Quebec mountaineer François-Guy Thivirge embarked on the challenge of a lifetime in August 2019: to climb 55 mountains in 55 months to celebrate his 55th birthday. On a regular basis, Le Journal will feature the mountain he climbed as part of this project.
For a good ten years, Francois-Guy Thivirge had not faced such a long challenge. For eight days, the mountaineer braved the famous peak of Alpamayo in Peru from an altitude of 5947 meters. He would draw from this experience in the strongest main courses of his grand project of climbing 55 mountains in 55 months.
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“For me, of the 55 Challenge, this was my hardest. The eight-day program made me think of mountains like Aconcagua in Argentina and Mount Denali in Alaska. It requires several days of walking at altitude, setting up camps, transporting food and the whole organization,” says the mountain dweller from Quebec.
Alpamayo is recognized not only as one of the most sublime peaks of the Cordillera Blanca in the Peruvian Andes, but also worldwide.
As early as 1966, the journal mountain climbing Alpamayo has been defined as “the most beautiful mountain in the world”.
When he made his 55-man roster in 2019, Thivirz, whose challenges were as high as they were safe, knew this Peruvian gem was waiting for him.
“I don’t have it in my collection, like a collector of hockey cards, but a Guy Lafleur card,” recalls the eternal adventurer in one of his colorful similes.
A strict procedure
For this ascent, Thiwirz chose to join forces with Alfred Bovin, a newcomer to the highlands.
The tandem first had to walk 28 km in two days, initially at an altitude of 2900 meters, to reach the pass and finally see the object of their desire.
“You can’t see it from the road because it’s on a mountain range. When you saw Alpamayo, both hands fell off you,” said Thiwierz, still salivating.
After reaching the base camp, you have to reach Camp 1 at an altitude of 4900 m and then the second one, at an altitude of 500 m.
“Camp 1 is higher than Mont Blanc. You already start to feel altitude sickness. My friend went hungry for three days. He had to use his resources. We continued climbing the glacier with crampons, ice axes and backpacks. »
“The other camp is at an altitude of 5400 meters, the height of the Everest base camp. We reached there after four days. At noon, we reached to see the perfect pyramid, the goddess. Its southern face is made of lava flows, like a big white wedding veil,” said the mountaineer, entrepreneur. And the lecturer said.
Surrounded by cornices and magnificent snow mushrooms at 5850 meters in the summit corridor, this adventurer finds himself in the first row.
The duo continued to climb this corridor with wind-swept cornices at a 60 to 70 degree vertical slope.
“This is equivalent to four times the height of Montmorency Falls at higher elevations. For me, it was a dream from my friend Yves Laforest [qui avait été le premier Québécois à gravir l’Everest en 1991] I climbed this mountain in 1988,” he said.
A good fear
Long before reaching the summit, Thivirj got a good scare when the cold played a nasty trick on him.
“I froze my feet like never before. I tried for four hours to wiggle my toes in my shoes and nothing happened. I told my friend that I had to stop everything or take my shoes off to put my feet on his stomach, under his coat. That’s what we did and 5 to 10 Minutes later it melted. The smile returned to my face. The hope of seeing the summit returned,” he said.
Finally, the top!
After crossing the last narrow corridor like a closet, the summit was like liberation for him.
“I reached the top in tears. The sun warmed my face and the view of the turquoise lakes was amazing. We are talking about 360 degree beauty. I outdid myself, which is one of the achievements of my career,” he says.
Then a long descent remained to complete the arduous journey of four days. In the heart of South America, François-Guy Thivirge found some of his Quebec fiber.
“This mountain has one of the highest glaciers in the world. Alpamayo came looking for me because I am a snow mountaineer. »
Height: 5947 m
Area: Cordillera Blanca in the Andes
First Ascent: 1447 m
Duration: 8 days