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The top of "The Butcher"--four miles high in the Peruvian Andes--is the vacation-time target of four Mountaineering Club students.
Their goal is Carnicero, the highest mountain in the Americas that no one has over climbed. Its razor-sharp, windswept ice ridges have forced back the three climbing parties that tried to scale it.
The students think there is a 75 percent chance they'll reach the top. But, they say, "What the other 25 percent may be, we don't know."
On the party are James C. Maxwell '50, president of the H.M.C.; W. V. Graham Matthews Sp; George Bell 3M; and Austen F. Riggs II 2G. Two Stanford students round out the group, but officially it's an H.M.C, expedition.
All are expert mountaineers, with climbs in Western Canada and the Alps behind them.
A vanguard party of two will fly to Lima this morning. The rest will follow on Thursday, June 22. When they split up, they agreed to meet "at the street corner" on June 23--the corner of the dirt road from Paramonga to Huares and a mule trail to the Indian village of Chiquian.
Several miles from Chiquian is Carnicero, Spanish for "The Butcher." The students will hire a 30-mule team to lug their ton of equipment to base camp.
"We have to hire mules, Indians to drive the mules, food to food the Indians to drive the mules, and extra mules to carry the food to feed the Indians to drive the mules," says Maxwell, who has puzzled over the equipment and transportation problems since September.
By the first of July, the students hope to set up base camp at the snout of a Carnicero glacier. Then comes the long climb up the glacier, over sun pockets and crevasses, to "col camp" in a saddle of the mountain.
From then on, Carnicero is more like a butcher's cleaver than a butcher. Wind sweeping up the sides of the mountain has stropped the thin icy sides into knifesharp razors.
The ridges leading to the summit are often sharp enough to cut a finger on, and widen out only one foot for every ten foot down. Yet only at the ridge is there a route to the peak.
The party may have to work 30 feet, below the crest of the ridge, backing tunnels through the ice and threading its way along the mountain.
What if the tunnels should cave in? "I guess we'll be killed," says Maxwell.
Planned Two Years
Maxwell and other members of the party have been looking forward to the climb for almost two years. Their preparations have meant months of work and an outlay of more than $5,000.
Last month they shipped three cubic yards of food and suplies down to Lima--including half a mile of rope, 200 vinylite bags, one copy of Sherwood and Taylor's "Calculus," and three cases of needle soup.
The are also bringing surveying equipment for the Institute of Geographical Exploration, bird catching equipment for the American Museum of Natural History, and measuring devices for the International Glacier Survey.
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