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Sajama is Bolivia's highest mountain (by about 100m) - an extinct volcano situated in the eponymous Sajama National Park, on Bolivia's South-Western border with Chile.
The relevant map is number IGMB Sheet 5839-IV (1:50,000)
The volcano has been (fortunately!) extinct for the past 10,000 years. The summit is covered by a permanent ice cap hiding all trace of any volcanic crater.
There are three frequently attempted routes - W glacier and SW ridge, SW ridge direct, and NW ridge.
The base of Sajama is approximately 180 miles, or 290 kilometres, from La Paz.
The journey to the village of Sajama (4250m) can be made in around five hours by truck. Mules can be rented here for the trek to the normal base camp at 4800m, by the Rio Aychuta.
The base camp is reached in about five hours' trek. The red barked Quenoa trees here are said to be the tallest in the world.
See map below. Many thanks to Branko Ivanek for this.
No particular restrictions - no permit is needed, but as entering the Sajama National Park, you have to register at the Ranger station in Sajama village.
You also have to pay a fee of about $2 (US dollars) to enter the park. The rangers can arrange anything for you there like transport, mules, guides etc.
You are also required to fill in forms about what you intend to climb and when, what your experience is, what kind of equipment you are taking etc.
They say they will come and look for you if you're not back within the time you mention in the forms. So do go back there on your way out again!
New Information- important! Climbing Sajama from the Bolivian side is only allowed between April and October. This seems to be a new decree and also applies to all mountains in the Sajama National Park. More information to follow once I have checked this. Thanks to Nando for raising this point.
Thanks also to Boris Krielen for supplementary information.
When To Climb
The best time to attempt to climb Sajama is between July and September, on account of the snowfall that can be expected from October to April.
The main obstacles to ascent are severe local storms, high winds and the altitude. Temperatures can fall as low as -20 degrees celcius at night.
Penitentes as high as a metre may pose interesting obstacles to your progress at altitude, and beware of crevasses on the glacier.
The area in which Sajama is situated is a national park (contact: +591 08135260) and you should treat it with according sensitivity.
The area is very arid, with less than 90 millimetres annual rainfall. There is a great diversity of flora and fauna, none of which is likely to trample or eat you.
Boris Krielen has this to say:
Be aware when camping on the sand in the valley. There are dustdevils all the time which can turn into serious sandstorms. Sleeping in just a bivybag can be an unpleasant experience when it fills up halfway at night with the very fine black lavasand. It might take your breath away.
At over six and a half thousand metres, weather conditions can be severe.
You should be equipped to deal with very low temperatures and high winds, plus localised storms.
Sajama was the unlikely location for the world's highest ever football match, at the second attempt, on August 2nd, 2001.
See the report from the BBC here and a more complete account here. Make of it what you will, but don't try this at home!
Check out Brankoi's account of his ski descent of the South West Ridge in the 'routes' section a the top left!
- Ice-X Foundation
Dutch climbing foundation promoting clean climbing. Lots of info about their expeditions (Elbrus, Aconcagua, Seven Summits), photo's, links etc. English version coming soon.
- Bolivia Adventure Planet Expeditions
A travel agency that works in Bolivian's moutain ranges, Patagonia and Aconcagua. It provides the best guides and offers logistic support for all the expeditions.
- Bolivian Journeys
Bolivia climbing specialists based in La Paz, expeditions and logistics throughout the bolivian Andes.
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