Sarah Turner shares her experience at the Bolivia Mountaineering School!
Celebrating atop Huayna Potosi
Mountain Madness climber Sarah Turner gave us a report part way through her experience at the Bolivia Mountaineering School.
July 2010 — Mountain Madness guides Gaspar and Pablo took ten mixed mountain enthusiasts from all over the globe (UK, Italy, Canada, Norway and the US) to discover the Cordillera Real in Bolivia. After a couple of days of cultural experiences in La Paz and Copacabana, including the ruins of Tiwanaku, we embarked on the first chapter of our mountaineering experience.
The group on Isla del Sol in Lake Titicaca
We camped in front of Tarija and Pequeño Alpamayo in the Condoriri Massive the group divided into two teams; summit climbs and Mountaineering School. The climbers went to Pico Austria and Pyramide Blanca whilst the remaining six persons, including myself, were ‘beasted’ by Pablo on the Tarija glacier learning skills such as good footwork, self arrest (including being thrown upside down), ice anchoring, belaying, rappelling and ice climbing – all in one long emotional nine-hour training session with the rapidly changing weather thrown in. There were persons who were affected by the altitude therefore the following day was less challenging but incorporated discussions on high altitude topics, revision of knots and rope up for glacial travel. One climber decided that the colder climes were not to his liking therefore he returned to La Paz, wiser but accepting that, actually, the experience wasn’t for him.
Practicing skills on the glacier
The following day was the summit of Tarija in appalling conditions (wind, snow, sleet and where was the sun?!) with the Norwegians also achieving a winter condition ascent of Pequeño Alpamayo with Pablo and David. During a well-deserved half hour rest on my return the camp had received two inches of fresh snow which actually was the icing on the cake (literally) before we departed for two nights of rest in La Paz and a good G&T.
Summiting Pequeño Alpamayo
Objective 2 – summit of Huayna Potosi. Leaving at a reasonable hour all refreshed and batteries charged we set off from La Paz to the base camp just 2 hours drive away via some dodgy roads and dodgy driving. Arriving to Zongo Pass was quite spectacular – scenery abundant and our objective rising majestically in the distance. The refugio run by Patty and Yolanda gave us some downtime to mentally prepare for the oncoming ascent.
Cemetary on the approach to Huayna Potosi
The next day we climbed to Casa de Piedra (Rock Camp) at 5,150m where tents were pitched and camp was set up. Despite a bright sunny day the weather turned to what could be called ‘blustery’! Our Italian friend nearly got blown away in his tent as the winds picked up speed to around 5 knots, whistling around every nook and cranny….. team effort was required at 2100 hrs to secure everything down – all hands on deck. Our summit attempt began at 0330 – stars twinkling and the team with mixed spirits. The route was good as the previous snow fall that we had experienced in the Condiriri had improved the dry icy conditions that was expected in the Cordillera.
I was part of a two-man team (David and I) following Pablo (Beastmaster) and the two Norwegian boys. The going was good, spirits high and the speed effective. On route we took breaks every hour to hydrate and to re-energize. All was going well until 0630 when I developed a cough, which wouldn’t subside. The sun was rising over the horizon and while I watched it come up, in-between taking some awesome photos, I knew that where I was at 5,800 metres was the highest I would reach. To make a decision to turn around is no mean feat. To continue would have meant another two hrs climbing (at least) and as I was getting weaker I didn’t believe I should continue. On my descent we passed Gaspar and his two-man team, who summitted via the NE ridge route. Pablo took the Norwegians up the east head wall to the summit. The experience for all was unique, everyone had their highs… and for me, I was glad to be have been part of that.
~ MM Climber Sarah Turner
On the summit of Illimani
Sarah sent us this update before the next objective of the trip: Illimani. Check out the video of her awesome accomplishment at the summit! Congratulations to all our Bolivia Mountaineering School alums!