In 2004, Dave Lucas lead a Vertical World expedition through Ecuador and Peru. The objective was to explore the extensive unclimbed rock in the magnificent Cordillera Blanca range. The expedition was a success with some major new routes completed on the massif known locally as 'The Temple of Time'.
Peru's Cordillera Blanca is well known for its many mountaineering challenges, but rather less so for the numerous perfect boulders that lie strewn across the region's high meadows. These provided some initial distraction for our expedition, but it took very little effort to find oursleves in valleys previously unexplored by rock climbers, containing much bigger challenges. Not long after arriving in the area, we found ourselves driving south from Huaraz for a couple of hours in search of a mythical-sounding climbing area. The name of this place had been first whispered to us late one smoky night in Huaraz's famous 'Extreme Bar':
"The Temple Of Time"
After turning off the main road, we meandered our way up into the rolling hills. After an hour, we turned the corner and there, on the other side of the valley, was an incredible view of endless rock spires, walls and boulders. We had arrived at 'The Temple of Time’: we stopped the bus.
One of dozens of spectacular new climbs we established at 'The Temple Of Time'
We aimed for a cave amongst some of the most impressive walls to use as a base camp. A stream flowing ten meters from the cave provided a suitable bathroom, with clean water for drinking and washing. We set the hammocks up around the wall and erected a shelf to protect the food from goats. There was a fire in the centre and our kitchen to the left. The fire and stove warmed us with a homely glow that stopped at the cave entrance where the moonlit night took over. The silhouette of a jagged ridge on the opposite side of the valley could just be seen.
A traditional stone-and-straw shelter used by Andean nomads in the Cordillera Blanca
The next morning, in a bleary-eyed state I awoke and sat bolt upright trying to remember where I was. It came to me fast when my head smacked into the cave roof. I dragged myself from the sleeping bag and went in search of a cup of tea, and watched as the crags and the pinnacles came into the sun.
A superb impending arete on the lower plateaux of 'The Temple Of Time': one of numerous single-pitch discoveries in this region of the Cordillera Blanca
The next week was spent establishing new routes on numerous sections of the Massif. The upper plateaux was a labyrinth of boulders strewn amongst a tiny temporary settlement of nomadic Andean shepherds. The lower sides of this plateaux contain the highest cliffs, with walls up to 60m. This was where our expedition concentrated its new routing efforts, from soaring pocketed walls and sharp aretes, to dramatic open book corners and tufa featured grooves. The rock here harbours an amazing array of features, and holds the potential for an immense number of routes.
[above and below] Some of the other excellent routes we discovered at "The Temple Of Time"
El Esphinge - The Sphynx
The walls of the celebrated El Esphinge rise from 4,500m to well over 5,000m above sea level. The wall varies from 500m to the larger 900m south face. Some of the expedition team jumped onto the wall, while others took a break from climbing and trekked in and around the peaks of the Cordillera Blanca, and further south on the Inca Trail.
There are numerous routes on The Sphinx: the 'normal route' is a fantastic E3 that can be completed over a fairly leisurely two days, or in a (very) long day by a fast, lightweight party. From high on the face, the view down to the moraine is spectacular.
A very high proportion of the granite crags and walls in this area remain unclimbed.
The incredible high Alpine scenery of the Cordillera Blanca
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