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This mountain is dubbed "the most beautiful of the World" and ever since I saw photos of it in 2004, I have been thinking about climbing it.  I decided it would be my last climb in Cordillera Blanca.  I couldn't find anyone to climb with, so I had to sponsor 3 Peruvian guys to come with me.  One of them didn't turn up, and the rest of us left late and arrived in Cashapampa in the afternoon.  I hired 2 donkeys and arriero, and we started a long walk up Santa Cruz valley.  I insisted we walk almost until dark, and we camped next to a huge boulder.  I prepared my stove and looked for 3 boxes of matches I bought the day before and left with our food with the guy who didn't show up.  But they disappeared and we were unable to cook.  Fortunately, later a lost couple from Lima arrived and we did have a warm meal.

The next day, the guy from Lima looked at our equipment, asked what it was and how much it costs.  After taking notes of all this, he said he would climb Alpamayo in 3 years time!  He figured out it would take him 3 years to buy equipment, but it didn't occur to him that learning how to use it may take longer!  We packed our bags, arriero  strapped them to his donkeys and we continued to the Base Camp.  Entering the side valley, we could see the south side of Alpamayo.  Not the most beautiful of mountains, I have to say.  From the Base Camp we had to carry our own bags up a steep path towards the glacier.  Ike, my climbing partner, although much a smaller person, had no problem walking with over 30kg on his back.  Soon he was well ahead of me, and the 3rd guy, Carlos, stayed behind.  Ike took 2 hours, I took 3, and Carlos - 6 hours.  By darkness we were all there, camping just below Alpamayo glaciers.  The views of surrounding mountains were stunning at first, but later it started to snow.

The next morning we woke up to about 10cm of snow.  We had to climb up the glacier to the col between Alpamayo and Quitaraju but it was cloudy.  We waited until 10am and started by reaching the glacier.  From there, Carlos returned to his tent and Ike and I continued.  The first part was a steep but safe walk between crevasses and seracs.  Later a 5m wall of vertical ice had to be overcome, followed by "only" 70 degrees of snow and ice.  Near the top, another 50m steep section was waiting for us.  While we were going up, 2 couples and one Italian group were descending after 3 days of bad weather.  The Italian group included a climber with one leg, who despite of his disability was able to get to places that most people can only dream about.

We arrived at the empty campsite and pitched our tent on the glacier.  It started to clear in the evening and Ike wanted to climb that night, but the huge wall of Alpamayo scared me and I wanted to rest for a day.  The next morning was just perfect, not a single cloud!  We spent the whole day resting, eating and drinking.  And cooking of course, because water had to be obtained from snow.  In the afternoon 4 people arrived, 2 climbers, a porter and a guide.  We watched Alpamayo in the changing light, admiring it´s stunning beauty.  We were taking some happy photos with the orange wall of Alpamayo behind us and tried to sleep as soon as the sun disappeared.  It gets very cold at 5400m so there was nothing better to do.

At 1am I forced myself out of my warm sleeping bag and started to prepare for the climb.  The other group left before 2am, and we followed 1/2 hour later.  There was no moon that night, but millions of stars instead.  We walked down for a while and then up a steep snow slope.  After reaching the huge, 10m bergshrund we climbed some even steeper snow to get to the face.  In the past Alpamayo was climbed by Ferari route.  But an enormous snow mushroom made it impossible to exit from there and we were climbing by French Direct, much steeper and longer route (see photo).

It started with 3 rope-lengths of 70 degrees hard snow.  After that, even steeper ice followed.  Ike climbed first without protection, trying to save time and get to the top as quickly as possible.  My hands were freezing when climbing, and warmed up when belaying Ike.  Soon the sky started to change color and the tops of the nearby mountains were illuminated with orange light.  We kept climbing until reaching a vertical section.  There our route turned right over a little ridge and followed the last 30m of hard snow the the top.  Finally, at 8.30am I stood atop the most beautiful mountain of the world!  It look a lot more scary than it really was, but that´s probably because Ike was such a great climber. The views were amazing, with blue sky and not a single cloud to spoil it.  Of course we took photos and enjoyed the sun at the top, before abseiling down the mountain.  By 1pm we were back at the campsite, packed our bags and made our way down to the Base Camp, again abseiling down steep sections.  The people who went down 2 days ago were now coming back.  We were so lucky with the weather!  When we got to the Base Camp, I could finally say: "we made it!"   photos