Our plans for this year were ambitious for us, as we hoped to climb two summits over 20,000 ft. This year we were also fortunate to be joined by a great bolivian mountain guide, Hilarion Choque from Bolivian Journeys a local tour operator based in La Paz that we found in the internet. www.bolivianjourneys.org
The plan was to acclimatize on daily trips to Tiwanaku and Chacaltaya before moving to the beautiful Sorata Valley for attempts on Ancohuma and Illampu.
Ancohuma 21,080 ft (6,427 m)
We packed our mules and started our hike up to Laguna Chillata, after the hot hike up the valley we were rewarded for our efforts with a spectacular vista.
The next morning the weather was somewhat unsettled, and we made a short trip up to the beautiful Laguna Glaciar. As we neared the granite slabs of moraine camp, the views of the Illampu and Ancohuma were absolutely stunning as they peaked in and out of the puffy afternoon clouds. I had never heard of this group of peaks before, but in my opinion they are perhaps some of the most stunning peaks in the entire range.
The night at moraine camp passed uneventfully, and we headed off early the next morning onto the glacier for the ascent to the high camp. After weaving amongst the crevasses for a little more than an hour, we came to a large flat area. Above this point the stunningly beautiful southwest face of Ancohuma came into view, though our introduction to the peak was through some grey clouds. After a couple of hours at the high camp the peak came into full view in the sunlight, and I couldn’t put my camera down. The sunset came and we were enveloped in a thin mist of orange light that mostly obscured the peak, but the effect was stunning to behold nonetheless.
The following morning (after some early morning pictures from the col) we summited Ancohuma. It took us 5 hrs to reach the summit and only to go back to high camp, the climbing was strenuous but thoroughly enjoyable. The guide was always above to set up a good belay station. The most difficult part was a short steep traverse, during which the rope became stuck over some thick icicles and required a great amount of effort to free.
In the afternoon we made a descent back to base camp.
The next morning we packed up camp and moved to Aguas Calientes, Illampu’s base camp.
Illampu 20,932 ft (6,382 m)
The first half of the trek, up to high camp, was rocky and unremarkable, but after that the views were much better. As the afternoon progressed I watched the clouds drift across the ferocious face of Illampu, considered the hardest summit in the range to reach.
Today we started early in the morning , after crossing a few crevasses we climbed up to the left about four hundred feet. The part we climbed was just south of a prominent rock cliff below the base of the western spur. This was the steepest part of the climb so far and we had already reached the realm of unconsolidated snow, except for one 100-foot section our route was not so steep as to require belaying. About 9:00 am we reached the summit, it was windy and a few of the larger peaks rose above the clouds. I was eager to head back down while there would be light to get us back to the tent.
After flapping all night in the wind. We soon got up, packed up, and left high camp for the gentler climate below in Sorata. We had fulfilled our dream of climbing two major South American peaks.
Café Ciudad – International and bolivian food.
La Tranquera – Excellent Argentinean steakhouse.