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."
Additional info in Nov 2013:
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
In memory of Paulo Roberto Felipe Schmidt
Paulo Roberto Felipe Schmidt, the member we all used to know as Parofes, passed away on May 10th-2014. He fought a hard fight against an illness that has eluded one of our best and most brilliant minds. The first time we became aware of Parofes' health issues was when he posted an article captioned "The scariest moment of my life." He shared with us the most private thoughts and feelings as well as his medical condition in its minute details. He shared with us photos of happy times, sad times, scary times and somber times. He shared with us stories of his life, his travels, his ups and downs, his victories and his defeats. Parofes was straight forward, honest, humorous, intelligent, a historian, and the best friend and climbing partner anyone could ask for. Parofes loved his wife, Lilianne, and in an act of devotion he changed his last name from da Silva to Schmidt. Parofes was a humanitarian who worked long hours for an NGO and helped tens of thousands of poor and needy people. Parofes was a nature lover, a competent mountaineer and a mountain guide. Parofes was a special human being and a friend we will miss for a long time. Here you will find a fine article written by the SP member Marcsoltan: A tribute to Paulo Roberto Parofes Schmidt.
Parofes joined SP in October 2008 and soon was one of the most prolific contributors on the site. In the meantime, he was a columnist of the biggest Brazilian website about climbing and mountaineering:
This page will be kept in honour of Paulo, who will be greatly missed by all.
Rest in peace, brother!