If Caldwell still
goes to South America without Harding but with a replacement less skilled, it
unquestionably makes the Jirishanca assault chancier, but then the preparations
they had made together were hardly in the same category as the prelude to
D-Day. On his last trip Dean ascended Yerupaja, a stupendously steep and
beautiful peak near Jirishanca. "We planned things so meticulously that we
forgot nobody spoke Spanish," Dean seems to recall. "Also, we didn't
bring any supplies because we had heard Peruvian customs were bad. Customs
couldn't have been any worse than shopping. We rolled up one shopping cart
containing 17 rolls of toilet paper and two liters of rum and nothing
else." The Lima storekeeper was clearly thinking of turning their ears in
for a bounty.
When Caldwell got
Yerupaja surmounted, he rafted down the R�o Mara��n, a tributary of the
tended to expedite me more than I wanted," he says. "They thought,
'Norteamericano—must have a small fire built directly under his behind.' One
place where the whole Mara��n narrows to only 90 feet, in wild rapids, they
expedited me into a highly unmaneuverable dugout boat. It immediately sank. My
photos would have been spectacular, but the emulsion really didn't come out
very clear because it was under water so long. There were whirlpools as wide as
a room. It turned out we were the first people that year to lose a boat and
survive, and this was the 23rd of September.
hauled ourselves out, dripping, this man asked, 'Did anything bite you in the
water?' He was very profuse about something dangerous called a paiche. I
thought it was a put-on and said, 'Naw, I'm not afraid of paiche.' 'Not afraid
of paiche, Se�or? It's five to seven meters long and eats people!'
Iquitos, I saw a stuffed paiche. Sure enough, it was five to seven meters long,
and I don't doubt they eat people."
Dean ended by
eating man-eating fish and capturing several tamarins and pygmy marmosets,
six-inch-tall simians that now live with him in his family's house in Portland.
There they have established territories, which they defend violently,
screeching. "I got a letter from Dean with brown syrup spots all over
it," Harding once said. "He explained that one of his marmosets had
just run over his waffle and across the letter."
Donkeys could be
the trouble on this trip to South America. Caldwell plans to pack in supplies
to the first Jirishanca base camp on the little beasts, over serrated foothills
whose vertical relief is 7,500 feet. Fortunately, the last village, Chiquian,
is an unusually friendly little Peruvian mountain town whose inhabitants drive
"I tried to
work a donkey once," Dean says. "It took four days to cover a one-day
trip with half a load."
The first camp
will be at about 13,000 feet, the beginning of the glacier, because "people
have tried to take donkeys on ice and bitterly regretted it." The second,
at 17,000 feet, will be established where the glacier levels out and the real
straight-up climb begins. This will be a classic route up the face's most
prominent feature, which Harding blithely calls a "ridge," but which is
vertical more than horizontal, being the meeting line of two huge concave
walls. Three thousand feet up this sharp edge, the climbers will reach a
20,000-foot secondary peak. They will then dance precariously across a long,
pitted knife-edge of a ridge to the summit, with half the continent falling
away on each side. Not only is this the most dramatic route, but it may avoid
the rock falls which regularly slide down Jirishanca.
Two other strong
climbers will go to base camp for safety and to do photography. A wholly owned
subsidiary, the Middle Andes Eating, Drinking, etc. Society, will also convene,
starring Hanna, Beastly woman "and anybody else who digs the idea,
hopefully in a proportion of at least two girls per male." To finance the
expedition Harding and Caldwell had thought about bringing in other people on a
tour-adventure basis. "They can climb a 17,000-foot mountain, watch condors
or visit a village essentially unchanged from the last century of the Inca
period," Caldwell said. "They can stay with a family, watch weaving in
llama wool and eat anticuchos, roasted lung and Peruvian bread." Then, amid
the other ephemeral wreckage of their recent schism, the tour idea was