The Huayna Potosi, one of the mountains one can see on the Cordillera Real in Bolivia, is one of the preferred acclimatization peaks on the area. Not only the climb on its standard route is easy, but also the access to this mountain is simple. The mountain looks like a huge "Matherhorn" from far away, and one might think its faces are easy and direct. In reality the peak offers plenty of different environments for climbers, and the glaciers and slopes of its normal route are not easy task for the alpinist operating at 5000 or 6000 meters.
Approach to the East face climbs.
The East face includes at least the following routes: Normal, Vía de los Franceses, Bordaz Muñoz, and South-West Ridge.
From the city of La Paz, you can take a transport that will take you to the "Zongo Pass". Either arrange your own transportation (80 dollars in 1999!) to this area or try to take one of the buses that depart from El Alto (that poor town on the highest part of La Paz), in La Plaza Ballivian (Ballivian Square). They do not depart on an specific schedule, so you will have to wait for one. Alternatively you can try to “free ride” on one of those “gringo vans” that are part of organized climbs.
You can also hang out in the Hotel Torino, downtown La Paz and try to find other climbers aiming to go to the Huayna Potosi. I placed a note in one of the billboards and in a matter of a day I had two Climbing partners. Through one of them I met my wife! So keep on going! Another good place to hang out and meet climbers, used to be the Restaurant MONGOS. Check your guidebook.
Keep in mind that the return can be a problem. If you do not have a way to get back to La Paz you can wait from one hour to a couple of days at the Zongo Pass, although during the high season is quite busy and you can get a ride easely.
Once in Zongo Pass you can ask for porters. The family who lives there also can provide this service and believe me, it is best to get this help.
There are several places to camp when climbing the east face of the Huayna Potosi. One good option, for those in acclimatization stage is to camp next to the Zongo Pass house or to stay at the hut “Refugio Huayna Potosi” (tel: 323584, check it up once in La Paz). Next, get to the first campsite (Campo de Rocas, 5150), next to the glacier, and stay there and the next morning attempt the summit. Or stay the one night in this campsite and then get to the second campsite, the Campamento Argentino (5540Mts or 17880 ft) two hours after the start of the glacier. Acclimatized and fit climbers can do the whole summit attempt from bottom to top in one go, via the standard route.
Remember: getting to the Campmento Argentino may not be necessary (climb high, sleep low) if you go for the standard route, so you can stay in the first camp. Other routes may need a time saving approach and you may be required to stay at the second camp site, shaving out about one hour from the first camp.. This campsite is on the ice and snow… and considering the crevasses, and the altitude…..is your choice.
Please visit the site of Brazilian Climber Andre Zancaro, "
Campo de Altitude". You can see there pictures of Huayna Potosi
More Information about Bolivia:
The CIA World Fact Book
The US Library of Congress
The "Instituto Geográfico Militar" (IGM) provides maps on scale 1:50000. This is the sheet:
IGM Milluni 5945 II. Walter Guzman/Huayna Potosi
Be aware of the Bolivian maps. It has been reported that they have several errors.....
Guide Book: from, unfortunately deseaced mountaineer Yossi Brain:
Bolivia, a Climbing Guide. Brain, Yossi, The Mountaineers, 1999
also, another guidebook is:
La Cordillera Real de los Andes-Bolivia, by Alain Mesili (www.andes-mesili.com), comes in English under he title "Andes of Bolivia"
Lonely Planet Bolivia. Swaney, Deanna, 4th ed.
Food: I hire food from the locals, so I did not mind, but I have a South American stomach and I can heat a garbage truck and not likely get sick. Anyway, the way to go is on the markets in La Paz, where you can buy a bunch of things from milk to spaghetti, cookies and chocolates. You will likely stay downtown La Paz while you acclimatize, and plenty of “mercados” are there for you.
You can also buy Propane-Butane mix and white gas. You can re-sell these unused cilinders before you leave (and indeed all of your gear)
When to climb
June, July and August are the best months to climb, but the season is from May to September. This is the Bolivian winter, which is dry and normally the weather is quite stable. On August expect some wind, and later, November to March, the temperature is higher and the rain will make any climb umpleasent and dangerous, since the coctail of hot weather plus rain plus snow is not very apealing.
- Climbing Huyana Potosi (w/ photos) - Bolivia
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