Posteado por: altitud6000 | octubre 11, 2010

Huayna Potosi en Septiembre

Posteado por: altitud6000 | agosto 28, 2010

Huayna Potosí with “la famille Charlet”

Yet another Huayna Potosí adventure! This time with the Charlet family from France, travelling across South America in their Land Rover!  Mother, father, and son set out to climb Huayna Potosí on a 3-day expedition on August 23-35, 2010 with ALTITUD6000 team: Juancho & Sergio (guides) amd Marcial (cook). Below are photos of their adventure and successful summit!

Bruno, Véronique and Jonathan in Base Camp! (4,750 m)

A llama's view....

High Camp (5,130 m) at high time! Getting ready for the summit trip at 1:00 am. The anxious and excited family woke up the guides!

Sunrise on the slopes

A very rocky summit, and the bowl full of snow penitentes - conditions as of August 25, 2010

The Amazon Basin, in a cloud forest

Crossing over crevasses in the early morning sunlight - warms up those hands, toes and faces pretty quick!

Beautiful day!

The Charlet family at the summit of 6, 088 m!

Huayna Potosí summit, Nepali style! View of the Cordillera Real from 6,088 m

Coming down over a crevasse! Watch your step...Check out that huge crevasse - impressive! I wouldn't want to wait too long standing above that small snow ledge... just sayin.


Another fantastic trip with great people! Good luck to this wonderful family as they continue their journey through South America!

Posteado por: altitud6000 | agosto 24, 2010

Summitting Sajama at 6,552m!

On August 17, 2010, Altitud6000 set out for a fantastic 4-day expedition to the highset summit in Bolivia – Nevado Sajama at 6, 552 m! With clear blue skies and only a light breeze rather than the howling dusty blustery winds that Sajama is legendary for, we reached Sajama National Park at midday. Our climbers were Robin and Amandine from France, and Stella from France; our Altitud6000 team was Juancho, Sergio, and Cayley.

View of Sajama as we arrive – clear blue skies!

The most popular phrase of the trip was “WOW that’s a big mountain!”

After a quick picnic lunch out of the back of the jeep, we loaded up the mules with our mountain equipment and food, and began the two-hour trek up the valley to the Sajama Base Camp (4,810 m).

View of the Payachatas behind us as we hiked up the valley

First night at the base camp, our hungry bellies feasted on a delicious choclo (corn) soup, and then “asado a la pimienta” – peppered llama meat with rice. We had so much extra llama meat that we were able to make sandwiches for the next day with asado meat instead of ham slices. Good day!

The next day we had a filling breakfast of banana pancakes and peach yogurt, before packing up and departing at 10:00 am for the High Camp.

Hiking over the ridge towards Campo 23 de Marzo

 Passing Campo 23 de Marzo at 5,090 m, we began the steep climb up loose rock and sand, past the Cambio de Pendiente (Change of Slope) at 5,250 m. We stopped for a lunch break just above Cambio de Pendiente where we were sheltered from the wind.

Lunch break at 5,300 m just above Cambio de Pendiente

Continuing up to the High Camp

 We continued up the shale slope to the High Camp, just above the large rock cliffs. We reached the High Camp (5,680 m) within 5 hours, and were grateful that the porters had already set up the tents for us.

Arriving at High Camp!

Other view of the High Camp

After tea and cookies, the clients enjoyed a snooze in their tent, and the staff set about making dinner and preparing for the following day’s summit climb.

Juacho boiling water for dinner... sand in his teeth?

View from the High Camp towards La Paz

After dining on asparagus soup, mashed potatoes, and breaded chicken fillet, we watched a beautiful sunset silhouetted by the twin volcanoes Parinacota and Pomerape. After brushing the dust out of our teeth, we crawled into our sleeping bags and contentedly fell asleep.

Waking up at 1:00 am, we had a quick hydration breakfast and packed up our gear for the summit trip! Heading out along a steep rocky slope, we hiked up and up in the darkness until we reached the first section of ice.

