I would like to express my outmost gratitude to Crista-Lee Mitchell, she saved my life high on the Tocllaraju climb when I fell into a deep crevasse. She arrested the fall and supported all my weight for more than 30 minutes until she got stabilized and i could climb out of the crevasse. I feel she has given me an opportunity of a second life.

Thank Crista-Lee, you have a special place in my heart.

I also want to express my thankfulness to Claudio Lliuyac, a seasoned Peruvian Mountain Guide who secured his client and run to help us.

Azucena and Crista-Lee Mitchell at Ishinca base camp, took me more than one day to convince Azucena to pose for my lens.

Tocllaraju (6032masl) is one of the most beautiful mountain in the Cordillera Blanca-PERU,  located at the end of the Quebrada Ishinca  is considered a classic climb no one want to miss.

Crista-Lee Mitchell invited me to go there, She  had just made the summit of Huascaran Sur and wanted to do some high but no too technical, I couldn’t  say no to such an invitation,  specially knowing that she’s a strong climber and great photographer.

At the base camp we decided no to do camp I, instead we chose to climb it in one push from BC.  It was 11pm when we woke up, prepared some “breakfast” and by 00:00 hours of july 28th (Peru independence day) we got off our tents.

It was the darkest night, up there the stars were brighter than ever , my headlamp broke the night and started the long and miserable moraine. By 3:30am we got the glacier, put on the crampons and continued all along the infinite glacier, in the distance we could see climbers approaching the northwest ridge. 

The Sunrise caught us high on the ridge,  Copa, Huascaran, Chopicalqui and Contrahierbas  emerged from a sea  of clouds glowing like gold with first rays of the sun .   hard   to describe with words such a unique scene.

Crista-Lee led all the climb, she was very strong and by 9:30am we were close to the summit, the last obstacle was a deep crevasse with a tiny bridge, 2 Canadian climbers crossed it and Crista-Lee also did, she belayed me from upper side and when I was stepping on the “safe” side of the bridge …….. it happened , it collapsed under my weight and had a free fall deepinside the crevasse.

Crista-Lee Mitchell and Beto the day after the accident.

Countless moments seeing my entire life passing in slow motion and expecting the worst when finally the rope stopped the fall and kept me swinging and hitting the cold walls, my mind started working at high speed trying to keep cool, I didn’t loose my tools nor had apparent injuries so that was a good sign.

No fear, no anguish, just breathing like a bull , below my feet only blue darkness of the deep crevasse, the sounds of the falling ice told me it was like 80mts deep. Up there Crista-Lee was alone supporting all my weight ( I am 85kg) .

I loose the sense of time, maybe it was 30 minutes until Claudio Lliuyac (Peruvian Mountain Guide) came and helped stabilize Crista-Lee, so I was lowered down and came out of the crevasse climbing, with my pants very dry.  I didn’t loose my photographic   instinct   and wanted a picture of Crista-Lee jumping the broken bridge, I had to wait,  still inside, and it was worth!!! .

Out there we embraced each other and couldn’t avoid tears, I have to admit that I cried  like a kid.  Thanks  seems so inadequate to express the outmost gratitude that I feel for her right now, She saved my life and  I feel that She has given me an opportunity of a second life.  

I also want to express my gratitude to Claudio Lliuyac,  a seasoned Peruvian Mountain Guide who secured his client and run to help us, down there on the safety of base camp I went to his tent to say thanks and He left me with some words I won’t forget “You don’t owe me anything, in the mountains we are all friends,  and we are there  to help each other no matter your skin color nor religion” .

Beto Santillan