowding.
- In a 1966 survey conducted by German magazine, Alpinismus, Alpamayo was voted the “Most Beautiful Mountain in the World” by a group of mountaineering experts.
History of Alpamayo
In spite of its distinctive shape, Alpamayo did not appear on the first map of the Cordillera Blanca, which was made in 1932.
The first attempt to climb the peak came in 1951 when a French-Belgian expedition, led by the pioneering female climber, Claude Kogan, climbed up via north ridge. However, it was later discovered the party had only made it to a minor summit and not the true summit.
The first ascent to the summit proper came six years later, on June 20, 1957, when a team of German mountaineers arrived at the top of the mountain via the same north ridge.
The Ferari route, which is most commonly used today, was first climbed by a group of Italian alpinists in 1975.
Experience Required for Climbing Alpamayo
Even on the easiest route to the summit, Alpamayo is a challenging climb. All of the routes to the summit are steep and require advanced-intermediate snow and ice climbing abilities.
The two most commonly taken routes (which are also the two easiest) both have at least six pitches at an angle of 45º or greater. The weather on the peak changes rapidly, so it is important to climb quickly as well, meaning less time for breaks.
Even before beginning the climbing portion of the trip, two to three days of trekking is required to arrive at the mountain’s base camp. Needless to say, all participants must be in excellent physical condition prior to the climb.
Main Routes up Alpamayo
While there are about eight routes that lead to the summit of Alpamayo, only two are commonly used. This is because they tend to be the safest and easiest.
The most popular route to the top is the Ferari route, which heads up the southwest face of the mountain. This route is rated as AD+ and involves climbing nine different pitches, which range in steepness from 45º to 55º. This route generally takes five to seven hours.
The French direct route, however, is the easier of the two routes and is rated as D+. It begins by climbing the bergschrund and then requires 10 pitches of snow and ice climbing at a steepness of 55º to 65º. This route tends to take six to eight hours.
The original route to the summit – the north route – has largely fallen out of favour due to the chance for ice falls.
All the commonly used routes begin from the same base camp, which is reached by trekking from Cashapampa or Caraz through the Santa Cruz valley.