MM Collection
Checking in from the Condor's Nest on Illimani, Bolivia. MM Collection
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December 5, 2014

Bolivia School dates for 2015 and a blog from this past season

Bolivia School dates set for 2015. Here's a blog from last summer by Sebastian. Start planning now!

This year I had the opportunity to guide two different trips in Bolivia.

The first one started at the end of July with two clients: Collin and Adam, two beginner climbers from Louisiana. They were here to join me on our Bolivia Mountaineering School! After a few days of acclimatization around Lake Titicaca we did some glaciar training in the Condodiri area. On our third night we left camp by 3am and climbed Tarija (5250 meters -17,290 feet). It took us a while but it's best to keep acclimatizing and practicing those new skills. 

 

Ascending Huayna Potosi. Sebastian Carrasco photo

After a rest day in La Paz we went to Zongo pass (4800 meters -15,744 feet) to spend one night there before we climbed to high camp from where we would attempt the summit of Huyana Potosi.

This year we used a new hut, a bit higher than usual (5270 meters -17,285 feet), a bit trickier to get there but a much better hut, less people and more comfortable. We started to climb just after 2am. There were a lot of people climbing that night, and a lot passed us, however, after a few hours a lot of groups turned around. We keept a slow but steady pace and by 9am we reached the summit of Huyana Potosi (6088 meters -19,973 feet). We were probably the last ones but we made it!

 

Summit of Huayna Potosi. Sebastian Carrasco photo

For our third and last climb we had another climber join our group, John C. This was his third time coming to Bolivia! He is super motivated to climb and meet new people, and this time he came back just to try Illimani.

The drive to Illimani is an adventure! From La Paz, we drove southwest and, even though Illimani looks so close to the city, the drive takes about 3hrs. We traveled through steep canyons and winding roads until we reached the community of Pinaya. From here we hiked for a couple of hours up to base camp (4600 meters -15,091 feet). When we got base camp there was a thick fog covering the mountain.

The next morning when we got up the mountain was still under the clouds. Hoping that the weather would improve, we started to hike up to high camp (5500 meters -18,044 feet). Getting to high camp is almost as difficult as reaching the summit. After 5 hours, we all made it and, surprising, we where the only ones at The Condor Nest’s.  

The rough day getting to high camp left just Adam and myself for the summit attempt. The weather had improved a bit and at least the fog was gone. There was not much wind and we were so lucky to be accompanied by a “supermoon”. This is when a full moon is its closest to Earth. This year we had 5 and the last one happened to be while we climbed Illimani. I didn’t know this until we got back to La Paz, so I was wondering why the moon looked so big and red!

The sky was clear for most of the climb, but unfortunately just when we reached the summit at 8:30, the fog rolled in. It was so hard to see that Adam didn’t believe me that we had reached the top; I had to show him the altimeter! And off course, as soon as we started to descend it got clear.

The last Bolivia trip I guided this year was with only one client, Rob R. from Washington DC. Rob wanted to climb a bit more technical routes. After acclimatizing for a few days around Condoriri area Rob was ready for some climbing. Our first objective was Pequeño Alpamayo (5379 meters - 17,647 feet); a short but classic climb from the Royal Range. The night before our attempt, it snowed around 10cm/4inwhich meant extra work for us. For Pequeño we first had to climb Tarija and then go down 100 meters - 328 feet. Once we got to the beginning of the ridge that goes all the way to the summit, the snow was better and the exposure gave us a different feeling. We where very lucky to be the only ones on such a beautiful and usually busy mountain.

Our next climb was Condoriri or also known as La Cabeza del Condor, the Condor’s Head. This toothed peak has two other mountains on each side which makes it look like its wings.

Sebastian Carrasco photo

We attempted this climb from the same base camp as Pequeño. Just getting to the glacier is the first difficult section of this climb. A steep gully with loose scree is not the best way to warm up for the real climb; it took us over 3 hours! Once we reached the glacier, the snow accumulation was about knee deep in some sections.

La Cabeza de Condor is well known because of its magnificent summit ridge; its exposure of thousands of feet on either side can be quite shocking. The safest way to climb this is to walk together with a few coils in your hand, so if one person falls the other one has to jump to the other side! It took us 8.5 hours to get to the summit. Luckily for us, the snow on the ridge was very good, even on the descent.

Sebastian Carrasco photo

Our last goal was to climb the French Route on Huyana Potosi, a beautiful 300 meter - 1,000 foot snow ramp with a 60 degree angle. I was worried that conditions were not going to be the best because of the recent new snow that we got in the last week. Before our summit push, a colleague and I went to check on the conditions and, just as I suspected, as soon as we left the track from the Normal Route, I sank up to my waist. For sure, the snow was going to be very deep all the way to the base of the ramp and climbing up in those conditions was not safe, so we decided to climb the Normal Route.

However, what a rewarding and beautiful summit day we had. For me, this was the first time I had ever seen the sun rise from the summit of Huayna! Congratulations to Rob, John, Collin and Adam, and thank you everyone for a great summer of climbing! 

~ MM Guide Sebastian Carrasco

Sebastian Carrasco photo