Kuntur Sayana, Peru
May 8 2020
Kuntur Sayana is a 230 meters triangular limestone face culminating at 4800m in the heart of the Peruvian Andes. While its bolting and first ascent happened in September 2019 by Charlotte Durif and Josh Larson, the story begins in 2018.
“During our 2 years “A World Less Traveled” World Tour, Josh and I found ourselves in the village of Pitumarca in Peru in the company of Coco (Jorge Sirvas), his girlfriend Diana and the local climbers who are also very active in the region around Cusco. We originally went there for two weeks to help developing the Chacco Huayllascca Valley, but we ended up extended our trip to one month and a half, because the potential for bolting and climbing five-star routes was mind blowing. Near the end of our stay, we drove around to reach a cliff we could see from the distance but we couldn’t find a road that would bring us close enough. Lucky in the misfortune, we ended up making our away into a valley that seemed more and more promising while we were driving up. A trench in the middle of the road caused by the rain season had us step of the car and continue up by foot and , out of breath due to the altitude (roughly 4600m at that point), we faced what became a constant dream for the following year : a smooth limestone face, triangular shaped, standing proudly above the valley.
While the “Kuntur Sayana” movie will show it better, the next steps of the “dream wall” (which is how we called it before we learned its real name from the local Peruvian Andean communities) can be put in a nutshell.
It took us more than a year to head back to Peru, which was as much that we needed to get the authorization from the local Pampachiri and Hachojo communities to develop the wall and its surrounding walls.
We were accompanied by an awesome crew for this trip. Jan Novak was here to take pictures, film a bit, experience Peru, and make sure we had our daily amount of Reggaeton music. My dad had been dreaming of Pitumarca since the first time I sent him pictures and he didn’t want to miss that second trip, so he came to see things from his own eyes and he was a great help in this project, especially at basecamp. Josh’s dad and brother also joined the team, eager to know why we love Peru so much and to experience life in a less developed country.
While we first called it the “Dream Wall” (which technically, it is!), we learned that this wall was called the “Kuntur Sayana”, which in Quechuan means something like “the domain of the condors”, because these big birds sometimes fly around it.
The base of the wall is at roughly 4600m and its summit at 4800m which made bolting, climbing and just living a humbling experience where we have no choice but slowing down.
A good adventure don’t come without misfortunes, and we had our fair share for the 2 weeks we were there. Due to the altitude, we were reminded when we would go too hard, for example on our first day bolting when I ended up puking from 60m above the ground, or when Josh’s brother add altitude sickness for two days after a long steep hike. Pitumarca is a small village and comfort priorities are a bit different than in bigger cities… hot water for example was not one of them, so we couldn’t count on a nice hot shower to soothe us at the end of the day… nor take our puffies out in the house because there was no heating system. On top of the high altitude or precarious conditions, we ran into some bad luck; Josh add a very bad and infected tooth ache and had to drive back to Cusco with his brother where we had his tooth removed (pretty abruptly, as he recall) and that same journey he ended up with a flat tire.
From afar, we thought it would be a wall for 3 to 4 pitches route… it ended up being 7 pitches with some solid 35m pitches. Pitch 5 in 40m, but we installed a intermediate anchor (see drawing) and left a lot of carabiners in place to make any escape descent possible.
We called the route we bolted “Vuelo del Condor”, in memory of that day we were bolting midway up the face and a condor flew very close to us… it was a true pause in time!
“Vuelo del Condor” is a hard multipitch with a first pitch 8a+ and 3 back to back 8a pitches. For the anecdote, now that we are away from the project, we believe it’s actually pretty sandbagged… but repetitors will tell!
Finally… we can’t wait to go back to this truly magical place and we hope it will motivate people to do the same!”
Text by Charlotte Durif