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Climbing guides in Peru and Bolivia

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Climbing guides in Peru and Bolivia

Postby fruitflyman » Fri Dec 21, 2012 9:27 pm

Hey everybody,
my wife and I are thinking of going to climb in Peru or Bolivia this summer. Does anyone have recommendations for guides or guide companies? This would be our first trip and we have no idea how mountaineering trips are run in that part of the world. I hope it's not like Everest where other people carry your crap and put up fixed ropes in front of you. We have the snow/ice/glacier skills but don't feel ready to tackle big glaciated peaks by ourselves. We've never done anything bigger than Shasta/Rainier/Whitney, and that only in the summer. So altitude, weather, and bad-weather routefinding are potential problems, and we'd prefer to go with someone experienced who knows the mountain. If you have climbed with local guides, I would appreciate your recommendations - who should we talk to? And, as long as we are on the subject, what peaks/routes would be good for high-altitude newbies? Something more than a simple snow slog, hopefully, but no crazy ice either, just something semi-technical with plenty of glaciers. Bonus if it's Alpamayo :D
Thanks!
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Re: Climbing guides in Peru and Bolivia

Postby Buz Groshong » Fri Dec 21, 2012 9:54 pm

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Re: Climbing guides in Peru and Bolivia

Postby Damien Gildea » Fri Dec 21, 2012 10:03 pm

Andean guides can be a bit of a crap shoot, especially if you haven't been there, or similar areas before, and have no altitude experience. There are some good guides and agencies, but plenty (ie. more) not so good ones. Even the good ones tend to provide a rushed itinerary, promising more than they can deliver, with not enough time at the start to acclimatise properly. They also feel pressure to run trips to peaks or routes that may not be in good or safe condition (ie. Huascaran) because they really need the money.

In your situation, you might want to look at something like: http://www.alpineinstitute.com/catalog/ ... xpedition/ This is a great area (I climbed there in 1999) - interesting mountains, nice village and some culture etc and not as touristed as the Huaraz/Cord.Blanca area of Peru etc. If you go early in the season, the 'headwall' on Illampu is not difficult, just straightforward 50deg snow ice for a couple hundred metres max.

Last year I also climbed Ausangate in the Cordillera Vilcanota. This is also a great area and a good peak, but the few guides/agencies I saw for the area were not good. I normally like to recommend local companies over Western commercial companies, but for the inexperienced so many Andean agencies are just not good enough.

This guy wrote one of the main guidebooks and runs some good trips: http://www.andes.org.uk/expeditions-and ... s-peru.asp
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Re: Climbing guides in Peru and Bolivia

Postby Buz Groshong » Fri Dec 21, 2012 10:11 pm

Another good possibility for Ausangate: http://www.peaksandplaces.com/
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Re: Climbing guides in Peru and Bolivia

Postby Woodie Hopper » Fri Dec 21, 2012 11:08 pm

For Bolivia I can recommend http://www.bolivianmountainguides.com. This is a family-run business and all of the guides are great and very tough. I used their services during two trips to Bolivia and would use them again.

Woodie
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Re: Climbing guides in Peru and Bolivia

Postby Alan Arnette » Sat Dec 22, 2012 3:05 am

Chris Benway at http://www.cafeandino.com/lacima/ in Huaraz can arrange climbs all over Peru including Cordella Blanca: Huascaran, Alpamayo, Chopicalqui, Millisraju, Tocllaraju. Excellent and reliable.
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Re: Climbing guides in Peru and Bolivia

Postby fruitflyman » Sat Dec 22, 2012 3:33 am

Thank you very much, guys! You gave me some great places to start.
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Re: Climbing guides in Peru and Bolivia

Postby mjp20k » Sat Dec 22, 2012 3:54 pm

I'll second Buz' recommendation for Skyline Adventures. I've traveled with them twice, and Ted Alexander and his wife run a fantastic organization.
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Re: Climbing guides in Peru and Bolivia

Postby boisedoc » Sat Dec 22, 2012 7:15 pm

can't speak for Bolivia as I have not been there but the impression I get from others is that it is a little more rustic than Peru. More issues that could affect your trip such as strikes (although those can occur in Peru also). If you are looking at the Cordillera Blanca, which is where most people go, I used a local guide named Michel Quito. I would recommend him highly. He often works with Skyline. I think Skyline is the most reputable guide service in Huaraz and probably safest-a lot of other places are cheaper but in my mind not worth it (I heard stories of guides getting people lost on basic routes and people running out of food on treks etc.). Chris at Cafe Andino is a good guy and does logistics. To answer some of your other questions, unless you are doing a very short trip, most people hire donkey, arrieros and a cook in addition to the guide. It is relatively inexpensive and definitely helps support the locals (most of whom are literally dirt poor). Also, having some people at your camp can prevent thievery. Basic peaks in the Blanca similar to the Cascades would include Maparaju, Ishinca, Urus Este, Vallunaraju and Pisco- those were plenty exciting for me but plenty of folks on summitpost would consider them snow slogs. The 6000m peaks in the Blanca are all more difficult than say Rainier- probably Chopicalqui and Toclaraju are the most often climbed. Although the peaks are not ones I would climb, I would also consider the Cordillera Huayhuash as an area to trek. Lastly, I would recommend Brad Johnson's book on the Cordillera Blanca- some awesome pictures and route info (some of which of course is outdated due to glacier movements and global warming)
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fruitflyman

