5/26/05 Well hello friends, family, friends of the family, etc. For those of you wondering who the hell is sending you an email about peru, This is Bryan and Im in Peru. If these emails turn out to be dreadfully boring feel free to block my email or something and i promise not to be offended, unless of course you are my parent or my sister. If so im pretty sure your forced to read these.
So for most of the last week and a half i have been hanging out in the wonderful Andean city of Huaraz with two friends and attempting to eat my body weight in chicken on a daily basis. We have a beautiful apartment with a roof top terrace and a view of the 6000 meter plus peaks of the Cordillera Blanca. The city itself has got it all, from endless open markets to plenty of friendly locals to practice spanish with to transvestites selling packs of bubble gum, and of course the single greatest chicken establishment known to human civilization. When not eating chicken or digesting chicken we have managed to sample the basketball scene and a few of the local discotecs. The end result being a thorough humiliation by peruvians roughly half our size on the court(obviouly a result of the altitude...at least thats the story we are giving to the press), and a demonstration of that most noble of American dances, the robot. But currently Huaraz and its pollerias are on hold as i am with a group of Pittsburgh geologists in the northern city of Cajamarca. I met up with them yesterday after spending an interesting night on a park bench in the small town of Casma. They had been slightly delayed by a few run ins with PeruÂ´s impeccable police force, leaving them a couple hundred soles lighter in the pocket. Eventually we did get together and started driving up the central coast which is generally a dry, dusty, and incredibly polluted place. Some of the cities are so completely choked with a dense sulphurous fog its a wonder people live to see their 20s. But this gave way to the mountains as we closed in on Cajamarca and the driving became spectacular. Steep, cactus laden hillsides and lush green valleys. Really amazing terrain. The road itself was a bit sketchy what with all the trucks, cliffs, and blind curves, but in all truth not nearly as bad as I had heard. Tomarrow we will being coring some high lakes and then in about a week its back to Huaraz and into the mountains. Ill do my best to work up some entertaining stories. Bryan
6/6/05 Well hello again family and friends. I have managed to avoid deportation for yet another week and so the news just keeps on keeping on. For the past 7 days (at least thats what they tell me, those figures have not been fact checked) I have been drivng all over northern Peru in the back seat of a Toyota pickup truck pounding plastic cylinders into the bottoms of lakes. In the process it has become clear to me that the designer of said truck was horribly wronged by an individual with long legs and made it his life´s goal to inflict severe discomfort on such persons. There is no other explanation for placing the seat exactly 2.5 inches from the floor. But I did get to see a lot of Peru´s very beautiful northern Andes, which is all high tundra, farmlamd, remote little towns, and of course the occasional massive strip mine. I was tagging along with a geologist and three archaelogists from the university of pittsburgh, two of whom were Peruvians, with the goal of obtaining cylinders of lake sediment that could be analyzed for climate data and/or evidence of metal work in the region. The sediment rates in these high lakes are pretty slow and a few meters of sediment could go back thousands of years. The basic routine involved a lot of driving on Peru´s rural road system which always provided an adventure whether you wanted or not. We would then carry a bunch of stuff to the lake of interest, inflate a boat, go get ourselves a lake core, and drive to the nearest town to look for food and a place with a garage for the truck. More often than not this fairly simple series of events was complicated by one thing or another. Many of these lakes happended to be situated next to absolutely enormous, mostly Canadian and American owned, gold and silver mines (one Canadian gold mine we passed is the 5th largest mine in the world). This tended to create probelms for a group of Geologists looking to core lakes. The mines are super paranoid about people trying to steal mining secrets and the ranchers near the mines are super paranoid about people from the mining companies totally screwing them in any way possible. For the most part once we showed the farmers our student ids and explained to them what we were doing they were completely fine with it. If the lake was near a village or some houses the locals would all come out to watch the not particulary interesting process of coring lakes. In the lower agricultural areas they were often very nice and would help us carry the boats and equipment and such. Yet at one lake in particular this was not quite the case. On some government land adjacent to a large silver mine we had set up and were out on the boat coring a lake accessed by a particulary interesting road, somewhat late in the day, and with a questionable amount of gas left in the tank. Figuring ourselves in a remote area and no houses in sight we were slighly surprised to spot a goup of ten or twelve folks heading toward our truck and the two Peruvians in our group waiting at shore. As we would soon find out these folks weren´t exactly there for the show. While not being particulary threatening or aggressive they did in fact carry large sticks, sticks with nails in them to be precise. So for the next two hours or so some impressive negotiations took place. They wanted us to appear before some village council to decide