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Climbing and Mountaineering in Bolivia
Ice Climbing School
"We have talked and drawn up this mountain climbing course, keeping in mind that it is better to raise the level of the participants, than lower the level of them. "We have also talked that “ it is better for the passengers to leave Bolivia thinking that they are the heroes of the mountain and not the martyrs of the mountain (for this reason, the course has 15 days and we put an optional 7-day extension for those participants who want to make a peak of 6500 m.) ”. The objective of the course is that our clients would feel happy at the end of the course "That they will tell and recommend to other people and that they want to return" either to do another course or to venture into the Aspiring Mountain Guide Course. We have agreed that what the passengers who are going to do in this course has to be both instructive and fun for them. And that at the end they could return happy to their countries. The location and the program of the course are very original. We are going to climb 4 peaks in total: PICO AUSTRIA, PICO TARIJA, PEQUEÑO ALPAMAYO AND HUAYNA POTOSI (6.088m). This, speaking with our instructor guides, "IS ENOUGH". Also, that this program is ORIGINAL, we have put the REALLY USEFUL THINGS and we have taken out the superfluous things (such as mountain rescue), which can be more dangerous than useful.
Illampu 6382 meter/20932 feet
Illampu is considered to be an international celebrity, with ice and rock walls from 800 to 1200 meter. Illampu is one of the most coveted mountains by national and international expeditions. It is The King, Cacique and Mallku (mythical authority respected by the local populations). It is a challenging peak, even by the normal route. Its majestic presence is intimidating and daunting, at times climber's hopes stay in their backpacks. As it is isolated, expeditions require careful planning and consideration. Illampu dominates the landscape. To the southeast of the turquoise mantle of Lake Titikaka. Northwest of its summit, perched deep in the valleys, lies the colonial town of Sorata and to the north the steaming jungles of the Yungas. Illampu the most important and northernmost massif of the Cordillera Real. This mountainous area is one of the most beautiful in all the Andes. The illampu and Ancohuma massifs alone make up a mountain chain of some thirty peaks. This area is very unusual, barely explored and it offers the potential for extremely difficult rock, ice and mixed routes. Climbing Illampu is very different to, and much more challenging than mountains such as Condoriri, Huayna Potosi or Illimani. It requires a high level of technical skill, excellent physical fitness as well as psychological preparation.
Sorata (2680 meter / 8780 feet), is the starting point for many treks and all climbs to the Illampu and Ancohuma massifs. Illampu extends in a north to southwest direction and is composed of three ridges, with difficult and dangerous faces leading to its three peaks. The glaciers are concentrated on the north and south, with mixed granite faces on the east and west.
Illampu´s climate is very similar to that of other mountains in the Cordillera Real.
Ancohuma (Jankho Uma) 6427 meter/21080 feet
The southern aspect of Ancohuma has a long ridge, like a spinal column from which a number of smaller ridges branch off. It is a complex, imposing mountain, as impressive as many of the Cordillera Blanca in Peru. As the crow flies, the distance from the north peak, to the "neck" is 3600 meter/11808 feet and twice those on foot. Ancohuma was first described in 1879. Located southwest of Illampu, it is separated from this mountain by a spiky mountainous ridge with Yakuma 6050 meter/19844 feet, Mamarini 5955 meter/19532 feet, and other lower altitude peaks. This magnificent mountain is seldom climbed.
Pico / Pyramid Schulze (Nevado Cotaña) 5.942 meter/19.489 feet
The Illampu massiff, from the northern extreme of Pico Del Norte to the southern extreme of Pico Shulze, is approximately 5 kilometer long. Pico Shulze has two steep walls of high technical difficulty. The ice couloirs on the Northeast-East face directly in front of the Illampu had not been climbed. And neither had the Southeast face from the Laguna Galciar Base Camp.