Break time!

After passing the first ice section, we scaled along an exposed, rock ridge still with our crampons on. We passed two sections where we had to take off our *WARM ALTITUD6000 MITTS* to do some rock climbing (with crampons still on!). Finally, we reached the bottom of the glacier and the start of the penitentes.

Stella breaking to pull out her camera... lucky I had mine ready to snap a shot!

Sajama's shadow as the sun rose behind the mountain!

In the middle of the penitentes...

Weaving our way up, over, around and through the penitentes.

Passing through the penitentes seemed endless – it was almost the end of us, as we were all tiring out quickly from having to crawl and climb up penitentes of 1 m. Finally, we reached above the penitentes and followed along the snow ridge up to the big crevasse just below the summit.

Happy to be finally above the penitentes!

Sergio leading Amandine and Robin along the ridge

The last haul... passed three mounds which we were sure would be the summit, only to find more MOUNTAIN ahead!

FINALLY, WE REACHED THE SUMMIT OF 6,552 M! Breathing heavy and a little cold, we were relieved and at the same time very excited to have reached the summit of Bolivia at 11:00 am and after 8 hours of climbing. We all welcomed a good rest at the top and a few photos.

View from the summit of the Payachatas! Check out that crater!

Stella and Cayley sharing the glory on the summit!

Robin reaching the summit

Amandine reaching the summit

Cayley on the summit

Warm and beginning to sunburn, we had to start our descent. Back through the penitentes and over the rocks, we figured it best to remove our crampons and descend on the far south side over the rocks, avoiding the bottom part of the penitentes.

Looking back up the mountain's summit from where we came

Back down over the rocks

After another short rock climb and another ice penitentes section with crampons, we scantered back down to the high camp. Tired and late in the day, our clients still decided they would prefer to continue the descent down to the base camp, to be closer to the thermal springs for the last day. We packed up the gear and tents and hiked back to the base camp in 1.5 hours. After Sergio and Juancho prepared us a great rice & veggie soup and Italian pasta, we were all in need of some serious sleep – but not without taking one last photo of Sajama at sunset!

Sajama at sunset

The fourth and final day, we made our way back down through the valley to where our trusty 4×4 was parked, and drove to the thermal springs. After 3 days of dust and wind and sand, we all eagerly jumped into the natural hot springs.

Robin and Amandine in the hot springs!

Sergio and Juancho passed us some delicious, cool watermelon that we snacked on  while bathing.

Finishing up lunch and watermelon while drying off

Sergio, Cayley, Amandine, Robin, Stella

Congratulations to the whole group for an incredible summit and a rewarding trip! We’re all returning with sunkissed (sunburnt in my case) cheeks, windswept hair, and stronger, bigger lungs. Thanks to everyone for a great 4 days!

Posteado por: altitud6000 | agosto 3, 2010

Huayna Potosi with James and Debbie!

The latest expedition up Huayna Potosí! Our two clients, Debbie and James from the UK, came with Altitud6000 for a three-day summit expedition from July 30 to August 1st, 2010. With us went Juancho as their guide, Cayley as a translator, Simon as chef. Joining us for the second and third day was Pau from Valencia, Spain, and Sergio as his guide.
Our clients, Debbie and James, from UK – ready to climb!

The first day, we headed up to the Old Glacier (4,800 m) to do ice climbing practices. After the 45 min hike up to the glacier, we put on our crampons and pulled out the ice axes, and Juancho led us in a 4-hour session including a few vertical climbs. Great fun!

The first few steps with crampons

Juancho helping Debbie descend with crampons

Juancho setting up a top rope for us to do some vertical climbs!

Debbie doing her first vertical climb

James reaching the top of a 90° face

Debbie with no fear!

Finishing the practice in the late afternoon, everyone feeling excited and confident!

