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Bolivia with Mountain Madness

100% Success On Three Bolivia Peaks!

MM Guide Sebas­t­ian Car­ras­co has checked in with final news of our first Bolivia Moun­taineer­ing School of the sea­son! The group was tasked with scal­ing three big, beau­ti­ful peaks, Pequeño Alpa­mayo, Huay­na Poto­si and Illi­mani, and climb is what they did. Con­grat­u­la­tions to Eliz­a­beth, Blake, Mike, Catal­in, Roger, and Jonathan for three suc­cess­ful sum­mits! Here’s how it all happened:

The group atop Illi­mani. Sebas­t­ian Car­ras­co photo

After a few days of acclima­ti­za­tion around Lake Tit­i­ca­ca, the group was ready and excit­ed to get into the moun­tains. The school team met up with the rest of the team, who came to Bolivia just for the sum­mit climbs, along with Ramiro and Rober­to, our oth­er two guides, and Wins­es and Clau­dio, our cooks. We hiked for almost 2 hours to the Con­doriri Base Camp at 15,091 feet.

Lake Tit­i­ca­ca. Sebas­t­ian Car­ras­co photo

After a cou­ple days of glac­i­er prac­tice and some basic moun­taineer­ing skills, we decid­ed to climb Pequeño Alpa­mayo, which is at 17,975 feet. To get there, we had to sum­mit Tar­i­ja first at 17,224 feet and descend almost 492 feet down the oth­er side in order to begin the Pequeño Alpa­mayo climb, which involves cross­ing a steep ridge with an over 328 foot drop on one side. For this last tech­ni­cal sec­tion, we belayed our climbers all the way to the sum­mit. We reached the sum­mit after 7 hours of great effort! 

Stun­ning Pequeno Alpa­mayo. Sebas­t­ian Car­ras­co photo

After climb­ing Pequeño Alpa­mayo the group had a rest day in La Paz (11,811 feet). Going down always helps to recov­er some ener­gy, which we noticed for sure when we climbed Huay­na Poto­si (19,973 feet). Huay­na, mean­ing young” in Aymara, is one of the near­est moun­tains to La Paz. After only a two hour dri­ve we arrived at the first hut, La Casa Blan­ca”. Fun­ny enough, the only white’ thing in this hut is the name. In truth, it’s very basic con­struc­tion with a con­crete fin­ish that hasn’t been painted.

The next morn­ing we climbed up to a high hut at 16,830 feet. The rest of the after­noon we relaxed, drank lots of water and got ready for the climb. At just after 3am in the morn­ing we start­ed to climb. Thank­ful­ly there were not many peo­ple that night, prob­a­bly anoth­er 5 teams of 3 climbers each. The weath­er, despite the tem­per­a­ture, was pret­ty good. The lights of El Alto city were always at our back, remind­ing us that the city was there. Since leav­ing the hut the tem­per­a­ture con­tin­ued to drop and at this at this alti­tude even a lit­tle drop feels very cold. So cold that some teams had to stop a cou­ple of times to warm up their feet.

Resting/​Celebrating on the sum­mit of Huay­na. Sebas­t­ian Car­ras­co photo

At 7am we reached the last part of the climb, a 1,000-foot ridge with huge drops on either side. I’m hap­py to say the whole group made it to the top of Huay­na! The descent back to La Paz felt even bet­ter this time, espe­cial­ly because we stayed 2 nights with hot show­ers, good food and warm beds.

Our final peak to climb was the big Illi­mani at a tow­er­ing 21,158 feet; the sec­ond high­est moun­tain in Bolivia! Even though it looks so close to La Paz, it takes 3 hours to reach the base of the moun­tain. We start­ed the climb to base camp that same day, hik­ing for a cou­ple of hours to our rest­ing ele­va­tion of 14,764 feet. This is a per­fect bal­cony, offer­ing some of the best views of the city.

The team tak­ing off for Illi­mani. Sebas­t­ian Carrasco

From BC to high camp ‑also known as The Con­dor Nest” at 18,044 feet it took us 5 hours. The last 2 hours of this climb to high camp are espe­cial­ly hard because we had to hike up a nev­er end­ing rock ridge. But with patience and per­sis­tence, we final­ly made it.

For this sum­mit, we decid­ed to start climb­ing one hour ear­li­er at 2am, just to have enough time to reach the top. The sky was not clear, the wind was blow­ing and the clouds were pass­ing by. We even had some snow on the way up. How­ev­er, the high­er we climbed the bet­ter the weath­er got. Even though the tem­per­a­ture was around 16 degrees F, it felt much cold­er than Huay­na. The hard­est part of the climb is at 20,000 feet where it gets steep and the snow gets real­ly hard for cram­pon­ing. Yet with a lot of effort, and a good pace we all passed this sec­tion unevent­ful­ly. After this, it’s just a mat­ter of breathing!

On the sum­mit ridge. Sebas­t­ian Car­ras­co photo

At this point, we saw no one. Amaz­ing­ly, the whole moun­tain was for us, and we all made it to the top in under 8hrs. But the effort was not over as we had to descend to Nido de Con­dores” and then to BC — a total drop of 6,394 feet. By the time we got to BC it was sun­set. All in all, it was a 15 + hour day. Back in La Paz dur­ing our deli­cious good­bye din­ner we shared some great mem­o­ries about the climbs and just like the oth­ers nights, we laughed a lot! Good job every one!”

~ MM Guide Sebas­t­ian Carrasco