Cerveza, Pan y Ácido: An FA on Peru’s Concha de Caracol

On July 13, Andres Marin, Alex Torres, and Anna Pfaff shivered through an unplanned bivy 5,500m up the Concha de Caracol in Peru. The two Colombians and the American had spent the previous day pushing through difficult, 90° snow in very little sun. The three things they wish they had at their inhospitable bivy? Cerveza, Pan y Ácido.

The next day, they would name their new route after their (somewhat irregular) overnight wishes.

The new line, with bivy marked.

The Quest for Cerveza, Pan y Ácido

Situated in the Andes‘ Vilcanota range, Cerveza, Pan y Ácido (700m, ED, 90°) takes an enticing line just right of the obvious arete on the formation’s south face. It won’t be one the climbers will soon forget.

Pfaff describes the climbing as both “difficult” and “engaging.” Marin’s description, in keeping with his irrepressible sense of humor, includes the death’s head emoji.

“We had a few moments where we didn’t know if the pitch would go or the difficult snow conditions would turn us around,” Marin told ExplorersWeb. “We stayed focused and committed and were able to pull it off.”

It’s beyond doubt that the group’s decades of combined alpine and ice experience were instrumental to their safety on the vertical terrain. Perusing the team’s photos, the only non-four-letter word I can think of for the surface conditions on the route is, “Yikes”.

alex torres on concha de caracol

Torres negotiates thin cover. Photo: Anna Pfaff

But the trio successfully punched through the chute after a long day of climbing and an arduous final vertical pitch that took two hours. Facing a rapidly-oncoming 12-hour night, the team decided to make an open bivy.

Along with the route name, overnight conditions at around 5,500m produced frigid appendages, according to Marin. 

the three climbers rest at their bivy ledge

“Our toes got pretty frozen!” — Andres Marin. Photo: Anna Pfaff

Unsurprisingly, the team started climbing early the next day. They summited in short order and promptly returned via the line of ascent. 

Only two previous ascents, and never that line

Concha de Caracol (“Snail Shell”) was first climbed by a German team in 1972. In 2019, it received another FA from a prolific Catalan team led by Oriol Baró. Pfaff, Marin, and Torres’ new route climbs opposite the arete from that line, called Via Pirenaica (550m, TD+).

The team credits Peruvian climber Thomas Schilter and Cusco-based mountain guide Nate Heald with ground support for the climb.

After the ascent, the three alpinists planned to recover by imbibing some of the route’s namesake indulgences. “Time to warm up the toes and enjoy some Piscos,” Pfaff said via Instagram.

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A post shared by Anna Pfaff (@pfaff_anna)

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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Alexander Greenwald
Alexander Greenwald
9 months ago

Pretty certain Nate Heald and compadre Luis Crispin climbed Caracol, traversed over Concha de Caracol and then climbed Puca Punta. And reversed the route on descent.

Andres Marin
Andres Marin
9 months ago

Yeah they did!! And it was a great climb from their part. Nate gave us information about this climb. In fact, he and Luis try the exact same route that we did but they were short of completing it. Luis did our logistics and he was waiting for us at BC when we came down.

Alexander Greenwald
Alexander Greenwald
9 months ago
Reply to  Andres Marin

The Crispin family are some of the coolest people on this planet plus Nate!