First Ascent of the East Wall of the ‘Touching the Void’ Peak

Two Catalan climbers have set a new route on the East Face of 6,344m Siula Grande, the Andean peak featured in the classic mountaineering book, Touching the Void. They climbed the difficult east wall for the first time, rating it 7b, A3, AI5, M6, 1,100m. The pair named their new route Anima de Corall.

route map up the east wall

Their route up the east wall. Photo: Marc Toralles

 

Project started three years ago

Marc Toralles, Bru Busom, and a third climber, Roger Cararach Soler, first attempted this project three years ago. They had to abort the ascent in the middle because of constant rockfall. One rock even struck Cararach Soler on the arm.

This year, at the end of June, Toralles and Busom returned to finish what they’d started in 2019. They did the route alpine style between July 11-16.

The route started by Toralles, Busom, and Cararach Soler three years ago is now complete. Photo: Marc Toralles

 

Tension

“It has been six days of great tension, trying to climb during the afternoon, when there was less ice and rockfall,” Toralles told ExplorersWeb.

Climber on a vertical wall

A dangerous ascent, with constant rockfall. Photo: Marc Toralles

 

Both big wall and alpine styles

They climbed the difficult first part of the wall in big-wall style. The second part allowed them to stop dragging the gear bag, so they continued alpine-style, with just one backpack each.

four scenes from the climb

Toralles and Busom during the climb. Photo: Marc Toralles

 

An aesthetic ridge then took them to the final section, from which they tearfully reached the summit of Siula Grande.

A happy selfie atop Siula Grande

Marc Toralles and Bru Busom on the summit of Siula Grande. Photo: Marc Toralles/Bru Busom

 

 

“This has been the most demanding climb we have ever done because of the difficulty and exposure that we had to deal with all the time,” recalled Toralles. “We don’t dare quantify the commitment of the route, but often our fate depended on luck.”

The huge east wall of Siula Grande. Photo: Marc Toralles

 

Dislocated shoulder

 

When they were just about to reach the top, Busom dislocated his shoulder.  Despite this, they managed to descend safely. Busom is already on analgesics, as they wait for a flight back to Spain.

Marc Toralles says that what they did is not so important, but he is justifiably proud of how they did it.

On Anima De Corall. Photo: Marc Toralles

 

A second team on the East Face

A second group, consisting of Italians Matteo Della Bordella, Stefano Cordaro, Alessandro Zeni, Marco Majori, and Filip Babitz began their approach to the base camp of Siula Grande on June 27.

The Italian team. Photo: Matteo Della Bordella

 

Their original objective is to open a new route on the East Face via a direct line that passes through the middle of the enormous central wall.

Steep rock climbing

The Italian team at work. Photo: Matteo Della Bordella

 

On July 11, Della Bordella, Zeni, Majori, and Cordaro reached the foot of the rock “shield” at 5,400m. From here, they opened a difficult 100m section in temperatures between -5˚ and -10˚C.

That week, good weather days alternated with others lashed by cold and wind. In the end, they decided to descend to base camp to wait for another window.

Three days ago, the Italians had to “make a difficult but unanimous decision”. They gave up climbing their line because of constant rockfall along the route.

Three photos of steep snow climbing

One of the snow-covered sections of ‘Anima de Corall’. Photo: Marc Toralles

However, they have identified an alternate line, where the rock looks good. They are working on this line now.

 

Illness, one down

In the meantime, one of the team, Filip Babitz, fell ill. Although he has recovered after 10 days on antibiotics, he doesn’t feel up to continuing.

Filip Babitz in hospital, with friend

Filip Babitz of the Italian team. Photo: Filip Babitz

 

Overview of Siula Grande

Siula Grande lies in the Cordillera de Huayhuash in the Peruvian Andes. Austrians Arnold Awerzger and Erwin Schneider made its first ascent on July 28, 1936 via the north ridge.

The mountain became famous after the 1985 disaster/survival epic documented in the book and film Touching The Void. It happened during Joe Simpson and Simon Yates’ first ascent of the West Face.

The first ascent of the East Pillar/Southeast Ridge by Max Bonniot and Didier Jourdain. Photo: Max Bonniot/Didier Jourdain for the American Alpine Club

 

East Pillar/Southeast Ridge

In 2016, two French climbers from the Groupe Militaire de Haute Montagne, Max Bonniot and Didier Jourdain, managed to climb the East Pillar/Southeast Ridge route on the east side of Siula Grande. They did not climb the east wall itself. The photo below shows both the Catalans’ route and the French route (in red).

 

Often Bonniot and Jourdain climbed together, without anything to secure them, but problem-solved their way to the summit on August 27 (ED,1,400m, 6c, WI5).

The French ‘Le Bruit des Glacons’ route on the East Face of Siula Grande. Photo: Max Bonniot for American Alpine Club

 

South Face attempt

This comparatively busy season, a third group attempted the mountain as well. Omar Asserbekov of Kazakhstan and Marius Gruzauskas of Switzerland tried to climb the South Face by a new route, alpine style. But after five days on the face, they decided July 7 to pack it in until next year.

Omar Asserbekov and Marius Gruzauskas. Photo: Baglan Zhunus

Kris Annapurna

KrisAnnapurna is a writer with ExplorersWeb.

Kris has been writing about history and tales in alpinism, news, mountaineering, and news updates in the Himalaya, Karakoram, etc., for the past year with ExplorersWeb. Prior to that, Kris worked as a real estate agent, interpreter, and translator in criminal law.

Now based in Madrid, Spain, she was born and raised in Hungary.