Summer cavalcade, Peruvian style

Panpipes, shimmering colors and big gnarly couloirs, when you have the chance to travel again after months of uncertainties, « c’est le Pérou! », as we say in French to underline a crazy and far fetched goal. And Peru it was, indeed. We got to live four great epics during more than a month in the Cordillera Blanca, with summits at more than 6000m, and not really easy conditions. Mountain skiing as we like it: hostile and wild!

A trip, an idea, a dream and a mission of solidarity. That’s what brought our band of joyful gliders on the vertical slopes and hard packed snow of Peru and its “cordillera blanca”. We had several mountains in mind, dreams and fantasies shared between 6 riders from Chamonix: Damien Arnaud, Aurel Lardy, Mathieu Moullier, Jules Socié, Gaspard Buro and the mandatory snowboarder, Gaspard Ravanel.

We had the chance to slide on some major summits, but we also had to backtrack in front of a capricious weather and bodies completely turned upside down by the altitude and the digestion.

South ridge of Tocllaraju

We left Lima on June 20th for the Ishinca valley, a long valley to climb for some long kilometers. When we arrived at the refuge, we were welcomed like kings. The basic plan was to sleep outside but considering the beauty of the fire and the warmth of the waitress, unless it is the opposite, we decide to stay inside.

The next day, we left early for camp 1, with a long walk in a beautiful scenery between 4350 and 5100 meters of altitude. The closer we got, the more we saw this southern ridge, fluorescent, calling us like a siren.

“The dream seemed more and more realizable.”

The excitement was high in our camp after a quick nap. At the time of the meal, everyone had a big smile, we made a lot of jokes, we spoke about the line, we took advantage of the sunset and decided that the next day, at the summit, we would ski on the south ridge, 23 years after Marco Siffredi, what a dream!

The alarm clock rung at 1 am for a departure planned at 2 am.

Everybody was very motivated, and after a good breakfast we left for our first big piece of peruvian adventure. But soon after the departure, Aurel started to feel bad and began to puke. A little further, he decided to give up. Two teams were roped together : Damien and Mathieu in the first one and Jules with the two Gaspards in the second one.
After 10 hours of a long climb and a last pitch that gave us a hard time, everyone reached the summit. Very quickly, we agreed: considering the track for the ascent and what the south face represented for Damien, he got to drop first.

“The first turns at 6000m are unbelievable, we could not believe it: it was a crazy kind of snow, the stuff of movies and dreams.”

After a successful technical passage on the middle of the run, we walked between the seracs before plunging into the last wall, a beautiful slope of concrete icy snow pitched at 55° with an incredible atmosphere, the kind of slope that requires a lot of commitment and concentration.

Once at the bottom, we got back with the cameramen, Aurel, and the porters in a very festive mood. The south ridge of Tocllarju is a privilege, a dream come true, a run that is seldom skied. We knew that we had done a crazy descent and were very lucky with the snow conditions.


“During the way down from the Tocclarju base camp to the Ishinca hut, the view of the next objective is breathtaking. The Ranrapalca, 6162 meters high, seems to be in good conditions for a ski descent via its infamous North East face!”

We indulge ourselves with a day off at the Ishinca refuge before leaving again. Aurel, Jules, Gaspard Buraud and Mathieu will climb again for a second descent at more than 6000 meters the same week. On June 25, the team aims for Ranrapalca, a day of walk with our faithful carriers. We arrive at the base camp located under the face that we plan to ski the next day, suspended above an incredible wall of orange granite. The atmosphere is impressive for sure! We eat our usual freeze-dried meal while enjoying the sunset before going to sleep in a cold night punctuated by apprehension and excitement.

“The alarm clock rings at 1 am, and the short night in the tent has done some damage.”

This time, it’s Gaspard Buraud who pays the price: sick, he forfeits! So we will be 3 to throw ourselves to the assault of the North East face of Ranrapalca. After an hour and a half of climbing, we arrive in the dark at the most difficult point of this ascent, a 30 meter long mixed rock face that blocks the access to the hanging slope. We pass it surprisingly quickly. The ascent continues on very hard snow that allows us to climb without taking too much of our stamina, and little by little the day rises, turning the void behind us more and more impressive.

We are approaching the top of the run and the altitude starts to take its toll. Aurel complains about headaches, he is weakened after having been very ill at Tocllaraju, he takes the wise decision to put on his skis 100 meters below the summit to go down as soon as possible to the 5000m mark. Jules and Mathieu continue their effort to stop around 6000 meters, just under the summit ridge, striped with a rocky bar. From there, they look at Aurel linking his turns down below, he looks easy on this snow hard as marble. Jules and Mathieu put on their skis and start their descent, the first turns require an extreme concentration. The slope is very steep, an impression accentuated by the very hard snow. Each turn requires so much energy that it is difficult to link more than 4 or 5 without stopping. Out of breath, they ski on the edge of a spur that stands out from the north face.

