Late Fall in the Andes: A New Route, a Third Ascent, and a Fatal Accident

Although winter has almost arrived in Peru, several teams are still climbing in the Andes.  We have successes to report but also a tragedy.

The National Team of Excellence in Alpinism (GEAN), a selection of promising young climbers supported by France’s Alpine Club, passed its final test in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca with honors: Clovis Paulin, Amaury Fouillade, Annabelle Bouchardon, Victor Garcin, Manu Brechignac, and Martin de Truchis, with coaches Stephane Benoist and Mathieu Detrie, have opened a new route on 6,188m Nevado Copa. They also repeated 5,830m Taullijaru.

Benoist told Montagnes Magazine that since Peru requires no climbing permits, the team went to the Cordillera without a specific goal. They divided into smaller teams to acclimatize on a series of 5,000’ers, then coalesced into two groups for larger objectives.

New route

Mathieu Detrie, with Amaury Fouillade, Clovis Paulin, and Annabelle Bouchardon, headed for the Fowler-Watts route on Taulliraju. Meanwhile, Stephane Benoist, Manu Brechignac, Victor Garcin, and Martin de Truchis targeted the south side of Nevado Copa. There is only one route up the peak, opened by Spaniards Jordi Corominas, Oriol Baro, and Enrique Munoz in 2007.

The French were uncertain what conditions they would find since there was a lot of snow on the glacier. South faces in the Andes are similar to north sides in the northern hemisphere — cold and shady.

The snow cover on the face was good, with old ice under a layer of fresh snow that permitted them to secure their pitches securely. They also found an excellent midway bivy point.

The hardest pitch of the route happened to be the last, at 6,150m, when the climbers struggled with altitude. Yet all the team safely topped out and returned down.

Route marked in red on a photo of Nevado Copa

Topo of the new French route, called Shadow of a Doubt, on Nevado Copa. Photo: GEAN/FFME


Meanwhile, the second group took three days and two bivies to complete the third ascent of a route opened in 1982 by UK aces Mick Fowler and Chris Watts.

The French may be young, but some of them are hardly rookies. Clovis, in particular, has attempted K7 in the Karakoram and free-climbed the monster Directissime de la Point Walker (ED++ 7a) in winter, together with Symon Welfringer and Charles Dubouloz.

Italian climber perishes in fall

On a somber note, Italian guide Tomas Franchini died while climbing Nevado Cashan with Cristobal Senoret of Chile. The accident occurred when Franchini stepped out of the bivouac tent where the pair had spent the night, and the rock and snow cornice on which he stood collapsed, PlanetMountain reports.

Franchini, 35, was an outstanding climber from Italy’s Brenta Dolomites, with several remarkable ascents in the Alps, Andes, and Patagonia.

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.