 After a great practice session, everyone was feeling confident with their climbing gear, and excited for the summit climb! We headed back down to the Base Camp (4,750 m) where Simon was waiting for us, first with popcorn to relieve our hungry stomachs, and then with a delicious quinoa soup and then Mexican Tacos, Bolivian style with llama meat! So delicious. For dessert, bananas with yogurt. Juancho and Simon both indulged in a beer to celebrate Simon’s birthday! The rest of us crawled into our sleeping bags with full stomachs for a great sleep at 4,750 m!

Second day! We awoke at 8:30 to the smell of Simon’s delicious patented mountain pancakes with hot peaches and syrup. One hasn’t truly experienced the best part of Bolivia if they haven’t delighted in tasting Simon’s pancakes. After our filling breakfast, we packed up our gear and headed up to the High Camp (5,130 m).

Debbie and James, en-route to the High Camp

After a 2 1/2 hour climb, we reached the High Camp with energy to spare! And once again, Simon had passed us on the trail and was ready for us with hot burgers and fries, and cold Coca Cola! Couldn’t ask for anything better at 5,130 m up a mountain!

Simon cooking up trout at High Camp! What a chef!

 We enjoyed a restful afternoon playing cards and napping in the refugio. Arriving in the afternoon was Pao (from Spain) with his guide Sergio, climbing Huayna Potosí in only 2 days. After tea and snack time, Simon once again presented us with a delicious vegetable and quinoa soup, and then a luxurious “Lake Titicaca trout” with lemons, and garlic and oregano mashed potatoes. When Simon entered with his sizzling plate of trout while everyone else was eating rice with ketchup, I think I saw other climbers’ eyes salivating!  No one compares to Simon (“Tuti”)!

Simon's delicious mountain quinoa soup

After crawling into our sleeping bags at about 7 pm, we all crashed pretty quickly, wanting to put in a few hours of sleep before 1:30 am. Of course, 1:30 am always comes too quickly!

Simon entered again with a big plate of steaming hot pancakes, and we filled up on orange-cake, pancakes, oatmeal, yogurt, granola, and lots of coca tea. After packing up our gear, we headed out into the brisk cold morning, strapped on our crampons and Juancho tied into the rope. Pao and Sergio started out ahead of us, and then James, Debbie, Cayley and Juancho started up “slow and steady” up the mountain.

Starting up the glacier from rock bottom, 3:00 am

Reaching 5,900 m just as the sun was coming up

Crossing over a big crevasse in the early morning sunshine

Crawling up the rock & ice ridge at 6,050 m

Reaching our summit point! Congratulations to James and Debbie!

View of the summit on our way down... our two Oruranian (Bolivian) friends are at the summit there. They had begun to turn back at the entrance to the bowl down below, but Juancho encouraged them to keep going. And here they are at the summit!

Making our way back down over the rock section, with a 1,000 m drop to the left and a 150 m drop to the right!

Heading back down as the clouds were climbing up from the Amazon Basin

Our Oruranian (Bolivian) friends right behind us, now a welcome part of our group

Clinging to the side of the ice above a deep crevasse (5,450 m)

Can you see the shape in the ice? We saw a woman's face, with her arms reaching out of the ice...

Meeting Pao and Sergio back down at the High Camp (5,130 m) - a successful climb for all!

Back at the High Camp, Simon was once again waiting for us with a hot pot of noodle soup and a hearty handshake. After packing up all our gear, we continued back down the mountain, stopping briefly at the Park Permit Control Station for a celebratory beer.

Pao thanking Sergio for a great expedition with a Paceña

Congratulations to everyone for a successful and fun trip! Wonderful people, beautiful weather, great food, and a spectacular mountain, as always!

Posteado por: altitud6000 | julio 29, 2010

Grade 6 en la Cumbre del Huayna Potosí (6,088 m)

Un grupo mas de Grade 6 vino de Brasil para hacer escaladas de montañas con Altitud6000. Fueron 8 escaladores al Huayna Potosí (la 3a montaña mas alta del Cordillera Real a 6,088 m) con Carlos (guía de Grade 6), Osvaldo, Juancho, y Sergio (guías de Altitud6000), y Simon y Maria como Chefs de Alta Montaña.

