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 delivered us to the mountain's base at fifteen thousand feet on May 1 (May Day). Two miners from Milluni served as "sherpas" to carry our loads to the snout of the glacier. From there we totted the loads higher to the first level spot under a spectacular ice cliff at 17,500 and 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 wwest 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 17,000 feet above the sea. Proud Peter showed off his mountaineering prowess to the girls by abselling 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. Ispent 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 in 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 about three hundred dollars each, transportation, food and lodging 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 travel.
This is the general approach to the Condoriri Group. You can also check the mountain Cabeza de Condor page, which is located in the same area.
You can arrange several types of transportation to get to this region, first from La Paz to the Tuni Area, and later to the base camp next to the lake Chiar Khota.
a) Hire private van or 4x4 in La Paz, and get to an aqueduct system called Tuni, in about 2-3 hours. The price in 2001 was about $80.oo and you may get a good deal depending on how good you are to bargain. I made friends with the drivers and local guides, and often got several persons to fill a mini-van so I got kind of cheap deals for me. Go and try!
b) Ask and see if you can share the transportation with a guided trip. It never hurts to ask around (it worked for me)
If you want you may want to share your expenses with other climbers. You will find them everywhere, but you can also hang out in the Hotel Torino, downtown La Paz, and try to find other climbers looking in going to the Condoriri Massif. The hotels have billboards where climber can placve adds. Another good place to hang out and meet climbers, used to be the Restaurant MONGOS. Check your guidebook.
You can hire mules from different places around the lake. The small town of Tuni and the place call Plaza de Mulas (Mule Square) are just some of them. Farmers, arrieros (mule caretakers) and peasants will be glad to carry your gear for a modest fee.
After you get to the Aqueduct and reservoir systems, you have to walk some good 3 hrs, on a dirt road and an straight forward hike. You will reach the Chiar Khota (4600 mts) Lake and finally the base camp. Here water, stone toilets and guards are available to you, but is not a resort, is the wild, so bring your garbage bags to pick up your trash.
The East face includes at least the following routes: Normal, Vía de los Franceses, Bordaz Muñoz, and South-West Ridge.
From the city of La Paz, you can take a transport that will take you to the "Zongo Pass". Either arrange your own transportation (80 dollars in 1999!) to this area or try to take one of the buses that depart from El Alto (that poor town on the highest part of La Paz), in La Plaza Ballivian (Ballivian Square). They do not depart on an specific schedule, so you will have to wait for one. Alternatively you can try to “free ride” on one of those “gringo vans” that are part of organized climbs.
You can also hang out in the Hotel Torino, downtown La Paz and try to find other climbers aiming to go to the Huayna Potosi. I placed a note in one of the billboards and in a matter of a day I had two Climbing partners. Through one of them I met my wife! So keep on going! Another good place to hang out and meet climbers, used to be the Restaurant MONGOS. Check your guidebook.
Keep in mind that the return can be a problem. If you do not have a way to get back to La Paz you can wait from one hour to a couple of days at the Zongo Pass, although during the high season is quite busy and you can get a ride easely.
Once in Zongo Pass you can ask for porters. The family who lives there also can provide this service and believe me, it is best to get this help.
There are several places to camp when climbing the east face of the Huayna Potosi. One good option, for those in acclimatization stage is to camp next to the Zongo Pass house or to stay at the hut “Refugio Huayna Potosi” (tel: 323584, check it up once in La Paz). Next, get to the first campsite (Campo de Rocas, 5150), next to the glacier, and stay there and the next morning attempt the summit. Or stay the one night in this campsite and then get to the second campsite, the Campamento Argentino (5540Mts or 17880 ft) two hours after the start of the glacier. Acclimatized and fit climbers can do the whole summit attempt from bottom to top in one go, via the standard route.
Remember: getting to the Campmento Argentino may not be necessary (climb high, sleep low) if you go for the standard route, so you can stay in the first camp. Other routes may need a time saving approach and you may be required to stay at the second camp site, shaving out about one hour from the first camp.. This campsite is on the ice and snow… and considering the crevasses, and the altitude…..is your choice.
one hell of a climb! only time ever went with a guide
and it was a great experience. he was talented and
so willing to share his knowledge. spent 2 weeks
trekking around bolivia , lake titicaca, condoriri national
park etc. before taking on the mountain. spent a nite
at the hut than to a high camp at 18,000. a chilly nite
with no sleep but a killer full moon made up for it!
left about 2 or so for the summit. bright sunny day.
knife edge sketchy ridge to the true summit was
exciting. one in our party opted not to tackle this.
climbing in south america i have to say has been
life changing. the people encountered along the
way on this trip were truly incredible souls.
4h15 to summit. Good fun. Back down to BC after 7h.
Great, straight-forward climb. Did this as a warm-up for Illimani. Also sepnt the previous week treking around the La Paz Area and Lake Titicaca.
