Situated on the southwestern slopes of Peru’s Cordillera Blanca, Ishinca is a classic acclimatisation mountain and excellent training ground for climbers preparing for their first 6,000er.
Rising to 5,530 metres (18,140 feet) in elevation, the peak is sandwiched in between two giant 6,000ers, making it appear smaller than it really is and endowing it with some of the best views in the valley.
Due to its location on the edge of one of Peru’s most visited valleys, low technical difficulty and close proximity to other popular mountaineering destinations, Ishinca is the most frequently climbed peak in the region.
Quick Facts about Ishinca
- In spite of being slightly more difficult than the easiest route to the summit, most climbers opt to ascend via the northwest slope of the peak in order to explore the ice cave situated just below the summit pyramid.
- While it is one of the shorter mountains in the area, Ishinca offers some of the best views of the surrounding 6,000ers in the Cordillera Blanca.
- The Ishinca base camp is also a popular starting point for ascents of Urus, Tocllaraju and Ranrapalca. As a result, many guides offer two to three week expeditions that climb up to three or all four.
History of Ishinca
While Ishinca has long been known to the local Quechua people, it was not explored by Europeans until the 1930s.
The first ascent of the peak came on June 23, 1964, when a team of American mountaineers, led by Stuart Turner, William Bassett, Jonathan Hough and Charles Satterfield climbed the peak via the northwest ridge, which remains the route most commonly used today.
Like so many mountaineers who have followed in their footsteps, the team climbed Ishinca as a warm up before going on to climb Urus, Tocllaraju and Ranrapalca.
Experience Required for Climbing Ishinca
Climbing Ishinca is an advanced-beginner to intermediate-level mountaineering challenge, depending on the route that is taken. On the easiest routes up the peak, a mix of glacier, snow and rock climbing is required.
Due to the mountain’s relatively low elevation, only a few days of acclimatisation are required before heading to the summit and altitude sickness is usually not an issue. From the base camp to the top, climbers will only gain 1,130 meters (3,700 feet) of elevation.
In spite of the low levels of technical difficulty, the climb still presents a physical challenge. The last part of the ascent is quite steep and as a result most guides recommend climbers spend at least three months prior to the trip improving endurance, physical strength and flexibility.
Main Routes up Ishinca
While there are three main routes that lead up to the summit of Ishinca, the most popular is the northwest slope route, also called the normal route.
The southwest ridge route is another popular route and, though a bit longer, is technically easier than the normal route. The northeast ridge route is the most challenging and least popularly climbed of the three routes.
Starting from the base camp, climbers will traverse a moraine and hike up to the foot of the glacier that comes down from Ishinca at 5,000 metres (16,400 feet). This is usually where the high camp is set up.
The following day, climbers heading up the northwest slope route will hike toward the mountain and climb over the toe of the glacier, starting the ascent via the northeast ridge. At the base of the summit pyramid, climbers will cross over to the northwest slope and climb straight up to the top.
Climbers heading up the southwest ridge will leave the camp in the opposite direction, toward the other side of the mountain. After climbing up the moraine, climbers will follow the southwest ridge directly to the summit, scrambling and climbing over snow and rock en route.