Re: Climbing guides in Peru and Bolivia

Postby fruitflyman » Wed Dec 26, 2012 8:08 pm

Once again - thank you very much, everybody! I really appreciate your advice. I am all in favor of supporting the local economy - I just don't want to be catered to, if you know what I mean. The way I see it, you have to do the climb under your own power or it doesn't count. Having other people carry your stuff for you seems antithetical to mountaineering. So, what do the donkeys carry? Aside from our personal climbing and camping gear, is there a lot of stuff that needs to be moved to base camp?

One more question - how do the guides guide in Peru/Bolivia? I mean, how do they rope up for glaciers and technical sections? I've seen some guides in the Alps and on Rainier put 6-7 people on one rope, with just a few feet between people, and pretty much drag them up and down the mountain caterpillar-style... Do they do the same in the Andes? We need a guide for local route and weather knowledge but, other than that, we really want to do our own climbing.

Thanks a lot!
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Re: Climbing guides in Peru and Bolivia

Postby boisedoc » Thu Dec 27, 2012 2:22 am

I think everyone differs on what you have to do "under your own power" to consider it a climb. For me, having a donkey carry food and cooking gear to a basecamp is OK. The benefit of this is getting better food and warm drinks, usually in a large tent with a table and chairs. It is also useful to have someone behind at camp to prevent thievery. Note that if you are climbing a higher peak and need to camp on a glacier you have to carry everything. On Vallunaraju you can climb the peak in a day from where the taxi drops you off. If you stay in a refugio (for instance the one below Pisco) you don't need to haul a tent up there and they will also feed you. I've never seen 7 people on a rope there (but I have also never seen more than 4 on a rope on Rainier so who knows). I have seen short roping on Hood where they are trying to prevent falls but in areas with no crevasse danger. The Cordillera Blanca has plenty of crevasses so I don't think you would see short roping there. My guide on my first trip (an American) later died in a crevasse fall on a peak called Yanapacha. I think if you just hire a guide rather than sign on to an already planned trip, you will have much more control over what the guide does or doesn't do.
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Re: Climbing guides in Peru and Bolivia

Postby fruitflyman » Thu Dec 27, 2012 5:41 pm

Thanks a lot, Doc! You are right that having donkeys carry food and fuel into base camp, and having someone guard the camp while you are away, is fine. It's just that we are trying to avoid the kind of horrors we've seen guide companies do in other parts of the world (short-roping, fixed ropes, luxury tents, etc.). Thanks!
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Re: Climbing guides in Peru and Bolivia

Postby Luciano136 » Fri Dec 28, 2012 11:38 pm

We used http://peruvianandes.com/joomla/.

If I go back to Peru, I will use them again. Everything was arranged properly, food was amazing and I didn't feel like I was "guided" per se. You share a rope on summit day and you stick to their schedule but other than that, you are pretty much free to hike/climb at your own pace.

You definitely can't beat the logistical support for the small price you pay. I wouldn't want it any other way; totally worth it!
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Re: Climbing guides in Peru and Bolivia

Postby fruitflyman » Sun Dec 30, 2012 9:12 pm

Thank you, Luciano!
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Re: Climbing guides in Peru and Bolivia

Postby Woodie Hopper » Sun Dec 30, 2012 11:42 pm

fruitflyman wrote:
One more question - how do the guides guide in Peru/Bolivia? I mean, how do they rope up for glaciers and technical sections? I've seen some guides in the Alps and on Rainier put 6-7 people on one rope, with just a few feet between people, and pretty much drag them up and down the mountain caterpillar-style... Do they do the same in the Andes? We need a guide for local route and weather knowledge but, other than that, we really want to do our own climbing.

Thanks a lot!


For Bolivia it really depends on the company you choose. I know some that won't hesitate to put four clients on a rope together (I even know of more clueless clients on a rope believe it or not). A good guiding company will do 1:1 or 1:2, but of course you pay for smaller client to guide ratios, but this is relatively inexpensive for most people who make the trip. You could also pick a guide who will do a private clmb with you who is completely incompetent- buyer beware.

Just like anywhere else, a good, experienced guide will know the routes, be able to judge the conditions, determine your level of skill/fitness/acclimatization and make a solid judgement call on how to proceed. As you can imagine with a less experienced guide or someone who is incompetent, it's often a crapshoot.

It's good to do your homework before committing! I think that most guiding companies are known by SP members, so it can't hurt to ask around.

Woodie
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