It appears that my climb of Huayna Potosi predates all the others in the summit log by almost half a century. I feel like a pioneer.
After hitchhiking for over four months from Salt Lake City south along the Pan American Highway, Karl Nelson and I reached La Paz. From Desaguadero on the Peruvian-Bolivian border at Lake Titicaca, we got a ride into La Paz in a U.S. Army deuce-and-a-half truck. It belonged to the U.S. Geodetic Survey Mission to Bolivia. With our eyes on Huayna Potosi looming on the eastern horizon, we borrowed a mountain tent from that organization and together with two members of the Club Andino de Bolivia, one Peter Toussaint (now deceased) and Col. (now General retired) Ramon Acero, launched an attempt on the mountain.
The club's van delivered us to the mountain's base at fifteen thousand feet on May 1 (May Day). Two miners from Milluni, off for the holiday, served as "sherpas" to carry our loads to the snout of the glacier. From there we toted the loads abit higher to the first level spot on snowvunder a spectacular ice cliff at 17,500 where we pitched our tents.
The next morning Karl refused to leave his sleeping bag. He had altitude sickness. Peter, Ramon, and I put on our crampons and attacked the ice pitch above the camp. The day was cloudless and we made excellent progress. On the broad plateau below the summit pyramid, Ramon vomitted his breakfast and fell behind. Together Peter and I traversed eastward to a corniced ridge that led ever more steeply past rock outcrops to the final peak. We stood on top of Huayna Potosi at one in the afternoon. Meanwhile Ramon recovered and followed our tracks to join us on the summit a half hour later.
Meanwhile clouds had risen to hide all but the highest summits of the Cordillera Real. After hand-shaking congratulations and poses for photographs, we remained on the sharp corniced peak for half an hour before undertaking a cautious and then a long glissading descent back to camp. The low sun in the west illuminated Illimani to the south as we completed the final thousand feet down to our awaiting tents where we aroused Karl from his sleeping bag (see photos and images).
Two days later, the Club Andino had a ski meet on Mount Chacaltaya where we celebrated our success and danced mambos and cha-cha-chas with the chicas inside the lodge over 17,000 feet above the sea. Proud Peter showed off his mountaineering prowess to the girls by abseiling off the lodge platform to the ski slope below it.
A week later, Karl and I continued our hitchhiking journey southward. We got to Mendoza, Argentina, before I came down with hepititus, probably from virus in food I had eaten in Bolivia. I spent a week in a hospital and then flew back home to Utah via Santiago and Mexico City. Meanwhile Karl got his draft notice as he was about to embark for Cape Horn from Puerto Montt, Chile, and had to fly back to San Francisco to join Uncle Sam's army.
In just over six months we had traveled through Mexico, Central America and down the Andes from Colombia to Argentina for a total expenditure of around three hundred dollars each, transportation, food and lodging all included. The climb of Huayna Potosi was the crowning achievement of the trip and cost us practically nothing. Nineteen fifty eight was my golden year of adventure travel.
carefull with the weather changes, but, easy summit.. a classical bolivian climb!
Gorgeous mountain from all aspects. Nice steep pitch the final 200 meters provided a little variety.
"We just summited Huayna Potosi this morning, we contacted Bolivian Journeys by internet, a bolivian company highly recommended, now we know why, the whole organization was good. Luis Palli our guide did a great job. Contact Bolivian Journeys at: www.bolivianjourneys.org"
We camped 2 nights at the dirty but not too busy Campo Roca 5000m. It was my first time climbing at such an altitude. Robin and I were stymied by illness- estomagos gringos- maybe something we ate, but we took turns not feeling quite right.
I puked my way up the easy part to 5500m before realizing it wasn't going to happen.
Great weather and snow conditions allowed 6 summiters (including one solo Chamoniard) the day previous, but all in all 50% success rate over 2 days due to altitude problems alone. Most people seemed to be using guides.
La proxima vez!
days later I was admitted to hospital with a Respiratory infection (4strains), gastro-enteritis (actually salmonella) and resultant severe dehydration. I recommend the health srevices of clinica del sur should you need ém. Also beware petty theft (we had a backpack stolen when our guard was down) or course. Be forewarned! Besides sanitation, Bolivia is wonderful! Enjoy it!
Branko Ivanek (Slovenia) and Stefan Helfenstein (Schweiz) did the "La vía de los Franceses" on Huayna Potosí East Face, AD+, 55deg., 300m from the bergschround in the straight push from Zongo Pass (4770m). We were up and down in 22 hours.
They took two hours from Campamento Argentino to the base of the Route for there are several crevasses and we had to climb 10m high serac (80deg.)
with a guided tour from germany. After a very cold night at Argentino camp it was very convenient at the mountain with almost no wind. In this El Nino year there was so few snow that most of the final ridge could be walked easily in the rocks just beneath the snow ridge.
Climbed with group from Colorado Mountain School. Two three person rope teams, all summited. See report for text and photos if interested.
Very easy climb until last 100 meters. It is somewhere near 50 degrees but at altitude it can be tiring. Mountain is very popular so stay away if you aren't into crowded areas. Great, easy, high altitude climb otherwise.
We left La Paz and reached the base of Huayna Potosi within two hours. during the drive to the mountain, clouds began to quickly form over the summit and by the time we had parked, the mountain was completely covered by the growing storm. we proceeded to climb up a prominant ridge that ran up next to the large, fractured glacier that flows at the base of the Southern face. from the ridge we ascended a short class 4 wall at 16,000 ft. Above the ridge however, visibility dropped to about 15 feet with winds reaching 40 mph. The route led up and over the wall onto a sloping snow field that wrapped around a fairly prominent rock arete. As the arete tapered off, the route led over a small shoulder upon which the high camp sat at 17,500 ft.
The night exhibited strong winds with gusts up to 50 mph and unfortunatly, 3 feet of fresh snow. These conditions immediatly halted all attempts for the summit that morning and forced us down without ever allowing us a clear view of our initial objective.
All the more reason to return to Bolivia and make another attempt at the mountain.
The first time I did was my first time ever wearing crampons and firs time above 5300m. My guide and I started out from La Paz at midnight reached Bc. 0130 and we left at app.0230 I don't know what time we summited but it was a little late 09-1000 I think. Nothing could be seen due to fog.We were back at Bc by 1300.
I returned a week later with a friend and we spend the night a little lower than Plaza Argentinadue to "sleep low climb high" reached the summt early and the view was spectacular. Originally we wanted to do another line but there was too much snow. It would have been possible later in the season.