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Mountaineering in the Andes


Meciani, P. Le Ande: monografia geografico-alpinistica. Bologna: Tamari Edit.,1965. Originally published in RM, 1961-64. Illus. Summary of Andean climbing to 1960. Mercer, J. Southern Hemisphere glacier atlas. New York: American Geographical Society, 1967. Morrison, A. The Andes. Time-Life Books, 1975. (World’s Wild Places series) Noyce, W. & McMorrin, I. World atlas of mountaineering. London: Nelson, 1969. Pp.186-203 by Kim Meldrum & Eric Shipton. [Pan American Union.] Index to Latin American periodical literature, 1929-1960. Compiled in the Columbus Memorial Library of the Pan American Union. Boston: G.K.Hall, 1962. Supplements for 1961- 65; 1966-70. Scurla, H.(Ed.) Im Banne der Anden: Reisen deutscher Forscher des 19. Jahrhunderts. Berlin: Verlag der Nation, 1982. Travels of Humboldt, Reiss, St bel and other German explorers; with extracts from their writings. Winser, N.& S.(Ed.) Expedition yearbook. London: Expedition Advisory Centre [R.G.S]. Annual volumes, 1983-in progress. Includes section on South America.

Pre-Columbian Ascents

The climbing history of the Andes is remarkable for the considerable number of ascents now known to have been made by the Incas and various Indian tribes before the arrival of Europeans. They climbed peaks as high as 6700 metres and constructed shelters on or near the summits, which were used as signal stations and for sacrificial purposes. The first recorded discoveries were made in 1884 and 1886 when stone constructions, bundles of wood, statuettes and ornaments were discovered on Licancabur. The biggest peak on which Indian remains have so far been found high up is Llullaillaco, and the extent of the constructions indicates that it must have been a most important mountain for the Atacameñans and the Incas. Remains have been found on numerous peaks in the northern Andes of Chile and Argentina and in other ranges. Antonio Beorchia is one of the foremost Argentine mountain archaeologists; Johan Reinhard is another expert.

In 1954 a group of local arrieros uncovered on Cerro Plomo, in the Chilean Cordillera Central near Santiago, the mummy of a twelve year-old boy complete with statuettes, feather head-dress, bracelets and wool bags, the victim of a sacrifice made some 450 years earlier. A similar find was made ten years later on Cerro El Toro in northern Argentina. Another Inca mummy was found on Aconcagua in 1985, although not very near the top. For climbers, perhaps the most intriguing question arising out of these discoveries is whether the Indians ever reached the summit of Aconcagua. The discovery in 1947, on the summit ridge, of the body of a guanaco hints at the possibility. Mario Fantin’s book, Le Ande, contains a chronological summary of archaeological expeditions.

Peaks on which archaeological remains have been found are indicated by † in the peak lists.

Selected References Ares, M. ‘Arqueolog¡a de montaña’. LM, n.15 (1971): 20-3. Beorchia, A. El enigma de los santuarios indigenas de alta montaña. San Juan,1985. Revista del Centro de Investigaciones Arqueologicas de Alta Montaña, A¤o 1985, vol.5. 410pp, illus, tables, maps. Comprehensive history of the researches and discoveries concerning pre-Columbian ascents in the Andes. Echevarr¡a, E. ‘Inca mountaineers, 1400-1800’. in The mountain spirit. Edited by Michael Tobias & Harold Drasdo. Woodstock, NY: Overlook/London: Gollancz,1980. Pp.117-24.

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    . ‘South American Indian as a pioneer alpinist’. AJ, 73 (1968): 81-8.

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    . ‘Alpinismo de los Incas’. RPA, n.8 (1966-68): 147-48. Particularly re Peruvian Cord.Occidental

(Chachani, Sarasara). Fantin, M. Le Ande (un secolo di alpinismo). Milan: C.A.I.,1979. Pp.49-64. Kauffmann-Doig, F. Manual de arqueolog¡a peruana. Lima: Ed.Peisa, [1973]. 5th ed. Mostmy, G. La momia de Cerro Plomo. Santiago: Museo Nacional de Historia Natural,1957. Reinhard, J. ‘High-altitude archaeology and Andean mountain gods’. AAJ, 25 (1983): 54-67.

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    . ‘Sacred peaks of the Andes’, National Geographic Magazine, 181 (1992): 84-111. Includes many

colour illustrations of artefacts.


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