Spectacular views! Nothing too difficult--just a long slog up the glacier with a few relatively simple technical sections. Unforgettable!
A word about the La Paz-based trekking/climbing company Bolivian Journeys (which everyone seemed to rave about)...
My girlfriend and I went through them for the trek from Condoriri to Huayna Potosi (amazing sights near Condoriri!) and followed by a climb of Huayna Potosi. We found that the trek was extremely overpriced for what we got. Everyday we received too little food, and it was the worst food we'd seen in a dozen treks through the Andes. One night we each ate 2 small hotdogs and a half bowl of Ramen soup. For the climb, we specifically stated we would like a 1-to-1 guide-client ratio (and we paid extra for it) and they of course said "No problemas!" When the two climbing guides arrived at basecamp, three additional inexperienced clients came along. Also, we were assured that my girlfriend would have a porter for the walk up to the high camp due to her bad back--instead, she had to carry her pack both up to high camp and back down. Then, when we got back to the office to tell them all about the trip, they were very defensive and even disrespectful. They told my girlfriend, who speaks near-fluent Spanish, that all the things that we thought went wrong with the trip was some sort of her Spanish mis-communication with the "salesman" behind the desk. Completely rediculous--before the trip, we checked and double-checked about the quality of the food, our climbing guide ratio, and the extra porter. But, while we found the office people to be so horrible (like sketchy car salesmen), the guides were extremely competent and friendly. Their climbing guides must be some of the best of the bunch!
Recommendations: Do the climb! Don't go trekking with Bolivian Journeys; go climbing with Bolivian Journeys (but don't let them push you around in the office).
Climbed this mountain via normal route after acclimatizing in the Condoriri Range. Still had little difficulty going up the last headwall but overall an easy non-technical climb. Took us 4 1/2 hours up and 2 hours down.
we were going to do a steeper route, but there was too much avalanche danger due to recent storms. my partner and i had a little spat at the bottom of the route, so i ended up soloing...a fun easy (except for the altitude) route...a grande thank you to those friendly bolivian mountain guides who made me some tea when i returned to base camp
Beautiful day. 6 people at the start 2 on the summit.
Beautiful mountain, very bad weather and not enough acclimatized. Had to stop at 5800m.
I´ll be back there to summit !
Nice quick climb. After being in the Andes for a while this was a super easy route. I got to base camp in 1.5 hrs, then the next morning just 3:40 to the summit and 1:20 down!! Even if it's your 1st peak you could still do it in 6-7 hrs RT. The penitentes toward the summit are a little tiring and there is a wall but it's got steps that make it basically a stairway.
this is a very nice and accessible peak. could be done in a day. we stayed at the morraine camp, left at 5am, summited by 9:00am. bergshrund was a little tricky. had to cross a small bridge. top section had gruesome penitentes, but was easy. my partner and i did the whole thing unroped(except for a rappel over the schrund). all crevasses are easily passed.
overall a nice climb, though very crowded. mostly guided groups. we were the only unguided group that day, out of 10+groups.
Very nice views on the altiplano, La Paz and the cordillera real. Start early in the night to avoid soft snow on the last 200 meters. Easy ascent with only little technical difficulties. My first 6000m peak.
Crazy climb, did it in about 30 hours from La Paz. Left La Paz and got to high camp and we were absolutely exhausted. Then we had some training as it was our first snow climb. Went to bed at 6pm and couldnt sleep, really nervous. Left high camp at about 1:30am under a full moon. Saw lightning storms from the Amazon in the distance. Got to the final wall at 5900m at about 5:30 and honestly, neither my friend nor I knew how we were going to make it up that wall. It was windy and about 25 below. Reached the summit finally about about 7am, Easter Sunday. Couldn't believe it, actually made it. Was about three hours down to high camp and another two hours down to low camp. A great experience. Thanks to my buddy Greg and Juan and his staff at Azimut Explorer. We paid a lot more to go with them but they were very professional and always kept asking us questions to check for altitude sickness.
Were thwarted from reaching Zongo Pass due to "campesinos" occupying the area --- and the inherent road-blocks. Had to return to La Paz in order to evacuated the country.
Getting to Zongo pass from La Paz was an adventure by itself in the current political unrest, as numerous road blockades were set up around La Paz. After trying for two nights, we finally sneaked thru the blockades and arrived at Zongo Pass (4790m) at 3am, 4th June. We left high camp (5180m) at 2am (5th June) and summited at 9:20am. Amazing views. Jeff, another tourist and I climbed with Hugo, a guide from Explorama tour agency
Beautiful mountain and great climb! We started at Refugio Zongo and hiked to our high camp at 5.300m (above Campo Rocca). The next day we started at 1:00am and reached the summit at about 11:00 under perfect weather conditions. Awesome views of the Condoriri Massiv from the summit.
For additional information, many pics and a 180° panorama from the summit check out my website under www.karsten-rau.de .