It’s funny how when you’re expecting your first child, there’s a set of cliché phrases people inevitably say to you: “make sure you catch up on sleep now because you won’t get any after the birth” or “you better get out and do what you’ve always wanted to do because things are going to change soon” or “they just grow up so fast.” While it may in fact be universally true that raising an infant requires some level of sleep deprivation—I certainly had a few days where I felt more like a zombie than a human—I don’t subscribe to the belief that all your goals and ambitions get thrown out the window when you have children. Fortunately, my wife Sandy is on the same page and just as psyched as I am to have cool adventures and bring our son Bayes along.
One dream trip we had been concocting for several years was a journey down to South America for some climbing and culture. Originally we had planned to travel there last summer (2011), but when our baby arrived in May of that year we were forced to reconsider. Resolute in our desires to not let Bayes come in the way of our aspirations, at first we seriously considered going forward with the trip. Fortunately we came to our better senses realizing that the Peruvian environment might not be the best for a 6 week old baby. Next we considered South Africa, rationalizing that we’ve been there before and it wouldn’t be too bad for a baby. However, the thought of sitting on a plane for 10+ hours with everyone’s germs recirculating through the air system made us balk on that plan too (makes you think twice about twisting the air above you to full blast doesn’t it). Finally, we decided to hop in the RV and head out to the Needles in Southern California. Though the Needles is a very rugged place, we figured an immobile 6 week old wouldn’t be at risk of wandering off a cliff—I’ve heard this early stage of development referred to as the “planted pot phase”—and the fresh mountain air wouldn’t challenge his undeveloped immune system.
This Spring, with a year of parenting under our belt, we reassessed the prospect of heading down to South America with baby Bayes and decided it would be challenging but totally feasible. Most people thought we were a bit crazy for embarking on this journey, but we were psyched to have a great adventure with our son. So we began scheming.
I’d heard rumors about great bouldering down in Peru and had been in contact with a Peruvian climber named Omar who was a friend of a friend. Most of the information I found focused on bouldering around the city of Huaraz, which is the popular gateway to the Cordillera Blanca. However, I also heard about another lesser-known area called Huayllay that was supposed to be a jackpot. There was little information on the web and no guidebooks or topos. I found enough pictures to assure myself that there was tons of rock but prepared myself for the rest to be a discovery mission.
Located about 8 hours east of Lima at an altitude of 14,000ft., the small remote city of Huayllay looked to be a great place to explore untapped bouldering potential and to avoid the veil of tourism that often warps cultural experiences. With a month set aside for the trip, we decided to start in Huayllay, stay there as long as necessary, and then end in Huaraz.
It didn’t take long to realize that having Bayes with us in Peru would be an asset rather than a burden. In the town square all the Peruvian women poured affection over our “gringito” and went out of their way to help us. Out at the boulders, Bayes practiced his walking and balancing skills as we poured our affection over amazingly aesthetic huge unclimbed granite boulders. The climbing exceeded our expectations and we filled our days cleaning and sending new problems. The weather in the day was perfect for climbing and reasonably warm for a little boy roaming with exposed hands. As the sun set, though, the chill came on strong and without heat in any of our rooms, the nights were a different story. <re-enter from stage left, sleep deprivation>. It was so cold that Bayes had to sleep in the bed with us and it didn’t take long for us to align ourselves with his hourly cycle of waking up. We stuck it out in Huayllay for almost a week, but eventually realized that the altitude was too much for Bayes.
Here we faced our first tough decision of the trip. With so much great bouldering still to be done including some amazing hard projects I was close to sending, I wanted to stay longer in Huayllay. It was evident, however, that it wasn’t going to work to keep Bayes there. We decided that Sandy and Bayes would head off to Huaraz (at a mere 10,000 ft. altitude but significantly warmer) and my friend Adam and I would stay a bit longer to finish off our projects. It was tough knowing that Sandy and Bayes would be heading off on their own across Peru to another unknown city, but I knew they’d be safe.
Adam and I stuck around and day after day ticked off our projects. For me the highlight was by far a V12 highball I sent after several days of work. The problem, “Wolf under the Sheepskin,” had an even more difficult low start that I started working next. The moves were amazing but linking the whole problem together proved to be quite difficult. Every day away from Sandy and Bayes I also felt a stronger pull to move on to Huaraz. After about a week, I decided to allot myself one more day of trying my project before heading to Huaraz. I gave the problem a valiant effort falling at the last hard move, but in the process, split two of my finger tips and couldn’t try it any more. It was time to reunite with the family and check out the bouldering Huaraz had to offer.