Despues de un día de praticas en el glaciar del Huayna Potosí, todos subieron hasta el Campamento Alto del Huayna Potosí  como ya casi expertos de Alta Montaña

Subiendo a Campo Alto Roca

Arribando encima del glaciar (abajo)

En la cresta, en un día espectacular

 Llegando al Campo Alto en la tarde, Simon y Maria estaban listos para alimentarlos a los casi expertos con una cena muy rica, para tener la energía posible y buena hidratacion.

Tomando desayuno (los panqueques famosos de Simon!) a las dos de la mañana antes de salir por la cumbre

 En la mañana despues de un descanso reparador!  Con crepes y una eleccion de un gran desayuno antes de conseguir  el sueño de escalar un  6088mts Huayna Potosi . Todos con la energia puesta y nuestro guia Carlos tratando de conseguir mas energia con el costal de azucar……….   

Escalando el glaciar en la madrugada, el sol se levantando en atras

Mario subiendo con una energia increible 5500mts pasando por unas grietas , y admirado por un lugar tan alto y precioso.      

Una descansa en el glaciar despues de escalar unas horas

Llegando al Campo Argentino donde hay una vista increible de las luzes de La Paz y El Alto

El grupo, escalando la primera parte technica y muy expuesta a 5,600 m

Tomando pasos con cuidado

Una mirada adentro de una grieta muy profundo

Una pausa despues de escalar una parte expuesta, tomando un poco de sol a 5,700 m

Descansar con una vista muy bonita de la Amazonía

         Mario y Marcelo cansados y sin oxigeno mirando toda la belleza de la montaña..  

Continuando hasta la planisie

Por fin llegando a la planisie, las montañas Illimani y Mururata en atras

 Edna y Francisco sacando toda su energia y usando todo lo psicologico para continuar con la escalada pasito a pasito suben  asia la gloria …… 

Llegando a la cresta, con la vista de todo la Cordillera Real

 Despues de la gran cresta el carioca  casi rendido dijo “carallo” que vista mas hermosa…   6050m   

La cresta muy expuesta hasta la cumbre del Huayna Potosí (6088 m)

 Edna  con  mirada de asombro  y cansada dijo que maravilla nunca vi algo tan hermoso y el Guia dijo vamos vamos a bailar en la cumbre tengo zapatos extras…..     

Bajando hasta el Campo Alto despues de un día muy fuerte

Pasamos la  noche  el Campo Alto donde no hay tanto oxigeno consentrados en el dia “DE” ….

Mirando el sol se levantando en la madrugada al Campo Alto Roca (5,130 m) la última día

Vista de la cumbre del Huayna Potosi del Campo Alto en la madrugada

Todo el grupo a el último día en el Campo Alto antes de bajar y volver a La Paz

Muchas gracias a todo el equipo y todo los clientes por un viaje bueníssimo. Fue  días maravillosos  y de buenas memorias. Saludos a todos los Brasileros y a Grade 6!

Grade 6 continues! With a new group than last week, Grade 6 brought in a new group of Brazillians, this time a group of 8 people! They headed out to Huayna Potosí Base Camp (4,750 m) on Tuesday, July 20th and spent the evening aclimatizing in the Base Camp with their High Mountain Chefs, Simon and Maria.

Group shot before leaving La Paz

Huayna Potosí, 6,088 m

The following day, they made the 45 minute trek up to the base of the Huayna Potosí Glacier (at 4,800 m) with all their mountaineering gear. They spent the day there with 3 mountain guides: Carlos (Grade 6), Osvaldo and Juancho (Altitud 6000), learning ice climbing skills and practicing their mountaineering techniques. Below are some photos of the afternoon!

The group, heading out from Base Camp up to the Glacier

Gearing up on the Glacier

Yes, you can climb that! By the end of the day...

Taking baby steps with crampons (Carlos in lead)

Baby steps...

