Urus Este Cordillera Blanca Peru

Urus Este 17782ft Grade: PD

Urus Este 17782 ft (viewed from high on Ischinca) 
Grade: PD

Last year Independence day was spent climbing Mt Rainier.  I would spend the second 4th of July in a row climbing a mountain.  The goal today was to climb 17,782 ft Urus Este.  This peak is considered easy by Cordillera Blanca standards, but in comparison with the mountains in my resume, it is a big mountain.  Continue reading

Ranrapallqa (6,162 m) Cordillera Blanca Peru

Cordillera Blanca – Peru Skills Seminar with RMI

“Anything in life worth doing is worth overdoing, moderation is for cowards”

I am struck by this quote from the movie Lone Survivor, which I am watching on my iphone as I travel by bus to the city of Huaraz.  I have certainly sacrificed, and worked hard to be here.  For the last eight months much of my free time has been spent on training, and this trip has lightened my wallet considerably.  The level of climbing these mountains demand certainly entails more risks than I have previously been exposed to.   Whether I am living a balanced life or overdoing it I’m not sure, but one thing is certain, I am happy to be here.  I am tingling with anticipation for the adventure that awaits me.  I am headed into the Cordillera Blanca, one of the highest and most rugged mountain ranges in the world.  This area has a special combination of  interesting culture, great conditions, insane beauty, and wild routes that make it a mecca for alpinism.

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How to Follow my Progress in Peru.

This page describes how you can receive updates about my trip to the Peruvian Andes (Cordillera Blanca)

Here are the primary ways to get information

  • The RMI Blog will have a daily dispatch posted with pictures and a detailed description of what we did that day.  You may have to scroll a little bit to find the updates from the Peru Seminar.
  • My SPOT Page will show my latest messages and tracks.
  • I will try to tweet updates using my spot device as well.  You can follow me @colokeith for updates


There will be a few days (shown below) that should have some interesting updates. The rest will be spent traveling, acclimatizing, and working on climbing skills around base camp.

  • Wednesday 7/2 BASE CAMP    14,400′
    Leaving Huaraz in the morning, we make the short drive to Collón (11,150′). We meet our mules and begin the trek through the Ishinca Valley. Several hours of hiking through alpine landscapes brings us to our Base Camp.
  • Friday 7/4: URUS ESTE SUMMIT DAY  •  17,800′
    We make an early alpine start to climb Nevado Urus (17,800′). After the climb, we descend back to Base Camp.
  • Sunday 7/6: TOCLLARAJU GLACIER CAMP  •  17,380′
    We leave Base Camp and climb to our high camp below Tocllaraju. After establishing camp, we settle in for the evening.
  • Monday 7/7: TOCLLARAJU SUMMIT DAY  •  19,796′
    Leaving high camp, we make our summit attempt on Tocllaraju (19,796′). The climbing is a mix of glacier travel and exciting, steep snow climbing to reach the mountain’s summit. Following the ascent, we descend back to our high camp to retrieve our gear before descending to Base Camp for the evening.
  • Wednesday 7/9: ISHINCA SUMMIT DAY  •  18,143′
    The Seminar culminates in a participant-led ascent of Ishinca (18,143′). Climbers have the opportunity to put their  mountaineering skills into action and lead the team on a summit attempt. After the climb, we descend to Base Camp for the evening

Overview Of Area

Peru’s Cordillera Blanca is one of the most spectacular mountain ranges in the world. The high peaks of the Cordillera offer phenomenal climbing and ideal opportunities for mountaineering training. Cordillera Blanca is the world’s highest and most glaciated tropical mountain range.  Topped by 6768m high Huascaran there are 25 6000ers and more than 50 peaks above 5500m within this range, amongst them beautiful Alpamayo and “Paramount peak” Artesonraju. Climbing season runs from May -September. It provides long periods of dry and sunny weather only interrupted by one or two less stable days, which however may force you to wait in your tent before the summit bid.


This is a notional map of the Ishinca Valley area where I will be climbing

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Colorado Marathon Race Report

Sometime last year I lost all of my good senses and decided I was going to run a marathon.  The decision was not exactly out of the blue. I had been running regularly for several years, and had completed two half marathons last year.  Being that I am a fanboy of the state of Colorado it was only fitting that I choose the Colorado Marathon to give my virginity to.  This marathon is known for its natural beauty and smallish field, not its fanfare and crowds. This race seamed right up my alley.  The Colorado Marathon is a one way race which follows the Poudre river as it runs into the heart of Fort Collins.  With the race date set, I made a training plan based off of one of Hal Higdon’s popular plans.  Then I set out to convince some friends to run the race with me.  I was only able to convince one other person (Melissa) to do the full marathon, but managed to talk my wife and one of her friends into running a half marathon.

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Dreaming Of Peru

It is hard to explain why I am called to the high mountains.  I love the beauty, challenge, and overcoming fears, but does it justify cost, risk, and sacrifice needed to climb big mountains?    What ever the reasons the call of the mountains is strong. Even while my legs were still aching from my assent of  Rainier,  I was dreaming of what my next big climb would be.   Originally I was planning on heading to Mexico to climb some large volcanoes (Orizaba and Ixtca).  Then I found a two week  expedition skills seminar in the heart of the Peruvian Andes.  So for me, the first two weeks of July will be spent in the the Cordillera Blanca.   The Cordillera Blanca (white mountains) are a complex highland with permanently snowcapped peaks, some among the highest of the Andes (e.g., Mount Huascarán, at 22,205 feet).


Tocllarjau is the biggest objective of the trip. It stands a mighty 19790 ft / 6032 m tall.

I will be spending eleven nights camped above 14,435′  a mere 4 feet lower than Colorado’s highest point (Mt Elbert 14,439′) .  From basecamp we will be climbing three peaks Urus Este (17,800′), Tocllaraju(19,796′), and Ischinca (18,143′).  We will also spend lots of time working on climbing skills.Tocllaraju will certainly be the crux of the trip. The route finishes with a 70 degree ice pitch at 19,000ft, which is sure to be a real challenge.   For the last mountain Trip participants will be chosen to lead in place of the guides.



Polar Star Inn (Hut Trip 2014)

In many states a winter hut trip would involve heading to pizza hut for a mediocre slice of pepperoni pie.  In Colorado it consists of treking through snow to a warm and cushy cabin deep in the backcountry.

Last year a group of us made an easy trip back to Continental Divide Cabin.  Since everyone had a blast we decided to pick a different hut and repeat the trip.  This year the group agreed to up the challenge, and go for a more remote hut.  We settled on Polar Star Inn which is a 17 person hut in the 10th Mountain Division Hut system.   We also convinced more people to join us getting the group size up to 11.

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