MM Collection
Checking in from the Condor's Nest on Illimani, Bolivia. MM Collection
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June 18, 2013

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