Legendary Japanese mountaineer Yasushi Yamanoi, with Masaru Noda, has climbed two technically demanding routes in Peru's Cordillera Huayhuash, a first and second ascent.
After acclimatizing in the Cordillera Blanca with an ascent of the southwest face of Piramide de Garcilaso (5,885m), the pair travelled quickly by local buses to the village of Cajatambo at the southern end of the Huayhuash.
From there they walked up the east side to the unclimbed southeast face of Puscanturpa Este (5,410m).
The Puscanturpa group is different in character from the rest of the Huayhuash peaks, in that it is composed of vertically collimated volcanic rock called lithic tuff.
Yamanoi had visualized the line for three years, through the lower rock wall and up steep snow and mixed ground above.
The two climbed the 800m face with one bivouac, reaching the summit mid morning of the second day. A crack system led through the lower wall of excellent rock, above which unstable sugar snow and friable rock gave the pair a hard time.
The route was named Qiumplirgun Swerminganta and graded ED3, UIAA VII, M5+ and A1.
This was most likely only the fourth ascent of Puscanturpa East, which was first climbed in 1986 via the 450m northwest ridge by three members of John Nixon's British expedition. The ridge had previously been attempted by Germans.
Two other members attempted the far more imposing east face. Faced with very loose rock and a probable hanging bivouac, they retreated.
The mountain seemingly lay unvisited for the next 20 years, then in 2007 the strong Slovenian team of Pavle Kozjek and Grega Kresel took up the challenge of the east face. They found clean cracks, excellent friction but sections spiced with large loose blocks
They climbed 10 pitches (VII+ and 70°) to the summit ridge and scrambled along this to the highest point, naming their 600m line Stonehenge.
In 2012 Dutch climbers Vincent van Beek, Bas van der Smeede and Bas Visscher, followed two days later by Elly van der Plas and Saskia van der Smeede, climbed one pitch up Stonehenge and then made a rising traverse across the unclimbed north face to the summit, naming their line Poco Loco (ca 600m, TD, VI+).
After their ascent, Noda and Yamanoi moved to the 700m southeast face of Trapecio (5,663m), which sports three prominent couloirs. The left had been climbed twice to a junction with the Italian route high on the south ridge; in 1986 by Jim Donini and Jack Tackle, and then again in 1997 by four French, who thought the route unclimbed and named it Rouflaquette Nationale (650m, TD+, WI5+). This line has not been completed to the summit.
The central line was famously soloed by Jeff Lowe in 1985, ice smears through the top rock barrier providing three demanding pitches, the crux WI6+.
Lowe reported the ice to be the most difficult and insecure he had ever soloed. Suitably shattered and psychologically drained, he did not continue up the remaining 150m of what appeared to be straightforward ground to the summit, but instead rappelled.
In 2003 two Peruvians climbed to Lowe's high point but also retreated and it was left to Slovenians Branko Ivanek, Pavle Kozjek and Miha Lamprecht, together with Peruvian resident Aritza Monasterio, to complete the job.
The face was dry and these four had to use aid to get through the lower rock band. The rotten ice on Lowe's crux proved impossible, so they traversed 30m right and climbed an overhanging chimney at F5. Other than that they found pitches of A2, M5 and WI5/6, giving the route and overall grade of ED3.
Thinking the right-hand couloir still virgin, the Japanese climbed it in a 14-hour push, then descended the much easier north side with one bivouac. Whilst the lower section was 50-70°, the crux was steep ice and loose mixed terrain at the top of the face. They named the route Magic Bell (700m, ED3, AI6 and M5).
However, they were unaware of what appears to be a remarkable ascent in 2006, when Spanish climbers José Manuel Fernandez and Miguel Angel Pita climbed this line to the summit snow slopes at V/4+. The last pitch was an 85° icefall.
For whatever reason they decided to descend their line without visiting the summit, and on the fourth rappel a snow stake pulled and Fernandez fell to his death, taking the ropes with him.
With no way down, Pita sat on a small icy ledge for 12 hours and then climbed unroped back up the route to the summit, subsequently descending the northwest ridge.
The route was named Los Viejos Roqueros Nunca Mueren (Old Rockclimbers never die).
The two Japanese ascents are all the more impressive for the fact that in 2002 Yamanoi, one of Japan's greatest mountaineers, lost a total of five fingers on both hands and all of the toes on his right foot as a result of bad weather during a bold alpine-style ascent and descent of the Slovenian Route on the north face of the Tibetan 7,952m Gyachung Kang.
Thanks to Sevi Bohorquez, Hiro Hagiwara and Erik Rieger for help with this report.