“The slope does not decline but the sun starts to soften the snow which becomes easier to ski in the lower part. Slaloming between the granite cliffs, the last turns allow to reach the final abseil and to escape from this incredible suspended slope.”

The emotion is at its peak when we regroup, with Adrien, Max and Gaspard at the camp who filmed and looked at the skiing from down there!

Exhilerated, we pack the camp, wait for the porters and we leave for 30 km of walk which will bring us back to Huaraz.


This mountain is like a myth.

By far the most famous of the sector, especially since we have all seen it before: it is the logo of the Hollywood production “Paramount Pictures“. But the Artesonraju is first of all a pure and magnificent mountain of a little more than 6000m, to be absolutely checked when you are about steep skiing. Except that from our quiet couch in the Cham valley, we didn’t realize the hours of approach with our asses nailed in a cab and the endless hike that would follow.

But hey, that’s what we came for, the big wild touring sessions in the middle of the white cordillera. After nearly 5 hours of taxi on the most remote roads of the region, it’s time to put on our best hiking shoes and to start walking to camp 1.
From the parking lot where the taxis let us down, we have to cross a lake. Here, tourist boats float on the turquoise water. Some will decide to embark, even if it means losing 2 hours, and others will decide to walk, with their skis firmly attached to their backs. Two and a half hours later, the walkers arrived, but the paddlers still need almost 3 hours more, having suffered the wind that was blowing down the valley and therefore facing the boats.

The next day, it is time to join camp 2. It is not a long day, but we are already tired of the previous adventures. From there, the view on Artesonraju is superb: it is a big, terribly beautiful mountain. We think rather quickly about the option to go up to the advanced camp which is situated on the glacier below the face of the Artesonraju that we want to ski. Finally we stay at the camp 2, we rest thoroughly, we shall leave tomorrow just after midnight.

Day D of the Artesonraju, the alarm clock rings like a bomber jet. The most difficult day of our lives awaits. Outside it is dark and the cold is biting. We walk for hours in the darkness through enormous crevasses and more and more nasty seracs. It takes us 5 hours to reach the bergschrung. The wind whips us all night long, Damien and Thomas are cooked, they suffer from the cold. Game over for the two of them, it’s time to stop and get back to the camp.

For the rest of us the fight goes on. We go up the face, 200 then 300m above the bergschrung, but the wind tears us and the snow away from the mountain, leaving bare rocks and ice patches. It’s 6 am and we finally give up, the summit of Artesonraju will not be for us to ski this time. We go back, sad and lightened by the purest of the sunrises.


Last summit of our trip and not the least since we aim for the highest peak of Peru, the South Huascaran, 6768m by its “escudo”. Escudo means shield, a triangle of 700m vertical pitched at 50°, all this above 6000m of altitude…
The general tiredness of our group after a month of intensive mountain at altitudes that we did not know begin to weigh on our shoulders.

“Another interminable approach by abominable roads sitting in the back of these old Toyota Corolla trucks that we can’t stand anymore. In Peru, you have to be ready to spend more time in taxis and in long walks than on the mountains themselves.”

The day 1 to join the refuge of Huascaran will be terrible for Aurel, who has been sick almost all the time during our trip. His belly aches did not make it easy for him to slide on the beautiful Peruvian slopes. So during almost 5 hours, he fights against the worst diarrhea of the history and leaves a beacon every 10min. Abominable.
He arrives at the refuge partially alive. A huge bowl of rice, some meds and off we go!

The next two days will be spent walking and hiking on the Huascaran glacier. We walk on, we sleep and we start again. The day before the final assault, we walk with the carriers in the “candeletta“, a heap of seracs accompanied by crevasses even deeper than we could imagine. The porters let us dow a hundred meters under the camp 2, at around 5900m high, frightened by a vertical cascade we have to climb. We make this last part to camp 2 two times, carrying our bags then the bags of 35kg they were carrying for us until now.

We are spent. To install a camp at this altitude with a strong gale is a real chore. It takes us nearly an hour just to set up the tents. It’s time to rest, and the bad weather is already upon us. The night goes on and the tents move from right to left more and more strongly. Our dream of going down by the escudo is blown away by the wind.
The weather will once more leave us stranded, and our bodies are tired.

“We end up the trip on a bad note but after all it is the mountain calling, and we like it like that: hostile and wild!”


by Aurel Lardy, Mathieu Moullier, and Damien Arnaud 

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