Summitting Yanapaccha in Peru

After three years spent creating our new alpaca puffer, our founder put it to the test on a summit with Jose Mostajo in the Cordillera Blanca.

Last week, I stood on the summit of Yanapaccha (translated from Quechua as “black waterfall”) in the Cordillera Blanca of Peru.

Having spent the past three years working on a new alpaca insulation (and puffer jacket), I needed to put it to the test. The goal was to get out of the office and into the great outdoors for which this was created.

The idea to summit a nevado in Peru started earlier this year when I was introduced to Jose Mostajo, a Peruvian mountaineer and photographer. I was drawn to Jose’s journey, showcasing parts of Peru that I didn't even know existed. Our original plan was to summit in August; however, the trip kept getting pushed back due to revisions on the insulation, trying to perfect it, trial after trial. Jose was about to leave and our summit was down to the wire - I literally carried the final jacket prototype for Jose on an overnight bus to Huaraz after flying into Peru.

We took a long bus-ride into the Huascaran National Park, and were dropped off at a trailhead where we proceeded to hike into basecamp. Upon arrival, we had a good view of the mountain (with ominous clouds behind it). It began hailing and we took shelter in a propped up tent. Once the clouds passed, we anchored a rope and practiced rappelling. I felt the altitude.

We ate dinner and talked through our summit approach. As it was, we were already past season and the snow storms were hitting. That meant that we would have no steps to follow, and we'd need to rely on the guides experience to locate and cross potential crevasses.

Our alarms sounded at 2am, not that any of us slept much, and we pounded coffee + PBJs (key tip: throw 10 coca teas into your jug of water). We threw on our boots, layered up, and began walking. The stars and moon were illuminating Yanapaccha, radiating a calm and silent presence that reminded me why I was there.

After a short scramble through the moraine, we reached the foot of the glacier. We started with a steep ice wall as the entrance to the glacier of the West Face. Crampons and pickaxes came out.

Man climbing a mountain in a jacket in the dark. Another picture of a man in a tent with a headlamp giving a shaka Man climbing a mountain in a jacket in the dark. Another picture of a man in a tent with a headlamp giving a shaka

After the ice pitch, we traversed across the broken glacier. The next few hours had us navigating and making our own path, given that the track had been completely wiped by fresh snow. This also meant taking more caution around crevasses, which were now partly or completely hidden compared to earlier in the season.

As soon as you hit snow, your foundation of stability changes. From there on, you become a part of the mountain - in many ways, you give your faith to it.

We roped up, careful to always maintain tension between each person. If you lose that, and someone breaks into a crevasse, it can pull the whole group down. Every person you go on the trip with matters. Noah and I found a great rhythm, step by step.

As the glacier steepened, the snow became faceted and hard to climb. I remembered what a mentor had told me - “go slow to go fast.” Every time I measured our distance against the moonlit summit, it seemed as if we’d never get there. And every time I focused on the present, we made progress - ice axe right, left, then step right, left.

Men climbing mountain in the dark in jackets Men climbing mountain in the dark in jackets

Our crew reached the col of Yanapaccha shortly after 7am and were met with a beautiful cloud inversion. Up until that point, the weather had been amazing; clear sky with very little wind.

However, we noticed that clouds were quickly making their way to us. Jose decided to take lead and continue solo up to the summit as the weather quickly changed. Our friend and guide Hernan was roped to Jose, and he stayed on the col feeding Jose rope while anchored to a picket. Jose marched up.

"With the new snow, it was a one step forward, two steps back kind of situation. I headed straight the top to immediately fly our drone and capture the view, as the rest of the team made their final push. We had a clear line of sight to all the neighboring mountains, such as Huascarán, Chopicalqui, and Chacraraju. Just incredible."

Reaching the ridge and peering out over the Andes was a moment. The sun hit our faces, and we were waking up with the world - a view from above. Time paused. Stillness filled presence. I don't think I've ever enjoyed a few breaths so much.

We pushed onwards to the summit, still with a way to go along the ridge traverse. We had to be extremely careful, as the ridge was steep and full of soft snow (over 35 degrees). Only after the summit did we see how exposed we were - that was probably a good thing.

Left, right, each paving our own path on loose snow - now at the highest altitude of my life. Our boots touched the summit. I took out a pouch of icy apple juice from my backpack and looked around. We'd made it.

With only 15 minutes before we needed to descend, I stood in gratitude alongside Jose, Noah, our guides, and everyone who'd supported this journey.

Reflections from Jose

"As I made my way down the mountain, I was able to finally reflect on the jacket. It kept me warm the entire way up, never restrained my motion while climbing, and its shell prevented me from getting soaked as I rested on the snow. On the way down with the sun beaming, it regulated temperature better than expected. I was just... comfortable.

When Kris reached out and told me about the new jacket he was developing, I was immediately excited at the prospect of a Peruvian, sustainable, water-repellent (and warm) jacket that I could bring on my expeditions. Four months and a bunch of phone calls later, Kris, Noah, and I were meeting up for coffee in Huaraz with jacket in hand.

On first impression it looked and felt like my down jackets, but I immediately noticed how warm it was compared to its thickness. I decided to trust it and took it as my only jacket for our Yanapaccha expedition; from the 2am freezing cold to the final ascent under a full sun, I didn’t need to add, remove, or switch layers.

Being Peruvian myself, I’m incredibly proud of what Kris and the team have created. I’m honored to have been part of building the jacket and see this jacket finally come to life."

"It was an amazing moment to share and stand together, celebrating my country." - Jose Mostajo, Peruvian mountaineer

"It was an amazing moment to share and stand together, celebrating my country." - Jose Mostajo, Peruvian mountaineer


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