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Bolivia/Peru DIY Climb

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Bolivia/Peru DIY Climb

Postby onpoint » Fri Feb 17, 2012 7:26 pm

Hey all,

New to the forum, but love the site. I have a fairly modest alpine climbing background and want to start doing more independent climbs. All of my alpine climbing has been in the Andes, starting with Cotopaxi, Chimborazo, the illinizas in Ecuador and later to Vallunaraju and Chopicalqui in the Cordillera Blanca in Peru. Chopi was the first more technical climb I'd done and was definitely the direction I'd like to go eventually.

Anyways, all of those climbs were done with climbing guides until this past summer when I took a friend who had never climbed before up Cotopaxi by ourselves. I felt fine about this because it was a very straight-forward walk and a well traveled route.

This coming summer, I'm going to be in a similar situation, traveling with a friend who has never done any alpine climbing before, and I was hoping to do something similar, but this time we'll be in Southern Peru and Bolivia. Ideally, I'm looking for a mountain where we can just rent gear and the route is fairly well traveled, so we will be able to follow a fairly clear line. This may be asking a lot, but if there are any mountains that have "refugios" on the glacier line (similar to Cotopaxi), so that we didn't have to bring tent/stove, that would be even better.

Does anyone know of a Cotopaxi-like mountain in Bolivia (or Southern Peru)? I've heard Huayna Potosi might work, but would like to hear from some people who've been there and could speak to how well traveled it is, how easy it is logistically, etc.

Finally, if anyone is going to be in Bolivia/Southern Peru in June 2012 and wants to climb something a bit more technical/bigger (ancohuma, illampu, illamini, sajama), let me know!


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Re: Bolivia/Peru DIY Climb

Postby iechegar » Fri Feb 17, 2012 8:00 pm

Welcome to the board! The only easier high mountains in the South of Peru are the Arequipa Volcanoes: Misti and Chachani (the most popular) but honestly those are mostly long scree slogs. In your situation I would spend more time in the Cordillera Blanca somewhere like quebrada Ishinca where you can attempt Urus, Ishinca and Tocllaraju all from the same base camp. Urus and Ishinca (and maybe Tocllaraju normal route depending on your skill level) you won't need a guide. Have Fun!
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Re: Bolivia/Peru DIY Climb

Postby Woodie Hopper » Fri Feb 17, 2012 8:21 pm

I don't have any experience in Peru- yet, but I can tell you the only mountain that has a refugio I know of in Bolivia is Huayna Potosi (it has a lower hut and an upper hut). Its proximity to La Paz makes it very accessible. Chacaltaya is not much of a climb, but would be a reasonable peak for acclimatization that is even closer to La Paz. You can get there by bus, and there is a small lodge not far from the top with a parking area (for acclimatization it may make more sense to start hiking lower on the mountain).

I plan to be in Bolivia for two weeks for Illampu/Ancohuma traverse and Chachacomani beginning mid May or a week later, but I'm planning on going with the guide I used two years ago.

I hope this helps you.

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Re: Bolivia/Peru DIY Climb

Postby rgg » Tue Feb 21, 2012 10:18 am

I spent a long time in Peru in 2011, starting in the south.

Around Arequipa
As iechegar said, Misti and Chachani are very easy. Apart from the altitude of course. Nevertheless, I enjoyed myself, especially on Misti, because it's simply a beautiful volcano, and a nice layer of snow on top made it even prettier.
More interesting but still a relatively easy climb is Ampato. I had a go at it, but avalanche danger made us turn back. Other relatively easy ones I read about are Hualca Hualca, Sabancaya, Solimani and Coropuna, but I couldn't find partners to go there so I moved on. There is no refugio at any of these.
There are some easy 5000m+ mountains a few hours north of Arequipa on which to get used to the thin air, like Mismi and Huarancante.

Cordillera Vilcanota
In the southeast of Peru lies the Cordillera Vilcanota. Easy mountains are hard to find there, but there is a refugio at Ausangate basecamp. I've heard and read different stories about it, one saying it was private, the other not. However, it's too far to walk there from the nearest village in one day, so you have to bring camping gear anyway. Ausangate is a beautiful climb, and slightly harder than Chopicalqui, and definitely not suitable for people without experience. It's not climbed often, and of those that try it, many fail, not primarily because of the technical difficulties, but because it's a long slog on the summit plateau, which can have deep snow. We had snow shoes, and still it was very tiresome.

I visited Bolivia in August/September 2009.

Cordillera Real
Like Woodie said, Huayna Potosi has two refugios. I would rate the climb comparable to Cotopaxi. Very likely you'll find a trail. If you want to go there, I suggest you climb slightly lower mountains first to get acclimatized and then skip the lower refugio.
One such lower mountain would be Pequeño Alpamayo. It's a fine climb. A local familiy lives at the lake at the base camp for Condiriri and Pequeño Alpamayo. When I was there in 2009, they were happy to accommodate guests in one of their rooms. I forgot what I paid, but it wasn't much. However, there was no way to ask ahead if there would be room for us, so we still had to bring our own camping gear, just in case. You might find a trail on Pequeño Alpamayo, but that's by no means certain. We had to make our own. Up to Tarija peak, the route is easier than Cotopaxi. From there, it's a bit more difficult, but not all that much. Very exposed though. If you're on Tarija and don't like what you see, you can call it a day from there.
Chacaltaya is another useful acclimatization peak, but it's very easy. Bus loads of tourists are driven up to the end of the road, from where it's half an hour of walking to the top. There is a ski lodge at the end of the road. That may sound rather luxurious, but it's pretty simple. I didn't ask, but I assume you could spend the night there.

Illimani sees a fair number of climbers. No refugio, sometimes a trail. Not when we where there though. The difficulty was between that of Cotopaxi and Chopicalqui. I would hesitate to bring an inexperienced climber there, but if your friend does really well on Huayna Potosi, then you could consider Illimani next.

Ancohuma and Illampu don't see many climbers. No refugio, and don't expect a trail. Ancohuma was a little bit harder than Cotopaxi, but easier than Chopi, Illampu was much more difficult than Chopi. Not an area to go with an inexperienced partner.

Cordillera Occidental
Near the Chilean border lies Sajama national park, with a few 6000m+ peaks. No refugio, but you can find a place to stay, and get a simple meal, in Sajama village. By September, there was so little snow left on Parinacota, we got to the summit without crampons or ice axe. Technically very easy, but tiresome because of the scree higher up. There were a lot of people on the mountain, and up to the scree, there was a good trail.
On Sajama we had to descend from high camp because of strong winds - not uncommon in this area. Consequently I don't know first hand what it looks like higher up, on the glacier. From what I read and heard from other climbers, I reckon it's easier than Cotopaxi. We were alone on the mountain, but met some other climbers going up as we went down. There was a sometimes poor trail to high camp on the NW ridge, but it's almost impossible to get lost anyway. Just follow the ridge.

Good luck,
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