A unique and splendid ascent of the Mullu Apacheta massif

12 November 2020


This mountain was a real delight. The snow cover had something to do with it, but the place is really nice and enchanting. We gradually gained height from our camp. We then climbed up the passable track. The snow didn’t allow us to get in the car and it was a real pleasure to discover the snow-capped mountains at sunrise. The light was fantastic and the scenery idyllic. A real treat.

The carriageway stops at a pretty lagoon nestling in a cirque dominated by a glacier. A miners’ camp has been set up just below the glacier, at an altitude of 5125m. A rocky ridge rises above the glacier and forms our goal for the day. The climb up the mountainside is a leisurely one along the miners’ path. It’s incredible to think that miners climb to work on this mountain at these altitudes. Every day, they climb this little path through the rocky chaos. They cross the glacier as we do to reach the caverns dug for the mine in the rocky bar above the glacier.

At this time of year, perhaps because of the snow, the camp was abandoned. But Hugo had met some miners a year earlier, during the summer. In October, we enter summer and therefore the rainy season. This is our Andean winter, and living in a mine at an altitude of more than 5,100 metres and under the snow is quite difficult. This may explain why the camp is abandoned, unless they have finished mining the rock.

Crossing the glacier is a real pleasure. We continue to gain height and all the peaks in the distance come into view: JanquUyu, Janqu Laya, Chachacomani….a real feast for the eyes. The slopes are fairly gentle and we make good progress to the foot of the rocky bar. I discover the caves dug into the rock by the miners. I’m impressed by this mammoth task. We still have to remain vigilant to avoid a huge crevasse. We mustn’t let our guard down and be fooled by the tranquil appearance of the place. Mists start to appear and make us quicken our pace. It would be a shame not to see anything at the summit.

The stress builds, the pace quickens and so does the heartbeat. We took off our crampons in no time at all and climbed up the unstable rocks. There’s a lot of movement in this rocky chaos. We had to try and clear the road at the same time. We tipped over some large boulders to stabilise the route. At the same time, I get hit on the shin by a rock… more fear than harm. We reach the ridges fairly quickly.

Luck is smiling on us. The mists give us a clear view of the surrounding mountains. On the other side of the mountain, we discover mountains that are still unknown to us. This opens up new avenues of exploration. It’s really splendid. There’s only room for one person on the summit peak. Hugo is savouring and observing the scenery. Today, the Cordillera is offering us a festival of beauty.