In June of 2015, we met our arreiro and our Alpamayo guide at the trailhead in the Santa Cruz valley in Peru. It was a last minute decision to climb Alpamayo with Tim Stephens and Alex Geary, after aborting our mission to climb ice lines on Pucaraju which was now out of condition. We didn’t plan on having a guide, but while we waited we met this cute little red dog. I asked the local lady what the dog’s name was and she said, “Alpamayo guia”
We laughed , but sure enough, when we hit the trailhead Poco Rojo led the way. After the first 4 hours of hiking, I tried to share my cliff bar with little red. He sniffed it and walked away. A couple hours later, I gave him some bread. He sniffed it, dug a hole and buried it. Apparently, a step up from the cliff bar. At lunch, we shared cheese and salami with our burro driver, arreiro. It is customary to feed and house your arreiro, and our plan was to buy food from the local restaurant at base camp for him. When we arrived at base camp after 8 hours of hiking, we learned the restaurant was closed and only served beer. We realized we would be tight on food. I felt so bad for little red. We couldn’t give him anything because we were now on rations.
The Santa Cruz valley is gorgeous! Little red was clearly enjoying himself on the hike. He would stop and take in the views just like us. I loved his company! When we arrived at base camp, we realized our arreiro did not have his own tent and it appeared that little red was in this for the long haul. I made little red a bed inside the vestibule of our tent. There were some other dogs at the camp, but little red was not interested in playing with them. Our burro driver hung out with local shopkeeper and he helped him make a bed out of grass. We were definitely feeling poorly about his situation for the next few days. Little red disappeared for awhile and then came back dragging a bone as big as him with lots of fresh meat on it. He became fierce towards the other dogs protecting his bone. He pulled the bone into the vestibule to guard it. This wasn’t what I had in mind when I made him a little spot there. When the sun dropped, the temperatures followed and we all crawled into our beds for the nite. Alex had his own tent, which we left for the arreiro when we moved to high camp. Once I fell asleep, I felt a plop of fur ball land on me. We had to kick lil red out. Can’t really blame him for trying.
When we left the next day for high camp, we sadly had to yell at little red and tell him he couldn’t join us. He clearly could have made it to moraine camp, but we planned to skip it and head directly to high camp.
Alpamayo is very beautiful and very popular. We heard terrible stories of multiple people on the route and people turning around from all the ice falling. I told the guys I wouldn’t climb behind another party, so we got up in the middle of the nite to climb. Luckily only one other party climbed it that day and we all shared the tiny summit together! It is a really long walk for a very short climb. The technical climbing is only about 1000ft or 6 pitches.
We climbed the first 5 pitches in the dark. The boys generously let me lead the summit pitch. The other team was a local guide with one guest and they passed us. The guide, Octavio, was an animal and we climbed side by side until the final pitch. They waited for me up top and got this sweet photo of me topping out!
We climbed lots of cool stuff in Peru. Stay tuned and I will write about it soon. As for little red, he was gone when we got back to base camp. I asked about him, and was told he hiked out with another group. When we arrived at the trailhead, he came running up to us with a big smile. It made me so happy, he was really smiling. He made the trip so much better! Thank you Alpamayo guide!