Osvaldo coaching crampon use

Ready for ice axe introduction

Climbing time!

More climbing!

Everyone gets a turn

And rappel back down

Heading back down the glacier

One last descent before back down on rocky ground

It's been a good day!

Check back in with our blog to see how the summit trip went!



Posteado por: altitud6000 | julio 20, 2010

Brazillians climb Pequeño Alpamayo, Condoriri

From July 11th to July 17th, a group of Brazillians from Grade VI spent a week in the Condoriri Valley, attending what we call Mountaineering School. With Altitud 6000 guides and Simon and Maria as their chefs, they spent a few days on the glacier doing ice climbing practices.

Condoriri at sunset

Huayna Potosí at sunset

Hiking into the Condoriri Valley

Reaching the Chiar Khota Laguna, Cabeza del Condor aboveIce climbing practice

Crampon time!

On their final day (Saturday, July 17th), they left early in the morning to climb Pequeño Alpamayo’s peak. With impeccable timing, the group’s departure coincided with a huge snowfall all across the Bolivian Altiplano and in the Cordillera Real. This gave the Brazillians a whole new experience of climbing during a snowfall, and a completely different perspective of Pequeño Alpamayo.

The group, before starting out

Trekking up to the glacier in the dark

Beginning the climb up on the glacier

Near white-out

Pequeño Alpamayo and Pico Tarija, snow-covered

Reaching the summit of Pequeño Alpamayo

Osvi at the summit of Pequeño Alpamayo

Beginning the descent

Descending in a white-out

Crossing a crevasse via an ice-bridge

Jumping over the gap between ice-bridge and solid ice.

Back down on the glacier

More ice bridges

One more group to cross

Back at the base camp, a lot whiter than when we left it!

Posteado por: altitud6000 | julio 17, 2010

Illimani Photo Shoot

Juancho was presented with an amazing opportunity last weekend: To take a professional photographer and a journalist touring around Illimani. For those of you who know Juancho, you probably have experienced a bit of his love for photography and capturing amazing photos… you can imagine how this was a dream come true for him! It hardly even mattered that he had to wake up at 3 am to pick up the two passengers for 4 am and be prepared for photographing the backside of Illimani at sunrise!

Aside from chauffering the two and providing current information about the mountain, Juancho was able to capture a few photos himself with his new Nikon D200. Below are a few samples… and watch for the article and photos in the Luna Llena special article for Día de La Paz (16 de Julio)!

Illimani from the backside

Illimani (backside) and town below

Illimani (backside) and farmland below

Illimani (backside) and a cholita with her sheep

Illimani (backside) and a typical house from the area

Illimani (backside) and mud/stone houses

Driving around to the frontside of Illimani, through rock canyons of Palca Canyon

Silhouetted hoodoo in Palca Canyon

Illimani (frontside) and Palca Canyon

Illimani (frontside) and cactus

Illimani (frontside) and farmland below

Illimani (frontside) at Sunset

Posteado por: altitud6000 | julio 15, 2010

Huayna Potosí with rocket builders!

Last week, a Scottish coule living in California came into the office. Being hiking enthusiasts with only two weeks in Bolivia and a 3-day ice climbing course booked for their last few days in Condoriri, they wanted to do some trekking at altitude to acclimatize themselves before their course. fAfter discussing a few different one- and two-day trekking options with Juancho, the couple finally settled on a one-day trek up to the High Rock Camp of Huayna Potosí (at 5,130 m). They left the following day with Osvaldo as their guide, driving up tot he Base Camp of Huayna Potosí (4,750 m).

Before we knew it, Osvaldo was back in the office! He told us how the two were very strong hikers, and climbed the steep trail up to the High Camp easily in 1.5 hours. We were all very happy for them, and hoped to see them again in the office!

Sure enough, the following day they rolled in, this time wanting to climb a summit! With that one-day tantalizing taste of seeing the Huayna Potosí summit so close, they were dreaming of reaching a summit. As they only had two days before their departure to Condoriri Valley, their choice between Acotango and Huayna Potosí was simple… Huayna Potosí! Though it would have to be done in only two days, skipping the first night at the base camp, and climbing again straight up to the High Camp for the first night.

