To say that the irrepressible Hermanos Pou have enjoyed a productive season in the Peruvian Cordillera would be like saying water is wet.
This article was originally published on ExplorersWeb.
Iker and Eneko Pou have spent the past 2 months summarily demolishing every climb they’ve tried. It started way back in early June when they posted the first ascent of “Aupa Gasteiz,” a 5.12d free climb they first visualized in 2019.
The most recent news? On July 28, they reported that Iker had polished off the first 5.14c sport route in the Cordillera Blanca and that they’d summited two 6,000m (19,500+ foot) peaks.
We started struggling to keep up with the Hermanos Pou, so we constructed a timeline of their season in Peru.
June 13: The Pou brothers announce the June 2 first free ascent of “Aupa Gasteiz” (5.12d, 558 feet). They’d gunned for the demanding line as early as 2019, but free climbing it eluded them throughout multiple visits over 3 years. Named after a town in their native Basque Country of Spain, the route lies at 13,780 feet.
Five pitches comprise the route, all at grade seven. Three of them narrowly miss the eighth grade.
“It is a beautiful and aesthetic wall. The first time we saw it, we thought it was like El Capitan in Yosemite, a smaller but much higher version,” they said.
June 21: It becomes clear that “Aupa Gasteiz” was a relative warmup. The brothers climb an enormous route they call “Bizirik” (M6, 85-degree snow, 3,215 feet) to the 18,753-foot summit of Mount Cashan. The first ascent requires one 13.5-hour push. A hazardous descent ensues. “Bizirik” is Basque for “alive.”
June 22: The brothers report the first ascents of “Hanan Pacha” (90 degrees, 1,394 feet) and “Emmoa” (M6, 75 degrees, 2,100 feet) in the little-explored Urus Oeste group. Years of preparation went into planning the stout ascents in the prohibitive region. Each climb required one day; the brothers climbed them consecutively.
July 13: The Hermanos Pou announce they have climbed “their best mountaineering route to date.” Climbing with Peruvian mountaineer Micher Quito, they established “One Push” (M7, 85-degree ice, 3,281 feet), the highest-standard big alpine ice climb of their prolific career.
On the route, many “exposed” pitches lead to the top of Pumahuacanca, 18,251 feet. The hard climbing does not ease until above 17,716 feet. The brothers survive another treacherous descent — the climb took about 12.5 hours, and the descent 14 hours.
July 14: The brothers climb “¡Viva Peru Carajo!,” another long, high-altitude engagement that demands M7 climbing. The new route takes 1,968 feet up the Nevado Humashuraju Este’s previously unclimbed east face and tops out at 17,552 feet.
The dominant climbing medium, the Hermanos say, is “thin ice slabs glued to the rock” among some mixed sections. They climb for 15 hours at temperatures hovering around 5 degrees F.
July 28: News of one high-standard sport climb and two ascents of peaks around 20,000 feet arrives. Iker proposes that the physical demand on his 40-foot bolted rig “Tres Leches” reaches 5.14c, which would make it the hardest route anywhere in the Cordillera Blanca.
According to the brothers, the route required “enormous explosiveness that makes it only suitable for very strong people in the bouldering modality (few movements but really difficult).” Eneko belayed on the send.
Of course, that’s not all they’d been up to. The brothers also climbed Tocllarraju (19,796 feet) and the Ranrapalca (20,223 feet) in the preceding days. Eneko turned around on Tocllarraju, “much to his regret,” while suffering a bout of gastroenteritis. But the two did summit Ranrapalca together. They did not assign either climb a grade.
The Pous’ Long Legacy Continues
With a bond that seems unbreakable and psych that seems invincible, the Hermanos Pou have orchestrated first ascents together in 59 countries. Their first ascent together? The Pyrenees’ 984-foot Taillón in 1985, when Eneko was 11 and Iker was eight.
Now solidly in their 40s, there’s no evidence that they’re slowing down any time soon.