Of all the Andean countries, Bolivia remains the least touristy and most adventurous. It offers all the attractions of its more popular neighbors, but remains a well-kept secret from the masses. This provides a unique opportunity for adventurous climbers.
A Climber’s Dream
Bolivia is a climber’s dream. Even its capital city of La Paz is made for mountaineers, situated in a valley at 11,900 feet (3627 meters). The urban sprawl is backdropped by impressive glaciated peaks and vast rolling hillsides. The city contains the highest international airport in the world situated at 13,200 feet (4,023 meters). This means our acclimatization begins as soon as we land in Bolivia. We will take full advantage of this acclimatization time and spend two days exploring the Andean highlands and seeing the sights of La Paz. During this time, our bodies will begin to adapt to living and sleeping at the same elevation as most of Colorado’s summits! We will also spend two days on Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, where we will visit the famous Reed Islands.
From Lake Titicaca, we will attempt our first peak, Pequeño Alpamayo, which rises up to 17,482 feet (5,329 meters). Like its taller Peruvian neighbor, Pequeño’s face is beautiful and offers a technical yet reasonable climb. It is also the ideal place to hone your mountaineering skills. We will spend five days practicing glacier and climbing skills, acclimatizing, climbing sub-peaks, and finally making our summit bid. The summit day consists of traversing a moderate glacier, climbing two pitches of fourth class rock, and then navigating steep ice or neve on a knife-edged ridge. After our team makes its summit bid, we will return to La Paz for a hot shower and a much deserved night in a comfortable bed!
At 19,975 feet (6,088 meters), Huayna Potosi is taller than all but a handful of peaks in the Americas. After a short drive from La Paz to base camp, we will spend a day practicing steep ice climbing skills on the glacier’s edge. Our summit day route is comprised of steep glacier travel, huge crevasses, and a final airy ridge to the top. A summit of Huayna is a proud day, and serves as excellent preparation for bigger routes. The views from this summit encompass the countless peaks of the Cordillera Real, the city of La Paz, and on a clear day the distant Sajama — Bolivia’s rarely climbed tallest peak. After our team makes its summit bid, we will descend back down to La Paz for some much needed rest and relaxation.
While you have the option to head home after the summit of Huayna Potosi, we encourage those that have the time to stay for an attempt of Illimani (21,125′ / 6439m). Illimani looms over La Paz, and no climber has ever arrived in Bolivia without gawking at its steep flanks and sheer size. With the acclimatization and skills we have gained on Pequeño Alpamayo and Huayna Potosi, we will be ready to tackle this challenging peak — the tallest in the Cordillera Real. After a beautiful drive through Bolivian farmland and small indigenous towns, we will arrive at our base camp. From there, and with the assistance of local high altitude porters, we will move up to the Nido de Condores, or “Nest of the Condors” — our very aptly named high camp situated at 18,372 feet (5,600 meters). Summit day takes us across an exposed ridge and then onto broad snow slopes, around crevasse fields, and eventually onto the final, classic, knife-edged summit ridge.
One of Alpenglow’s AMGA certified lead guides will lead our Bolivia expedition. AMGA (American Mountain Guides Association) certification is the most prestigious in the world, attained only by the most experienced and dedicated guides. Our lead guides have also traveled and climbed extensively in South America and intimately know the Bolivian Andes. Their knowledge of Andean culture as well as the mountains, combined with their passion for teaching others to become competent mountaineers, guarantees that your experience will be one to remember! We combine our guides’ experience with the local expertise of one of Bolivia’s original logistics operators, a great cook, and our small team size (maximum ratio of two climbers to one guide) to ensure that you stay healthy, strong, and are able to enjoy each component of your experience.
Bolivia Elevation Profile Per Day