The full team met in the morning at 8:30 am in the office: the Scottish couple, Rolando as the guide, Cayley as translator, and Nemecio as our cook. Arriving at the Base Camp, the wind was blowing strong, but the sun was shining. We packed up all our equipment and headed up.

Huayna Potosí

Up along the ridge, the wind was blowing so strongly we were nearly windswept off the rocks! Hiking up the steep section was slower going than the previous day due to the strong winds and heavier packs. Reaching the High Camp at 1:30, Nemecio was ready for us with a delicious, revitalizing lunch of hamburgers and fresh french fries. Not an easy feat cooking this up at the High Camp!

Howard and Catriona along the ridge towards Huayna Potosí High Camp

Unloading our sleeping gear up top of the Refugio, we indulged in a siesta and socialized a bit with the other climbers. We discussed the big game – World Cup 2010 Finals! Spain vs. Holland – though there were no Spanish or Dutch people, there were many fans! Later, after our group feasted on a delicious quinoi and vegetable soup, and second mashed potatoes and garlic chicken, we all gathered together to listen on the radio to the World Cup Final Game. Thankfully, there were a few translators with us so we could get the jist of what the  Spanish commentator was saying! We made bets on who would carry the water bottles the next day.

High Rock Camp of Huayna Potosí (5,130 m)

We all headed to bed, some celerating the Spanish victory, though no one was quite sure how much sleep we actually got – the wind had picked up (perhaps it, too, was celebrating the Spanish victory). Loud and howling across the rooftop of the refugio, we dozed in and out of sleep.

Wake-up call at 1:00 am! Downstairs for breakfast, we drank some hot tea and filled up our bellies with energy for the climb we were about to make. The wind still howling, none of the groups seemed to want to step outside. But once out onto the ice, the wind wasn’t as strong as it sounded. We strapped on our crampons, Rolando tied us into the rope, and we began!

Up and up at a slow and steady pace, the wind still blowing, we climbed up hard ice patches and over crevasses in the dark. We crawled over a rocky patch of 8 m with crampons, and continued up the last patch of hard ice before getting to packed snow. Finally reaching Campo Argentino (5,500 m), our pace slowed. The strong wind taking the energy out of us, we trudged up the bowl to the base of the Ruta Frances.

View of the summit from Campo Argentino (5,500 m)

The sun coming up over the Amazon Basin, we had a spectacular view of the lights of La Paz and El Alto, and the magestic Illimani in rosy pink light. 

View of Illimani and Mururata from Campo Argentino

Content with this as our summit point, we descended back down the mountain in the beautiful sunrise.

Illimani from Campo Argentino

On our way back back down from Campo Argentina

Back down at the High Camp, the wind having died down, our Scottish couple took a rest before and another tea and snacks before packing up our gear and heading back down to the Base Camp. We had a beautiful and calm descent, the wind having died down completely. Impressively, our couple experienced no altitude sickness for having climbed within 2 days. Congratulations to them for such an accomplishment!

Posteado por: altitud6000 | julio 3, 2010

Ancohuma and Glorious Glaciers!

An expedition that is normally done in 7 days, our ALTITUD 6000 team left on June 27th in an ambitious ascention attempt in 5 days. After having summitted Huayna Potosí twice, Manuel came to ALTITUD 6000 wanting to climb a more “non-commercial” mountain, something really different. Our team included two clients, Manuel from France, Cayley from Canada, with Juancho as our guide and Simon (Tuti) Altitud’s famous High Mountain cook. Joining us later was our porter, Guillermo (Cortinas!)  

