Climb Pequeño Alpamayo, Huayna Potosi & Illimani

16 Days in Bolivia / (Skill level: Intermediate)

Price per person

$3,950.00

About this trip

Spend two days exploring the vast Andean highlands and the bustling city of La Paz, then an additional two days on gorgeous Lake Titicaca. Build your mountaineering skills on Pequeño Alpamayo before heading to climb Huayna Potosi. There’s also the option to add a 5 day extension and climb the 21,122' Illimani, the tallest mountain in the Cordillera Real.

Overview

  • skill level

    Intermediate

  • Duration

    16 Days

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.

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.

Preparation

  • Fitness

    Climbers must be in excellent physical shape to join this expedition. We cannot stress this enough -- fitness is the most important aspect of high altitude climbing. To develop the necessary level of fitness needed to climb big mountains, you must adapt a challenging, consistent exercise regime months in advance. We recommend a structured training program at a gym or with a personal trainer. Please contact us for more information on physical training.

  • Technical Experience

    Alpenglow requires that climbers have prior experience at altitudes up to 14,000’ and strongly recommends prior experience at altitudes up to 15,000’.

  • Altitude Experience

    It is required that climbers have prior experience at altitudes up to 14,000' and it is strongly recommended that climbers have prior experience at altitudes over 15,000'.

    • Day 1 — Arrive in Bolivia

      Arrive in La Paz International Airport (13,200 feet/4,023 meters). Spend the day acclimatizing, followed by a team welcome dinner (Saturday).

    • Day 2 — Explore and Acclimatize

      Visit the ruins of Tiahuanaco. Close to La Paz, the largest archaeological site in Bolivia lends insight into this country’s past, and its Amyara civilization. The ruins date back to 1600 BCE. Exploring these high altitude ruins will also aid our acclimatization. In the afternoon we will continue driving to Lake Titicaca.

    • Day 3 — Explore Lake Titicaca

      The world’s largest navigable lake, Titicaca sits at over 12,400 feet (3,780 meters). We spend the day on the water, visiting Sun Island and the indigenous people who live there. We spend a second evening in the lakeside town of Copacabana.

    • Day 4 — Drive to Tuni + Acclimatization Hike

      By now, we are ready to climb! Today we drive to Tuni, a collection of alpaca herder’s huts at 14,000 feet (4,267 meters). We set camp here and take an acclimatization hike.

    • Day 5 — Hike to Basecamp

      Hike (with lamas to carry our gear) to Condoriri base camp. Perched on the edge of a lake below 6 peaks over 17,000 feet (5,182 meters) in height, it is a stunning place. We set up our base camp at 15,000 feet (4,572 meters).

    • Day 6 — Climb to Pico Austria

      Climb Pico Austria, a non-technical 17,000 foot (5,182 meter) peak with fantastic views of all the surrounding peaks. It is a 3-4 hour hike up sand and scree to the summit, and is ideal for acclimatization.

    • Day 7 — Skills Day on the Glacier

      After a big pancake breakfast we head onto the glacier below Pequeño Alpamayo for a full day of skills – we practice crampon and ice axe use, self arrest techniques, roped travel, and crevasse rescue.

    • Day 8 — Rest Day

      Rest day in base camp. This is an opportunity to let our bodies recover, as well as to practice any skills that needed more work from the day before.

    • Day 9 — Summit Day

      By now, we are ready to climb! A 2am start means we will cross most of the low angled glacier by headlamp. By dawn we should be moving up the steeper rock and ice slopes, a perfect introduction to more technical big mountain routes. The final steep knife-edge ridge to the summit is one that will never be forgotten! We return to base camp for the night.

    • Day 10 — Head back to La Paz

      Return to La Paz, where we take much-needed showers, eat a big meal, and sleep.

    • Day 11 — Rest Day

      Rest in La Paz, exploring the local markets and neighborhoods. No trip to La Paz is complete without a visit to the Witch’s Market!

    • Day 12 — Head to Base Camp on Huayna Potosi

      Today we drive to base camp on Huayna Potosi, near Laguna Zongo (15,700 feet/ 4,785 meters). After establishing camp, we head to the nearby glacier, where perfect ice serac walls up to 100 feet tall allow for some technical ice climbing practice.

    • Day 13 — Move to High Camp

      With the assistance of high altitude porters, move to a high camp at 18,000 feet (5,486 meters).

    • Day 14 — Summit Day

      Summit Day! 7-9 hours of climbing takes us through crevasse fields and moderate to steep slopes, before finishing on an exposed ridge looking over the 3000 foot (915 meter) West Face. After some hero photos, we descend all the way to base camp and drive back to our hotel in La Paz.

    • Day 15 — Weather Day

      Extra contingency day for summiting if necessary. If not, we enjoy a day of pampering ourselves in La Paz.

