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Mountain Madness Climber

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. 

Huay­na Potosi

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!

Also, check out our pho­to album for this trip on Flickr and Face­book