Chacaltaya is a mountain in Bolivia with an elevation of 5.395 meters and a view of Lake Titicaca in the distance. The glacier - which was as old as 18,000 years – had in 1940 an area of 0.22 km², reduced to 0.01 km² in 2007 and was completely gone by 2009. Half of the meltdown was done before 1980 (measured in volume). The final meltdown after 1980, due to missing precipitation and the warm phase of El Niňo, resulted in its final disappearance in 2009.
The glacier was located about 30 kilometers from La Paz, near Huayna Potosí mountain. It has been claimed that this was one of the glacial ranges to decrease markedly in size due to climate change. Whether the meltdown was caused by global warming or a natural variation in the local climate around Chacaltaya is still a point of debate.
I was lucky to find some snow up there last year, if you go now, maybe you wont be as lucky as me.
The glacier on Chacaltaya served back in the day as Bolivia's only ski resort. It was the world's highest lift-served ski area, the northernmost ski area in South America as well as the world's most equatorial. The rope tow, the very first in South America, was built in 1939 using an automobile engine; it was notoriously fast and difficult, housed in the site's original clapboard lodge and is now inoperable.
The road to the base of the drop is reached by a narrow road, also built in the 1930s. Traditionally, due to the extreme cold weather, the lift operated exclusively on weekends from November to March.
As of 2009, skiing is restricted to a 180 m stretch that sometimes receives sufficient snowfall for a run during the winter. The mountain is also popular with mountaineers in aclimatization process, as the road stops only 95 vertical meters from the summit.
Take a taxi from La Paz to the andino club.
If you go with your own car, go up to the highest part of La Paz, ask for directions to Chacaltaya, everyone knows, it is quite easy to get there.
ADDITIONAL INFO in sep 1st, 2010:
The user thexcat left me an important information about transport to the mountain:
"Buses to Chacaltaya
Nice page! For some reason, the Chacaltaya page was taken down several months ago. Good to see it is back up.
I wanted to add - there is a cheaper alternative than taxi - it is possible to take buses from LaPaz. In February 2010, for 40 bolivianos, a bus picked me up from Loki Hostel and drove us to Chacaltaya and Valle de la Luna. An English speaking guide accompanied us."
Aditional info in Nov2013:
In summer (rainy season, ski season), there might be a bus on weekends when/if the ski lift operate. In winter only, there are combined tours of Chacaltaya and Valle de la Luna runs. It gives you 40 minutes on the mountain and cost Bs. 50 to 75. It is not enough time to get used to the altitude, however. Check if admissions and snacks are included in the price.
From La Paz it takes 1-1.5 hours and costs between Bs. 250 and 300, depending on your bargaining skills, and this price can be shared for three people inside the cab. The drivers will wait up to three hours while you take in the views from the top.
From El Alto it takes one hour and costs Bs. 100 after bargaining a lot. Green Micros run from central La Paz to Plaza Ballivian in El Alto for Bs. 2.
Many tour companies based in La Paz will drive a group in a private 4WD vehicle up the mountain. Prices are low and negotiable beforehand as usual.
Anywhere you want. But if you don't wanna camp, you can sleep at the andino club, they have good rooms and coca tea. Meals and good talk.
Left is the road from La Paz to Zongo, Zongo Pass, the trailhead for climbing Huayna Potosi (6088m). Right is the road to the former ski area on Chacaltaya (5395m).
Huayna Potosi from Chacaltaya
Remains of the glacier near the summit of Chacaltaya, august 2009.
Some cool sat informational views I just did
To hike/ climb is a dangerous activity and requires proper equipment and clothing, the owner of this page cannot be blamed by injuries caused to anyone who read this page for its info about the mountain, and eventually got hurt by doing so with reckless behaviour or bad weather conditions.