New Route on Rarely Climbed 5,000m Peruvian Peak

Alpine style Climbing
steve meder edward saona peruvian andes sullcon nevado first ascent
Steve Meder and Edward Saona at the Sullcon Nevado southern summit. Photo: Steve Meder

In the Cordillera Central of Peru, A Peruvian-French team has forged the most difficult route to date up a rarely visited peak.

On August 9, Steve Meder, a 44-year-old Frenchman and 17-year resident of Peru, and 38-year-old Peruvian mountaineer Edward Saona established the Direct Southwest Face (our translation) of Nevado Sullcon. The route clocks in at 700m, M5/WI3+/AI3, taking a straightforward line to the summit on terrain up to 80 degrees.

Photo: Steve Meder, Edward Saona

Despite being only 100km away from Lima, Nevado Sullcon (and the Cordillera Central in general) doesn’t see much climbing. Meder and Saona’s ascent of its 5,650m south summit is just its fourth overall.

First ascent details

Meder and Saona scouted the Direct Southwest Face a month before making their FA push. On the day of the ascent, they left base camp at 3:30 a.m. and racked up at the base of the route two hours later.

After a few pitches of “intense” technical climbing that took around three hours, the team was committed to the summit. Saona reports the vast majority of the wall was solid water ice, which made the climbing sustained, and any leader fall potentially fatal.

nevado sullcon peruvian andes new route

Edward Saona on the Direct Southwest Face of Nevado Sullcon. Photo: Steve Meder

With tired calves, Meder and Saona crested the summit ridge after 10 hours of climbing. They picked their way to the nearby south summit through a path choked with penitentes, and topped out at 5:30 pm.

Nevado Sullcon summit peruvian andes penitentes

Penitentes guard the Nevado Sullcon summit. Photo: Edward Saona

After celebrating with an impressive sunset view, they descended safely via the shorter north summit (5,500m). With 17 hours of continuous activity under their belts, they arrived back at base camp.

cordillera central nevado sullcon summit view

The summit view from Nevado Sullcon. Photo: Steve Meder, Edward Saona

The Cordillera Central: adventurous mountaineering

The Cordillera Central is a tract of the Peruvian Andes located in the Junin region, a highlands area just east of Lima. Despite its urban proximity, an exploratory spirit still prevails in its mountains. Multiple 5,000m peaks (200 or more, according to some) have very few routes or overall ascents. Roads are few, hikes are long, and information is generally limited outside of the local climbing community.

Saona says a lot of climbers gravitate to the Cordillera Blanca, citing the numerous guided tours that already exist there. In the Cordillera Central, Saona and Meder are working with ZENDA Mountaineering to develop expedition infrastructure like food, muleteers and guides.

cordillera central peruvian andes first ascent

The Ausangate Mountains in the Peruvian Andes, near Cusco. Photo: Daniel Prudek

It’s been a busy 2021 winter season in the Peruvian Andes. The Pou brothers have set several new lines. Jaume Peiro and Alex Gonzalez ascended one of Peru’s toughest multi-pitch lines in the Cordillera Blanca. And an American-Colombian team made a notable FA on Concha Caracol.


About the Author

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson takes any writing assignments he can talk his way into while intermittently traveling the American West and Mexico in search of margaritas — er, adventure. He parlayed a decade of roving trade work into a life of fair-weather rock climbing and truck dwelling before (to his parents' evident relief) finding a way to put his BA in English to use. Sam loves animals, sleeping outdoors, campfire refreshments and a good story.

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Tadeu Graciolli Guimarães
Tadeu Graciolli Guimarães
1 month ago

Hi Sam. “Junin region, a highlands area just west of Lima.” Wouldn’t be “east” of Lima?

Jerry Kobalenko
1 month ago

Fixed, thanks.

Walter Rott
Walter Rott
1 month ago

Bien !!, Keeping alive the real spirit of climbing.