Ryan Siacci outlines a hat-trick of Peruvian first ascents for Australian alpinist, Sebastian Pelletti
The 2019 Peruvian winter has been a cracker for young Australian alpinist Sebastian Pelletti. Together with various partners he opened three new routes in the Cordillera Blanca, as well as managing four other ascents of ice and mixed routes near 6000m.
Pelletti established a new route on both Huamashraju (5434m) and Huamashraju Este (5400m). Both were predominantly rock routes with some minor glaciation, and each went mostly free with some isolated aid to connect crack systems. Even in the rarefied air above 5000m he reports a fair share of vertical gardening.
‘We found perfect handcracks on Huamashraju Este, well, they were perfect after we scraped the moss out with a nut tool, at least,’ reports Pelletti. ‘About halfway up, we finished weeding and were able to climb clean cracks to the summit.’
The real prize was a new line on the Cashan Oeste (5686m), revealed by a tip-off from Spanish super-alpinists Iker Pou, Eneko Pou and Manu Ponce. They’d just returned from the Rajucolta Valley where they’d claimed the first ascent of the North Face, a winding line through the centre of the wall. To the right, a system of cracks and dihedrals seemed to provide another feasible route to the summit.
After fixing two pitches, Seb and Chilean partner Nico Secul launched up the face at first light. They found clean, solid granite in a series of interlinking corners, sporadically punctuated by tough boulder problems which ‘added spice’ to the pitches. The majority went bold but free, with one exception in a steep 10m crack, which took clean aid.
‘The overhanging finger/hand/offwidth crack would make for an incredible free climbing crux,’ says Pelletti, ‘but at 5550m, we weren’t feeling up to what would be a 7th Grade (24 or harder) pitch.’
The pair crossed the final snow slopes using a small piton hammer as an ice tool, arriving on the west summit after two more pitches of fun mixed climbing. The true summit of Cashan appeared unstable, comprised of gigantic blocks stacked haphazardly and held together by rotten ice. Having no desire to climb this obstacle, the pair descended via the South Face.
Relatively few Australians visit the Cordillera Blanca each year, but Seb believes that more should make the journey.
‘The untapped potential for first ascents here is outrageous,’ says Seb. ‘We need to get some more Aussie alpinists out here!’
- El Chumita – (6b+ A1, 300m) – Huamashraju, 5434m – Seb Pelletti and James Baragwanath
- Vitamina Huancaina – (6b, 600m) – Huamashraju Este, 5400m – Seb Pelletti and Ignacio Vasquez
- El Pajaro y El Potrillo – (6b C1 M3, 700m) – Cashan Oeste, 5686m – Seb Pelletti and Nico Secul
Seb Pelletti is sponsored by Arc’teryx.
You can read more of Ryan Siacci’s work at Zen & the Art of Climbing
This article has been edited to change the reference to the Austral summer.