Brief Description of Tocllaraju
Situated in the heart of Peru’s northwestern Cordillera Blanca, Tocllaraju is a popular but challenging mountaineering destination.
The pyramid-shaped mountain peak is surrounded by four different valleys. From the nearest trailhead, only one day of trekking is required to reach the main base camp, making it one of the country’s more accessible peaks.
Tocllaraju is also surrounded by several glaciers and boasts steep ridge lines and faces on each side of the peak. Of these, only one face and two ridges are routinely climbed, with the others considered to be far too steep to be climbed safely.
Quick Facts about Tocllaraju
- Tocllaraju is the original Quechua name for the mountain and means snow-covered trap mountain. The peak is occasionally referred to as Nevado Tocllaraju, which would translate to snowy snow-covered trap mountain.
- While the mountain is officially listed at 6,034 metres (19,797 feet) high by the Peruvian government, there is some dispute over the elevation. One source lists the peak as about 10 metres (30 feet) shorter and another lists it at 5,980 metres (19,620 feet).
- Along with being the starting point for the ascent of Tocllaraju, the mountain’s main base camp is also used as the midway point for various treks through the range and the starting points for ascents up the nearby Ranrapalca and Urus.
History of Tocllaraju
While Tocllaraju has long been known to the local Quechua people, it was not explored and climbed by Europeans until the 1930s.
The first known ascent of the peak came on July 31, 1939, when Walter Brecht and Hans Schweizer made it to the summit of the mountain. They approached the peak from the north, before climbing via the northwest ridge, the second half of what is now the normal route.
The first expedition to climb via what is now considered the full normal route occurred on August 7, 1963. Daniel Bach, Albert Bezinge, Jean-Jacques Fatton and Carlo Jaquet approached the peak from the southwest, before crossing one of the glaciers and arriving at the summit via the northwest ridge.
Experience Required for Climbing Tocllaraju
Climbing Tocllaraju is an intermediate-level challenge. The easiest route up to the summit, the northwest ridge, is rated Class IV and requires a mix of snow and ice climbing.
Overall, guides recommend participants to have previous experience climbing on glaciated peaks as well as some experience at elevations of 5,000 metres (16,400 feet) or more prior to booking a trip.
Due to the high elevation and extensive glacier travel, it is also important to be in excellent physical condition. Guides recommend spending three to six months improving endurance, physical strength and flexibility prior to heading out on the trip.
Main Routes up Tocllaraju
While there are three different routes that lead up to the summit of Tocllaraju, the northwest ridge route is by far the most popular.
After trekking through the Ishinca valley to the base camp, climbers will ascend the glacier on to the southwestern side of the mountain. At about 5,200 metres (17,000 feet), the glacier levels out and climbers will continue on to the northwest ridge.
Climbers proceed to follow the northwest ridge, traversing a few crevasses and one bergschrund before arriving at the summit.
Away from the northwest ridge, the west face and north ridge are the two other most popular routes to climb.
The former requires mixed rock and snow climbing as well as glacier climbing. It is considered to be far more dangerous due to the potential for rockfalls and as a result is less commonly used by commercial guides.
The north ridge follows a similar route as the northwest ridge. However, the ridge itself is much steeper and requires more time and effort to climb than the northwest ridge.