    • Day 16 — Depart La Paz

      Leave La Paz early morning. (Sunday)

    • Illimani Extension Below

    • Day 16 — Rest Day

      For those staying for Illimani, this is another day of necessary rest. We enjoy more of the history and great food La Paz has to offer, and possibly do some rock climbing at the local sport crag.

    • Day 17 — Drive to Illimani Trailhead

      Drive east to the trailhead of Illimani. With the help of burros, we make the easy walk into our base camp at 15,000 feet (4,572 meters).

    • Day 18 — Move to High Camp

      Move to high camp, the Nest of the Condors, 18,372 feet (5,600 meters). Again, porters help to make this move more manageable and allow us to enjoy the stunning surroundings.

    • Day 19 — Illimani Summit Day

      A pre-dawn start takes us across Illimani’s glaciers. As the sun rises, we will be nearing the steeper upper slopes, which will test all of the skills we have learned through our two weeks in Bolivia. Reaching Illimani’s summit will be a moment for each of us to savor, before descending all the way back to base camp.

    • Day 20 — Return to La Paz - Or extra Summit Day

      Return to La Paz. This day can also be used as an additional summit day if weather necessitates it.

    • Day 21 — Depart for Home

      Leave La Paz early morning.

    • What's the longest day I can expect?

      Depending on fitness levels and weather, the longest day can be anywhere from 12-16 hours.

Jaime Avila

Jaime is Alpenglow Expeditions’ senior lead guide. A native Ecuadorian, Jaime has been guiding and climbing throughout South America and the world for twenty years. He has successfully led groups on challenging routes like the Southwest Ridge of Ama Dablam (Nepal), the Shield Route of Huascaran (Peru), the Polish Direct on Aconcagua (Argentina), and El Altar (Ecuador). We have been guiding, climbing, and traveling with Jaime since 1998 and the feedback from members is always the same: there is no better teammate. Whether climbing a tough ice route, humping a huge pack, or stuck in a storm, Jaime will keep you laughing, learning, and glad to be in the mountains. He is an ASEGUIM / IFMGA certified mountain guide.

 

Guide Certifications
  • ASEGUIM
  • IVBV IFMGA UIAGM - Mountain Guide

Esteban “Topo” Mena

Topo’s formal name is Esteban Mena, but he goes by his nickname. Esteban Topo Mena is 28 years old and began his guiding career at 19, when he climbed Aconcagua’s South Face and became the youngest person to accomplish this difficult climb. Topo began guiding in Ecuador and Peru. In 2012, Topo summited Manaslu and in 2013, he summited Everest – both without using supplementary oxygen. Topo again summited Everest in 2016 while supporting his wonderful partner Carla as she successfully summited without supplemental oxygen. In 2018 Topo summited both Cho Oyu and Everest with clients in under 30 days. An incredible achievement that only the best guides in the word could attempt. He also has climbed challenging new routes in Kyrgyzstan and China and one of his climbs (Kyzyl Asker) has been nominated for the Piolet d’Or (as part of an Ecuadorian team).

Guide Certifications
  • ASEGUIM
  • IVBV IFMGA UIAGM - Mountain Guide

Gaspar Navarrete

Gaspar hails from Ecuador, and has been guiding for over 18 years, and climbing since he was 12. He has extensive experience in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Patagonia, Aconcagua, the Himalaya, the Cascades, the Alps and the Pyrenees. Gaspar has established new routes in both Ecuador and Bolivia. As an active instructor with the Ecuadorian School for Mountain Guides, he has trained in Ecuador, Bolivia and France. He is a Wilderness First Responder, and has spent a great deal of time working at high altitude.

Gaspar joined one of Quito’s oldest climbing clubs at a young age, which gave him the opportunity to mentor under very experienced climbers. He considers the Andes, including Patagonia, his home, and he love to share his enthusiasm for the mountains, the Andean traditions, food and culture with his guests.

Gaspar is an ASEGUIM/IFMGA mountain guide

Guide Certifications
  • ASEGUIM
  • IVBV IFMGA UIAGM - Mountain Guide

Carla Perez

Carla has been on the pursuit of her climbing dreams for most of her life, she started climbing as a teenager and her love to the mountains took her to the french Alps, where she studied geology and got a masters degree on geochemistry. In 2007 she decided to become a full time climber, which also put her the path of becoming a mountain guide.

In 2016 she became the sixth women in history to climb Everest without oxygen (first latin american), she also climbed Cho Oyu and Manaslu without oxygen, her resumee includes the South Face of Aconcagua and various 7000m peaks in central Asia among many other climb in south america.
In 2008 she did a biking trip from Ecuador to Argentina and had the opportunity to understand and learn more about her home: the Andes.

Today she splits her time between speaking about her climbing experiences all around the world, chasing new missions with her parter “Topo” and guiding big mountains.

Guide Certifications
  • ASEGUIM

What others are saying about this trip

Expedition Inquiry Form

  • Have questions about this trip?

    Climb Pequeño Alpamayo, Huayna Potosi & Illimani