Skiing in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca: Artesonraju (Paramount Peak)

Lee Lyon | Post Tag for ClimbingClimbingPost Tag for BackcountryBackcountry

This May and June I had the opportunity to join a trip to try and ski some high peaks in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca. This report is from the second part of our trip: an attempt to ski Artesonraju. For the first part, our adventure into the Quebrada Ishinca, CLICK HERE.


After being thwarted on Tocllaraju, we retreated to Huaraz to take showers and eat massive amounts of parilla. With a couple days of recuperation, it was time to head back into the mountains to go for our primary goal on the trip: Artesonraju.


Arteson 1


Arteson 1a
All that, plus four people into the taxi. Simon joined us for this trip.


Artesonraju is truly an impressive mountain. It is well known as the peak from the Paramount Pictures logo, but in my opinion, it should replace Alpamayo as the “most beautiful mountain in the world” (especially for skiers). Viewed from pretty much any aspect, it is a perfect, steep, knife-edged pyramid. It also has three incredible potential ski lines: the southeast, south, and northeast aspects.


Arteson 2a
Artesonraju’s northeast face, from Alpamayo basecamp. The Paramount Logo angle.


Artesonraju’s south face in the sun, our southest face in the shade. Sure is pretty.


Our goal was the aesthetically simple southeast face: a perfect planar ramp, which stays between 45 and 50 degrees for it’s entire length (except the summit serac / cornice which is a bit steeper). We had all been dreaming about skiing this one for quite some time.


Arteson 3
Last one, I promise. But she looks so good.


Donkeys were not an option for carrying gear up to moraine camp for Arteson in the Quebrada Paron. Time to harden up: 75lb packs, 7 hours, up to over 16,000 feet. Upon arrival, it was a quick dinner, and straight to bed for an early morning summit try.


Arteson 4
Heavy packs, long approaches.


Arteson 4a
Crossing rivers, halfway there.


Arteson 4b
Moraine camp.


At 2am the stars were out, and we were getting our chance. We cooked breakfast, skinned across the glacier, and reached the bottom of the face at 5am. Then the real slog began. We were the first ones on Artesonraju for the season, and had been warned we may be climbing in deep powder. We encountered various forms of unconsolidated powder with a thick breakable wind crust.


Arteson 5
A big, bright full moon made negotiating the moraine and glacier much easier.


Our progress was reasonable, but the face is deceptively long. We were really giving everything, knowing that these few hours were the moments we had been training for the past few months. As we approached the summit, pressure on the altimeter began to plummet, and we could see angry looking clouds building on the other side of the ridge.


Arteson 6
Stairway to heaven. Or maybe the slog from hell.


Just below the summit serac, we had to make the difficult but necessary decision to turn around. It appeared that weather was headed our way, and no one was looking to repeat Joe Simpson’s mistakes in the neighboring Cordillera Huayhash. So, we clicked into skis, and began a fantastic ski descent. Good snow, steep and exposed, must-make jump turns, gasping for air – this was the fully challenging ski experience that I had hoped to find in Peru.


A POV video from the descent.


Arteson 7a
Halfway in on a fantastic ski descent.


While missing the summit of Arteson was disappointing, we skied the main face from more or less the top. As skiers, I think we all felt very pleased with a beautiful descent of the length of the main ski line.


Arteson 8
Shattered. Sleepy time.


After a great ski, we arrived back at camp completely exhausted. Although it was still only early afternoon, we all feel asleep, and didn’t wake till late the next morning. Then it was time to pack up our huge packs and make the long slog home.


Arteson 9
Tired and happy and headed for home.

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7 thoughts on “Skiing in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca: Artesonraju (Paramount Peak)

  1. Superb report! The peak keeps changing – in 1988, following Valençant’s previous first descent, there were no seracs, just a steeper top section, so we had no problem skiing from the very summit.

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