Polluted Hell or Climbing Paradise?

For those who haven't noticed, I've been back in Peru for a while now. In between learning to navigate Lima by car (and to drive like a local so I won't cause a traffic accident), settling into my home for the next few months in San Borja where I share a flat with three Spaniards, putting in the usual work hours for x28 AG and trying to improve my Spanish (people talk so fast here), I'm spending most of my spare time at the local climbing gym Base Camp Perú.

If you know me a bit better, you'll probably remember that I'm a bit scared of heights. I didn't mind hiking to the summit of a high mountain or being in a tall building but hanging on a rope 50m above ground wasn't exactly my favorite past time in the world. Now, I can't say I'm totally over my fear but I've learned to handle it in a better way. While rock climbing, there are definitely still moments where I get scared or even a bit panicky because I'm high up and it's always good to have friends with me who calm me and push me (in a good way) to finish the route anyway.

Over Semana Santa we decided to leave Lima for a few days and head towards La Oroya for some climbing on real rock. About 5 hours east of Lima on the Carretera Central, this city is mostly known for its mines and therefore its pollution. In 2007 it even appeared on a list of "World's Most Polluted Places". There are some NGOs in La Oroya fighting to improve environmental conditions of the city and its surroundings and therefore providing a healthier and safer place for the population. However, as with many multinational companies it's money that matters and not necessarily environmental issues. You can find some information on this issue in this article.

So, you might wonder why we wanted to go to such a polluted place. Well, it's simple. We're all climbers and there's some pretty neat rock in Huari which is located about 25 minutes from La Oroya in the Valle Dorado. Luckily, the Valle Dorado is not as polluted as La Oroya itself although it is still advisable not to drink water from the streams (as in most places in Peru since the waste of most villages goes straight into the water).

One of the main goals of our trip was to equip a few new climbing routes so they could be sport climbed. In total, we set up four new sport routes and opened two classic ones. Obviously, this was done by more experienced climbers - myself and other newbies spent most of our time trying out the easier routes, taking pictures and enjoying the beauty of the valley.

people from the nearby villages came to watch

scared but happy

We were lucky to have sunny weather almost always so the days were warm. Yet, at 3'745m altitude, the nights turned cold quickly and everyone was grateful for the heating inside the cabin we were renting. Mittens and hats were definitely required after the sun set and for the more could blooded ones (like yours truly) thermal underwear worked miracles.

Have a look at this video I took during the trip - doesn't this place look spectacular?! I'll definitely have to train more to be able to climb like that... :)

PS: Driving the Carretera Central from Lima to La Oroya was probably the most interesting road trip I've ever taken. A winding road just like the ones that go up a Swiss mountain pass would go on forever until it reached over 4'800m at its highest point and started a decline with just as many curves. Combine that with the style of driving that is popular in Peru, add night to it and an old car and you've got your adventure! We all made it safely without any incidents - well, unless you count the insane traffic jam that had us stuck in San Mateo for several hours...


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