Condoriri 5648 meter/18525 feet
Condoriri is like a condor whose espanded wings are visible from the Panamerican Road. It is renown for its amazing resemblance to the Cervino, a famous mountain in the European Alps. According to native myths, this mountain was home to the largest and more ferocious condors of the Andes who, with their talons plucked children from the villages and carried them to their icy nest. These children were fed and educated by the Condors until they became Human Condors, who later returned to the villages to spread death and destruction. There is still some debate as to who was the first to reach the summit. The first unequivocal account of the ascent, by the technical, normal route, is attributed to Wilhelm Kuhm in March of 1941. Douglas Moore directed the first comprehensive reconnaissance of the region, in March of 1950. The Condoriri massif is extremely complex and has aproximately one hundred peaks over an area of 15 kilometer.
The native communities see Condoriri as a mystical mountain, one that controls not only the natural phenomena of the weather, but also the fauna and the flora. Each mountain occupies a special place in the Andean Cosmovision and Condoriri is one of Thunupa's creations. Condoriri is shaped like a Condor about to take flight. For climbers, closer to earth and less mystical and contemplative, it means 65° ice walls projected toward the sky. The eastern aspects of Condoriri have ice couloirs of 400 meters to 500 meters. The loose black rock is totally unsuited to climbing. The south face is only climbable during the coldest months of the year, April to September. Due to its close proximity to La Paz, its enchanting setting and a variety of available climbs, it has become one of the most frequented climbing regions.
Piramide Blanca/White Pyramid 5230 meter/ 17154 feet
This small mountain, with its close proximity to Condoriri base camp (Chiar Khota) and with an uncomplicated access, like Alpamayo Chico, attracted a lot of attention in recent years. The first ascent was by the bolivian Alfredo Martinez and the english Douglas Moore, who years later died in a mountain climbing accident. In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s A. Martinez climbed many mountains in the region such as the normal Wyoming route and Cerro Ilusionita. Piramide Blanca offers several shorter routes from 250 meter/820 feet to 300 meter/984 feet. The south face shows more technical difficulties, with an average angle of 60° to 70° in ice.
Chachacomani 6074 meteer/19922 feet
After looking at this mountain it is impossible to remain indifferent. The German-Bolivian expedition of 1947 achieved the admirable first ascent. It was a crazy expedition, one that embodied the true spirit of adventure. The north section of the Chachacomani glacier is joined to the Chearoco glacier. The geography of the region is very complicated and the eastern aspects are often covered in clouds. With extensive terrains of snow and ice, this area is also privileged by stable weather and near perfect granite rock structures over 14 kilometer long. The world here has fallen asleep, peaceful and frozen, time has disappeared.
Chearoco 6127 meter/20096 feet and Quelluani 5912 meter/19391 feet
Sitting between the Calzada and Chachacomani mountains, Chearoco has very complicated glacier systems, it is very isolated and is rarely climbed. It seems to dominate the Altiplano and the Valleys. As the crow flies, the distance between Chearoco and Chachacomani is 7 kilometer. The pioneer Douglas Moore made many expeditions to this region in the 1950’s The first climbers to the summit were Austrians in 1928. Many years passed before the second ascent. Douglas Moore made the third ascent and G. Frey, and D. Schoodt achieved the fourth. There is very good camping throughout this area.There are 9 reported routes on Chearoco.
Huayna Potosí/Caca Aca 6088 meter/19968 feet
Huayna Potosí, only 25 kilometer away from La Paz is the most frequented mountain in Bolivia. It is almost certainly the most often climbed 6000 meter mountain in the world. Vehicle access along the La Paz - Zongo road goes all the way to the foot of the mountain. An easy three to four hour walk from the base camp leads to the high camp 5150 meter/16892 feet and further two hours to the “Campamento Argentino” 5450 meter/17880 feet (the traditional high camp). Huayna Potosí is the destination of many tourists who wish to have the once in a lifetime opportunity of going beyond the magical 6000 meter/19680 feet mark. Fit, acclimatized tourists, can complete this ascent in a two day round trip from La Paz, and many fit, experienced climbers can do it in a full-day trip. The normal route is very straightforward. However the West and Northwest faces have technically challenging routes, which should be only attempted by experienced mountaineers. There is little written about Huayna Potosí or Caca Aca. Between April and October , tourist and climbers invade Huayna Potosi. Huayna Potosi offers one universally accessible route, the normal route. The other routes are: West Face, five routes of grade D and D+. North West Face, two routes of D+. Sitting at the edge of the Altiplano, on a precipice at the head of the subtropical valleys, it is constantly exposed to high winds, electrical storms and monsoon avalanches.
