Two More New Routes in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca

Reports are just surfacing of two new first ascents on Nevado Hualcan (6,122m), a peak in the Cordillera Blanca range.

The new alpine routes are among the latest additions to the region’s growing list of high-altitude FAs this season and only the second and third-ever attempts on Hualcan’s north face. The establishment of the twin routes on Hualcan came just two days after the Pou brothers’ FA last month, also in the Cordillera Blanca.

Photo: Stular Archive


On the morning of July 16, two separate parties tied in at the base of Hualcan’s north face. The smaller party, comprising Slovenians Matija Volontar and Bor Levicnik, chose Virtual Insanity (1,500m, M5), which trends to the eastern summit. Slovenian-Spanish trio Blaz Karner, Matevz Stular, and Aritza Monasterio took on Knights and Days (1,000m, VII, M5), starting from Hualcan’s north face, but ending on the peak’s western summit.

hualcan massif

Image: Google Satellite


One day later, both teams had successfully made their respective summits, claiming tandem first ascents in the process. But according to the climbers’ detailed reports, the push up previously uncharted Virtual Insanity was full of sketchy surprises.

A perilous push

Virtual Insanity

Virtual Insanity Photo: Stular Archive


Volontar and Levicnik had anticipated an easy, single-day run up the previously untested Virtual Insanity. What they found was quite the opposite. Inaccurate assumptions about features, steeper and warmer-than-anticipated conditions, and an unexpected whiteout made for a summit push that would turn the most delusional optimists into patron saints of Murphy’s Law.

The following excerpts are taken directly and in their original order from Volontar and Levicnik’s ascent report :

While climbing the first pitches of the NE ridge however, we quickly realised that we were moving way too slow to get anywhere near the summit in one day. The climbing was steep, sometimes even overhanging, with poor protection.

While we expected the next part of the ridge would provide mostly walking on cornices, we couldn’t have been more wrong. Instead we encountered massive snow mushrooms, that were almost impossible to cross…

What stands out the most on that second day is the last pitch, that was mentally the hardest. At least 20 m of almost vertical powder snow, with very little to grasp onto and no protection.

knights and days

Crack feature on Knights and Days. Photo: Stular Archive


The west-summit party had a notably less harrowing time. Their comparatively easy time might be owed to Monestario’s familiarity with the peak (the Spaniard climbed Hualcan’s north face in 2017), Knights and Days’ lower angle tendency, or a bit of both. And then there’s the elevation disparity. Virtual Insanity’s summit rises 500m above its western twin.

After rappelling down in a whiteout, all five alpinists safely reached solid ground. Photos and notes from both ascents are available through Stular’s archive.

virtual insanity on hualcan

Virtual Insanity. Photo: Stular Archive