American Route/Vía de Lyon

Page Type
Cordillera Real, Bolivia, South America
Route Type:
Ice and snow
Time Required:
One to two days
D- /1000 m/65 degrees

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American Route/Vía de Lyon
Created On: May 1, 2004
Last Edited On: May 2, 2004

West Face

The west face of Huayna Potosí is the most impressive face in Bolivia with its 1000 vertical meters. The routes on the face are not crowded and normally you will be the only party on the entire face.

There seems to be some confusion about route names on the west face. The route described below is the most direct route. In Yossi Brain's book Bolivia - A Climbing Guide the route is called both the American Route and Via de Lyon.


Hire a taxi or a jeep in La Paz. In 2002 there was no public transportation to the west face. With taxi it takes approximately 2 hours. Follow the road towards Zongo Pass, turn left in Milluni and follow the road towards Tuni. Just before Tuni, at the highest point of the road, you get out.

From the highest point of the road you actually have to hike downhill to the glacier. From the glacier you go as close to the face as you want and pick a spot where you want to sleep. Have in mind that there may be quite a few serac falls during night.

Route Description

Depending on snow and ice conditions as well as skill and confidence of the ropeteam the climb can take anything from 5 to 24 hours.

The route starts at the bivuac site on the glacier just below the impressive 1000 m west face. Leave bivuac site around 3 AM. Go up the left-hand side of the huge hanging glacier, traverse toward the right over the glacier and continue up and right to reach the gully. From here the route can be pretty icy and depending on the season involving some mixed climbing. Continue up the gully to reach the summit ridge some 20 m to the south of the summit. Traverse in deep snow around the corniced summit to reach the normal summit platform.

Descend by the normal route of the east face. If you are sure that you can climb the route without having to bivy out it is advisable to pay a porter to carry your tent, sleeping bag and cooking equipment around the mountain to Zongo Pass where you get down. Otherwise bring bivy gear. If you will have to descend by the normal route late in the afternoon be aware of soft snow and bad or missing snow bridges.

Essential Gear

Two technical ice axes, crampons, helmet, rope, ice screws and snow stakes. The snow normally turns to ice in the end of June. Also bring a headlamp as you might be spending quite some time on the mountain in darkness.

Miscellaneous Info

If you have information about this route that doesn't pertain to any of the other sections, please add it here.