The history of Huayna Potosi has been shrouded in mistery. Even the meticulous chronicler of the Andes, Sir Martin Conway was confused about it. In 1877, at the time Charles Wiener and his team made the first ascent of Illimani, a group of german climbers were trying their luck on Huayna Potosi.
Tiquimani 5519 meter/18102 feet
Tiquimani, to the east of Huayna Potosi, is known as the guardian of the Zongo Valley. Its vertical south faces stands proud and sombre - an indefatigable sentinel. Compared to other mountains of the region, it is of low altitude, but this is more than compensated for by the technical challenges it presents. Only 3 kilometer long and 1.3 kilometer wide, it is a small mountain, with more complexities however than its size would suggest. The west and south faces are a labyrinth of rock and ice. Tiquimani is a respected mountaineer's mountain. Few climbers have ventured onto her granite walls and blue-green veins of ice.
Illimani 6462 meter/21195 feet
The aymara people had different regional names for Illimani. Some called her Illemana, where the sun is born, others Jilir Mamani, the oldest son. The left peak was known as Khunu Urucuncu, snow bear. The middle peak, Chapa Punku, foam door, and the right peak, Khunu Chaubiri, snow view. This majestic and solitary mountain stands tall, defying the heavens. Her sharp ridges and peaks stand in stark contrast to the flat-topped Mururata, further north. From the city of La Paz, three pyramidal and resplandescent peaks are seen sitting on a quadrangular base of rock and tortuous glaciers. Illimani is constantly bathed with the nuances of changing colors as the sunlight is refracted and contorted by chaotic glaciers, changing temperatures and varying humidity.Poets sing verses to her beauty, musicians compose songs full of patriotic fervor and painters capture her image and subtleities on canvas, but it is only climbers that get to know her innermost secrets as they toil toward her distant summits.
The illimani mountain has become such an attractive destination. Over the last decades few new routes have been climbed on Illimani. Illimani has a magnetic attraction. Illimani is a mystical mountain. The summit seems to dominate the surrounding landscape; The barren Altiplano, the cooper-blue waters of Lake Titikaka flowing into Peru, the Sajama Volcano spilling into Chile and the verdant valleys tumbling into the watershed of the Amazon. Much more could be said about Illimani. It is the only mountain of Bolivia to be mentioned in the "Encyclopaedia of Mountains of the World". The Illimani Massif is without a doubt the most recognised of the Cordillera Real. It immediately strikes all visitors to La Paz as it is visible from every corner of the city. Three of its five peaks are obvious from the capital: north, central and south.
Mururata 5775 meter/18942 feet
Mururata is the flat-topped mountain immediately south of Illimani. The normal route is long and tedious. The south and east faces are beautiful and technically demanding climbs with 800 to 1000 meter altitude gains. The quality of the rock is very poor, creating serious difficulties on the south face.
The "decapitated" Mururata whose summit pyramid was struck off by Illimani during the mythic wars of Andean creation, has a summit plateau 8 kilometer long by 2 kilometer wide. The north face has been almost completely unexplored and seen from the subtropical valleys, there are vertical faces of 500 to 700 meter/2296 feet. This face is very difficult to access as there are no roads or mines in the vincinity. The north face is very exposed to the moist valley conditions but has excellent ice routes. The approximation trek to the south face is particulary attractive as it provides great views of the subtropical valleys. The routes here are demanding, with excellent ice and little exposure to the subtropical valley conditions.