whether we could keep the mud and we wanted them to let us drive back to town. With much arguing and a vicous toung lashing from Rosio, one of the archaologists, they reduced their request to simply giving them 50 soles. All in all they got 10 soles from us, about 3 dollars, and off we went. Yet its hard to blame people living in mining country for being a bit suspicious and hostil after passing through a few mining towns and getting a look at the rivers flowing out of them. In Peru no great efforts are made to hide the horrific amounts of toxic waste being pumped into the local water supplies. One river river no more then 10 feet off a major road and flowing out of a US owned silver mine became so thick with the wonderful byproducts of progress rocks didn´t skip they stuck. You could actually feel the tumors growing just standing next to the thing. But these are relatively small areas. Generally the area is beautiful rolling farmland and friendly people. Thats just not the exciting stuff. I am now back in Huaraz and getting ready to head off for some backpacking with the two fellas i flew down with. Take care all. Bryan
6/18/05 This is Bryan reporting back at you from wonderful Peru, Well the hiking/climbing phase of the trip has officially begun, and has so far netted one success and one complete failure. I´ll try to keep it light on the climbing details as I realize most of you probably couldn´t care less if you tried. For the few who are interested in this stuff i would be more than happy to go into it at a later date. So for the first little foray into the hills Sean, Andy, and yours truly threw some excessively large packs onto our backs and hiked/stumbled into a popular camp located at the head of a beautiful valley containing some very large mountains. Here we were met with multiple groups of ten or more people, complete with hired chefs, two burner propane stoves and dining room tables at which to feast. Not to mention the fairly large stone refugio at the base of our proposed climb that was equipped with a front porch and a full bar. Needless to say I contemplated the various benefits of employing donkeys on the approach hike as i settled into a little cave with my bivy sack, two peruvians, and sore legs. The next day was a rest day to recover from the approach that had fairly well beaten us down. So the three of us mostly sat around looking at the very impressive mountains, ate, and read(im pretty sure sean and andy even managed a day hike). At some point a donkey demolished our cashew supply(which happens to be one of the only food items that is expensive down here) and we launched a failed campaign to claim departing groups extra rations. Day three found me and sean waking up at 6;30 and dragging our butts up a relatively easy peak(Urus, about 5400 meters) as Andy laughed at us and drank coffee in base camp. A fun climb with amazing panoramic views of some of the cordillera blanca`s largest peaks. This trip was then topped off with another day lounging and the hike out. So after doing some laundry and eating some guinea pig back in good old Huaraz, Sean and I prepared to set off for another valley and another mountain (Vallanaraju) as Andy got his things in order to travel around southern Peru for a while. As it turned out, trip two did not go nearly as smoothly as trip one. Our misadventure began as we bumped into a cab driver a block from our apartment building, and proceeded to inquire about a ride into a valley named Llaca. The guy seemed to be knowledgeable as he described the surrounding valleys, informing us the road into Llaca was impassable. This being the case he offered us a ride to the mouth of an adjacent valley, at a reasonable price, from where the walk into Llaca was ¨20 minutes¨ followed by ¨an hour and a half to the end of the valley¨. We discussed this offer briefly and took the ride. Six hours and 2500 to 3000 feet of elevation later we found ourselves at the end of the surprisingly well maintained road that goes right to the end of the valley. So we reached the start of the ¨approach¨, having been passed along the way by numerous weighed down minivan like vehicles, exhausted and viciously cursing the life of our friendly taxi driver. It was here we set up camp for the night, right next to the guides hut at the end of the frickin highway leading up the valley, and taught some English to the nice guy manning the hut. Taking into account the roughly three days of food we expected to need, the decision was made to set out a little before 4 the next morning and do the approach and climb in the same day. The helpful young peruvian guide pointed out the well travelled approach trail and off we went the next morning. Unfortunately we did not have the useful information that there are two big routes on the mountain and thus two approach routes. This was realized sometime around 7:30 am as sean looked at me, I looked at him, and we both looked at the unrecognizable mass of rock and snow ahead of us that in no way resembled our handy photos, maps, route descriptions. Not quite sure what had happened we sat around our high point for a few hours eating crackers and talking about how great thanksgiving is. We then descended our mysterious approach route and hitched a ride back to Huaraz the next day (for half the price is cost to get dropped off six hours away) without knowing for sure whether we had ever even found the damn mountain we intended to climb. I have since decided to chalk the whole experience up to learning or acclimatizing or training, take your pick. As usual i write this from Huaraz with a stomach filled with juice, pollo, and pie. Bryan ps thanks to all who sent back family news and such