We left the office Sunday morning pronto at 9:00 am with Osvaldo driving us in our private SUV. We didn’t make it very far (3 blocks) before Juancho realized (with Cayley’s prompting) that he had forgotten one sleeping bag and his down coat! Very important things when you will be sleeping on a glacier at high altitude! Pulling up at the San Fransisco Church, he sprinted up the Sagarnaga street (for those of you who are familiar with Sagarnaga, this is not an easy feat!) and back to the office to grab the forgotten goose feathers, and we continued on our way out of La Paz and through the Sunday market of El Alto.  

Four hours later, with Simon, Cayley, and Juancho alseep in the back seat and Manuel’s curious eyes peeled to the Cordillera, we crossed from the start of the Cordillera Real to the very northern end, Illampu. Weaving our way nauseously down the Sorata Valley and then up a very narrow dirt road, past small clay homes, llama and sheep herds, and chickens being plucked, we finally arrived in Kolani where we began our trek at 3,223 m.  

Town of Sorata down the valley, and Illampu and Ancohuma, the end of the Cordillera Real above.

 Before even starting up the trail, Simon served us up a delicious rice with vegetables and garlic chicken. With two mules in tow, we began the climb up a rocky dirt path, winding through pastures and over rolling hills up towards Laguna Chillata.  

Hiking up through pastures above Kolani

Trail up to Laguna Chillata, below Illampu and Ancohuma

Laguna Chillata is at 4219 m, and the local Bolivians describe it as being sacred. It is said to have no bottom, and that bodies have been buried in the laguna never to resurface. Shortly after we arrived and set up camp for our first night and ravishly feasted on tea and crackers with Dulce de Leche, the clouds started settling in and we had to pull out our raincoats. Later, after one of Simon’s magic soups and a delicious Japanese-style beef stirfry, we all crawled into our tents warm and full-bellied.

Laguna Chillata (4,219 m)

Though it rained the whole night through, we woke up to misty clouds all around but the rain held off.  Juancho reassured us that the skies would clear by the afternoon.  Simon packed up his sleeping bag which was somehow soaking with rain water, though the inside of the tent was dry. After a delicious hot breakfast of pancakes and the remaining Dulce de Leche, we set out in more drizzling rain.

After a few hours of what seemed like much more up than down over a pass and across slippery rocks, Juancho finally decided we could stop for lunch. Pulling out our sandwiches and snacks, Manuel curiously probed for the altitude, hoping we were close to our destination. Juancho said, according to his estimations, we must be at around 4,270.  Incredulous! Only 50 m higher than Laguna Chillata? Surely we must be higher than that… Sure enough, he reassured us with his altimeter, we were exactly at 4,270. Oh, the inner altimeters of a mountain guide!

The clouds finally opening up and revealing the mountains above. *insert halo yellow shining light music*

After 5 hrs of hiking through mist, finally the clouds opened up to reveal stunning mountain peaks above us. I had no idea the mountains were so close! Energized by the impressive peaks and much anticipated rays of sunshine, we finished the last rocky hill within 15 mins and  came upon the beautiful serene Laguna Glaciar, at 5,047 m.

Pico Schulze, Schulze and Illampu

Laying our tents, sleeping bags, and wet clothes out to dry, Manuel went for his second “baño polaco” or polar dip, as we say in English. Not surprisingly, he found the glacier lagoon much colder than Laguna Chillata, and was grateful for Simon’s hot Mountain Special Soup, and chicken with bell peppers and garlic mashed potatoes. Nothing warms up the body like Simon’s cooking! As clouds raced across the sky with the vicious winds in the mountain peaks, Juancho describes, “Las nubs estan pasando como los minis para el San Fransisco!”Translation: The clouds are passing just like the minibuses in the San Fransisco (central square of La Paz!) After watching a spectacular sunset from high up above the Sorata Valley, and from literally above the clouds, we all slept warm and cozy that night, listening to random cracks in the glacier and rumbles as pieces of ice detached and crashed into the laguna below.