Sajama 6549 meter/21486 feet
According to scientific measurements and maps, Sajama is part of the Cordillera Occidental. It is the highest mountain in Bolivia and was first climbed in 1939 by Austrians Josef Prem and Wilfrid Kuhm, and the Italian Piero Ghigione. The volcano is situated in the Sajama National Park, a protected region where hunting is prohibited. The volcano is only a few kilometres from the custom point at Tambo Quemado on the Bolivia/Chile border and it is easily recognisable as it stands out from the rest of the volcanoes in the Cordillera Occidental. The Sajama National Park has an extraordinary biodiversity, and is of interest to scientists, archaeologists, and adventure tourists. However, despite efforts to keep the area ecologically protected and focused on ecotourism, many species of plant and animal life are in danger of extinction. The park’s scenery is very attractive, and includes a forest of the highest trees in the world, Keñua. There are also thermal springs, historic Colonial churches, villages of traditional adobe houses and an abundance of wildlife that include andean cats, vicuñas, suris, chockas and a variety of other little known bird species. Sajama now appears in guidebooks around the world and has given the local inhabitants an industry.
Payachatas: Parinacota 6330 meter/20767 feet and Pomerata 6222 meter/20400 feet
Marking the border between Bolivia and Chile, these volcanoes are also known as the "little brothers" of Sajama. They are technically very straightforward to climb and were first described in the "Austrian Alpine Journal'' in 1905. Parinacota was first climbed in December, 1928. The twin brother of Parinacota, Pomerate was first climbed in 1946. The Payachatas are frequently climbed and are a very popular destination for tourists who come by jeep or to trek. Access to the Payachatas has been made easy thanks to the paved road. To the south of these volcanoes is Acotango 6050 meter/19844 feet, which also offers some good climbing opportunities.
The Cordillera Occidental runs along the entirewestern border of the country and extends from the Payachatas and Sajama in the north to Licancabur in the south. The southern extension of this Cordillera is known as Sud Lipez. The Sud Lipez region has, despite its isolation and barrenness received increasing numbers of visitors over recent years. The climate conditions in this region are extreme, between May and August nighttime temperatures can reeach 20 degrees below zero and a daytime average of 3 to 5 degrees. Scattered over this lunar like landscape are many volcanoes ranging in altitude from 5.000 meter /16.500 feet to 6.000 meter / 19.500 feet. Most of the volcanoes are extremely isolated, and while not technically challenging, require mayor expeditions to make an ascent.
Cordillera de Apolobamba
The Cordillera Apolobamba is one of the least explored mountain regions of the Andes. It was considered by many to be the hiding place of El Dorado or Paititi. The mountains of Apolobamba drop precipitously into the rainforest and jungle basin of the Madidi National Park, home of indigenous tribes. Apolobamba as described in the “National Geographic” magazine is one of the world’s most unique mountain and rainforest ecosystems. It has an extraordinary variety of cultures, and many as yet unclassified species of flora and fauna. There is so much to explore around Apolobamba. There is so much to write and praise about in Apolobamba, so many hidden secrets and mysteries that it deserves.
Cordillera de Quimsa Cruz
This beautiful mountain chain, sometimes referred to as the Tres Cruces, offers the most isolated climbing in Bolivia.The northern regions of the Cordillera Quimsa Cruz has very high quality rock structures, including solid clear and maroon granite. It is a paradise of difficult climbs with wall upon wall of excellent rock. The southern part is made up of a number of glaciated peaks with altitudes varying between 5300 meter/17387 feet and 5800 meter/19024 feet. There are a number of valleys in the Araya region of Quimza Cruz which offer extensive opportunities for rock climbing, with routes varying from hard single pitch climbs to multi pitch 300 to 400 meter adventures.
Cordillera de Santa Vera Cruz
The first expedition to this area was in 1912, by a German/Swiss team.They found the isolated settlement of Huañacota and the Huarimanta Lake all within the hitherto unknown mountain range. The small Santa Vera Cruz group is located to the south of the Cordillera Quimsa Cruz over the Tres Cruces or Three Crosses Pass 4600 meter/15088 feet. The range is 20 kilometer long and extends between Huañacota to the north and Ichoco to the south. The most magnificent peaks of the range are the Cerro de Santa Vera Cruz 5560 meter/18236 feet, Huarinata 5170 meter/16957 feet and the Pico Fortuna 5493 meter/18017 feet.