I’m in Huaraz now in the Cordillero Bianco, rockclimbing with a friend from Lima and some local friends of friends from PIRQA, the rockclimbing gym in Miraflores. We’ve had two days on the rock – first at Los Olivos, a short combi ride up a winding mountain road from downtown, and second off the side of the road along the Salta river on the way to Recuey. This is an example of a poorly structured post, as the explanation for why it’s called Adventures with Batman doesn’t come until the end though I reference it in a picture of Roosevelt below. But here’s to hoping you’ll like the pictures so much you’ll make it to the explanation below.
Huaraz – a huge party town in Peru, apparently. Today is Carnaval, and it’s apparently standard to throw water balloons, flour and grab women above and below, which is why we’re heading to Chanco to the thermal baths instead…The Americans we met last night were keen on blowing up water balloons, but the Peruvian we met was keen on bouldering. After two days of cold fingers and lower legs, beautiful as the scenery was, we were ready for some cleansing waters.
It’s cold here. Right now in Lima it’s a tropical paradise. Polluted, yes, but 30+ degrees everyday with sun and humidity. Here it’s damp and chilly because it’s the beginning of the rainy season and we’re high up maybe 3000 metres in the mountains. May is a better time to come and the Peruvian winter from June to September is high season, but with only a few weeks left in Peru and a desire to see some mountains and climb we’re happy to be here.
This is not Lima. Here the elderly Andean women walk around with the colourful giant packs/blankets strapped to their backs. They sell huacatay (and aromatic green herb), eucalyptus, capulì (small cherries) and prickly pears on their unwrapped blankets in the town. Then they re-load with goods from the city they’ll need for the day or week and head back up into the mountains.
This is a tourist town. Trekkers come from everywhere to see the glaciers, do multi-day hikes through mountainous, rugged terrain, mountain bike, alpine climb, and then there are people like us who come for sport climbing and boulders.
We met up with Roosevelt, a local climber who works for a few of the Adventure tourism companies in town including Quechuandes and Monttrek and headed to Los Olivos our first morning off the overnight train from Lima.
He knew everyone at the crag. Locals bathed in the river below, but up above his friends Andrey, Jack and Victor were working 7b (5.12) sport climbs and harder. We started on what the locals call 5+. That’s the equivalent of about a 5.9+ in the North American system but a 5+ in Huaraz is a solid 5.10b for anyone who isn’t a great boulderer.
These guys are in a league of their own here, pulling down on hard routes that never give you a second of rest.
They’d be champs in other competitive climbing cities, but Huaraz is more than a little isolated and small. The routes are boulder problem after boulder problem up negative sloping routes.And there’a a massive 100 metre traverse that wraps around the side of the mountain.
Me, the gringa from Lima they’d seen pictures of on the PIRQA website from the comp in the city, I was embarrassed to struggle up the easiest climbs, taking when I couldn’t see the next move.
Roosevelt, on the other hand, moved smoothly through every move like he’d done it all a million times, which he had. He grew up climbing here, and with more than 10 years of experience the mountains are his home outside of Huaraz.
At Recuey the hardest bolted climb I saw was an 8a (5.12+?) called “Ola, de viento” (‘Hello, it’s windy,’ I think), so-named by Andrey after he sent it because the wind blows hard off the river. Roosevelt sent it soon after him.
I told him about a video I have of climbing Newfoundland on youtube. It’s in Flatrock, right on the edge of the ocean where you can watch whales from the rock or lie back and sunbathe or watch climbers without craning your neck. It’s rugged and gorgeous. The climb I shot there was called “Dynamic Duo.”
“Why is it called that?” asked Roosevelt.
“It’s from Batman and Robin. The comic book. They’re called the ‘dynamic duo’ but I really don’t know why someone called the climb that.”
“Roosevelt, you’re like Batman to me.”
Climbing 8bs…Come here, Sharma. 4 bolts might not seem like it’s worth it, but you’ll like trying to match up to these Peruvians.
Leading this stuff is hard, since hanging a few extra seconds on even the best holds wears you down fast, especially at the high altitude. So I struggled through a 6a+ sport climb (5.10), setting up the draws before Roosevelt cleaned it, but then he was a real caballero and set up the 7a we tried next so I could un-clip on my way up and basically do it on top-rope. Taking often I could make it to the top.
The rains come around 2pm every day, and sometimes they’re light and sometimes they’re not, so we headed back into town just as it was starting to pour.