7/9/05 Ok folks. So you haven´t hear from me in a while but that is due soley to the fact that the Pitt web server has decided to delete the last two, very long and time consuming, group emails that i have written. This has infuriated me and made me a generally bitter person when it comes to writing emails. So I now sit down and prepare to write what will likely be a mere shadow of the greatness that was those deleted messages. Also for past month and a week or something I havent really been doing much besides climbing and attempting to recover from climbing, which may result in this being decidedly unentertaining to all but the handful of people on this list interested in such things. With all that said here is a run down on the past few weeks, and if this gets inexplicably deleted i will be declaring a compassionless war on email servers worldwide. North Face of Quitaraju; Andy headed off to travel down south while me and sean got our act together to go attempt this climb. The highlights were as follows actually got ourselves mules this time which made the two day trip to base camp considerably nicer. Unfortunately yours truly, Bryan P Friedrichs, managed to forget the tent poles to our one and only tent. This resulted in night one being spent in a cave used to store beer with our mule driver, his brother, the guy who lived in the cave, sean, and me. A bit cramped but pretty dry and warm. The rest of the trip I slept in shoddy leantos constructed from our rainfly and whatever was around. Sean slept in a bivy sack and probably spent a considerable amount of his time cursing my name. From basecamp in a popular valley named Santa Cruz it was a difficult two days to get up and over a high pass(about 5500 meters) to a glacier camp near the base of the climb. This was made a bit more unpleasant by the hours of driving rain that got us nice and wet during the night in base camp. The first leg was steep hiking up boulder fields and moraines to the base of the hanging glacier guarding the pass. Despite some nasty looking clouds it didn´t rain or snow this night. The next day had us heading up and over the glacier. This was mainly hiking but the last section steepened and included about two pitches of maybe 55 degree snow and ice. It took a little over four hours to get to our camp for the night but by this time we were pretty exhausted what with the altitude, having run out of water, and the days of hard work that were adding up. So it was here we settled in for the night, melting up lots of water on the stove and stringing the rain fly in between a couple of snow pickets. Then just as we were preparing to crawl into sleeping bags the climbign gods decided a few inches of snow were in order. Basically I wouldn´t characterize this as the most restful night of sleep in my life, which may have actually made convincing myself to get out from under the wet rainfly at 3 30 am to start the damn climb a little easier. And that brings us to the climb. We got moving towards the base of the face at 4 30, crossing the bergshrund and starting the route at 7 00 or so. The climb was a beautiful direct line up the center of the face, consisting of 45 to 55 degree snow. Most of the time we simulclimbed, occassionally switching leads when the snow pickets ran out and gained the summit ridge at 12, completely exhausted. This marked the highpoint of our trip being at about 6000 meters (19500 feet) and was pretty damn cool. We soaked up the views for a while, looked at the tromp accross the ridge to gain the true summit and said screw that lets get the hell down. The long process of rappelling the face and hiking back to glacier camp had us stumbling back to our respective rain fly and bivy sack at 5 pm, having been on the move for 12 hours. By this time we were just completely wasted physically and mentally, unwilling to do much of anything besides sit down in the snow and stare. By this time a large guided group with porters and big ass tents had rolled into glacier camp and definately got a kick out of me and sean with our sunburn, total lack of movement or speech, and rain fly shelter. At some point I did manage to melt some snow and make a little soup then it was back under the fly for an unpleasant night of waking up on bare snow because the big group had taken all the flat tent sites and i kept sliding around. Thankfully the climb had sufficiently tired out sean enough to prevent him from launching an attack on me for forgetting the tent poles. It took another two days to get out of the valley and into the city of Caraz where we feasted on guinea pig and avoided walking at all costs. This trip was easily the most physically demanding thing I have ever done and quite the experience. Upon stepping into our apartment in Huaraz I was officially and completely drained and basically spent the next few days within two blocks of our place, dragging myself out of bed only when hunger necessitated it. Then after five days or so, both of us just beginnning to recover, we attempeted to head back into the hills to a mountain called Chopicalci. Feeling fine physically, neither of us had it going on mentally. We dragged full packs all the way up to a glacier camp at 5300 meters(with a tent this time), just a 1000 meters and a few hours below the summit. That night we looked at each other and realized neither of us actually wanted to climb this thing so we slept in, packed up our stuff and went back down to get chicken in Huaraz. After another 5 days in Huaraz we are feeling good and have decided on one more trip that were pretty pumped about. After that its good bye to the Andys and time to fatten up for a while in Huaraz. Andy and Sean are flying back to the States at the end of July, but a friend of mine, Dave, is coming down around then and ill be travelling with him for a while before heading back. Take care all Bryan