Laguna Glaciar

Laguna Glaciar at sunset

Pico Schulze, Schulze, and Illampu with clear skies

Sunset over the cloud valley of Sorata

The third day, we packed up and set up on a mad rock scramble, which Juancho assured us WAS the trail, though the porter definitely took a different route up, and Manuel seemed sure there was a fairly dusty path weaving up the flatter part of the mountainside…

We arrived at the top of the rocky slope (sweating buckets!) with an incredible, nearly clear view of Illampu and the huge glacier and Laguna Glaciar. We all agreed that we were pretty grateful it rained all the previous day, as it was a hot trek regardless of the rain!

Illampu and Laguna Glaciar

Juancho, our amazing guide!

After skirting along a rocky shale slope along the side of the glacier, finally we came to the point where we couldn’t go any higher without climbing up onto the ice.

Up along the loose rock slope, as far as we can go!

After our quick lunch, we said farewell to Guillermo our porter, and strapped on our crampons and harnesses. Juancho hooked us into the rope, and began leading us up through the winding glacier. Over crevasses and past small lagunas (we asked Manuel if he was ready for another “baño polaco”), and through penitents (pointy ice build-ups caused by lots of sun and wind).

Icy lagunas... anyone for a "baño polaco"?

Manuel and Juancho in the snow penitentes

View of Ancohuma's summit from within the glacier

Manuel, Cayley, and Simon

Up and up and up we continued, until finally we climbed over the ridge onto an open, flat surface above the glacier. We stopped here, after having been climbing 5 hours, and decided this would be our High Camp, at 5,720 m. We pulled out the tents, which were (thankfully) dry, and unpacked the sleeping bags. After a quick tea and nap, we enjoyed the vast openness and breathtaking views over the entire valley, and Lake Titicaca and Isla del Sol (Sun Island) in the distance. Yes, we slept on the glacier that night! And I thought I knew cold before. I am sure Juancho was thankful that he went back to the office for his down sleeping bag, for this night especially!

Sleeping on the glacier at 5720 m

Juancho with his tent, ready for the summit trip!

Can you spot our tents?

Sunset from 5720 m

At 3:00, our summit team began the steep climb towards the summit. The weather was perfect there was no wind, not much cold, and the sky was completely clear. After reaching an altitude of 6220 m, Manuel decided that this point would be our “summit”, and he named the crevasse in front of him in his name. 

Manuel at his summit point of 6220 m!

Our summit team descended as the sun was rising over Lake Titicaca, getting back to the High Camp at 7:30 am. While huddling around Simon’s cook stove to keep warm and drinking hot tea, we waited for the sun to come up over the peaks. After thawing our tents (and our feet), we packed up and headed back down the glacier towards Laguna Glaciar, where we spent our 4th and final night of the trip. Yes, Manuel did indulge in another “baño polaco”.

Simon leading the way back over the crevasses and back down onto stable ground

The fifth and final morning, we awoke to the smell of Simon cooking his delicious mountain pancakes. Who else would be able to cook delicious pancakes at 6:30 am on the fifth and final day of a mountain trip, and at an altitude of 5,047? Let me emphasize again why we call Simon our “famous High Mountain cook”.

Simon's famous pancakes on the last day of our trip, at 5047 m!

Packing up for the final time, but this time without a porter, began our descent once again. Pachamama gifted us with beautiful clear blue skies (and red sunburned faces), and spectacular views of the mountain peaks above, from where we had come, and the beautiful Sorata Valley below, of which was hidden under the cloud veil for most of the trip.

The group: Juancho, Cayley, Simon, Manuel, with Illampu above

Manuel, considering one last "baño polaco" before leaving Laguna Chillata for the last time

Sorata Valley below our trail

Back at Laguna Chillata, Guillermo met us with his mule to take a load off our shoulders, and we raced down the rolling hills back down to Cholani, where Osvaldo was waiting for us with the vehicle and a nice cold bottle of Coca Cola.

A sight for sore eyes! The end of the trail.


Juancho’s favorite moment of the trip: The view of the morning of our summit attempt, across the valley of Lake Titicaca, Isla del Sol, and Copacabana.

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