Climb Pequeño Alpamayo, Huayna Potosi & Illimani

16 Days in Bolivia / (Skill level: Intermediate)

Price per person

$3,950.00

About this trip

Add a 5 day extension to climb 21,122' Illimani! Explore the Andean highlands and La Paz for two full days. Spend two beautiful days on Lake Titicaca. Build your mountaineering skills on Pequeño Alpamayo before heading to climb Huayna Potosi. Option to climb Illimani, the tallest mountain in the Cordillera Real.

Overview

  • skill level

    Intermediate

  • Duration

    16 Days

Of all the Andean countries, Bolivia remains the least touristed and most adventurous. It offers all the attractions of its more popular neighbors, but has not yet been “discovered” by the masses. This offers a unique opportunity to adventurous climbers.

And for climbers, Bolivia is a dream. Even its capital city is made for mountaineers. La Paz sits in a valley at 11,900′ / 3627m, surrounded by glaciated peaks and rolling hills. The airport, the highest international airport in the world, is even higher, at 13,200′ / 4023m! This means our acclimatization begins as soon as we land in Bolivia. We will take full advantage of this acclimatization time, exploring the Andean highlands and the sights of La Paz for two full days while we get used 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 (17,482′ / 5329m). Like its famous taller neighbor in Peru, Pequeño’s face is beautiful and the climb is technical yet reasonable. It is also an ideal place to increase your mountaineering skills. We will spend 5 days practicing glacier and climbing skills, acclimatizing, climbing sub-peaks, and finally making our summit bid. The summit day consists of a moderate glacier, followed by two pitches of fourth class rock, and then 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 spend a day practicing steeper 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 summit. A summit of Huayna is a proud day, and is excellent preparation for longer routes on the big mountains of the world. 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 peak of Sajama, Bolivia’s rarely climbed tallest peak. 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!

While heading home after the summit of Huayna Potosi is one option, 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 into Bolivia’s airport without being awed by 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 to the Nido de Condores, or “Nest of the Condors”, our very aptly named high camp at 18,372′ / 5600m. 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.

Our Bolivia expedition will be guided by one of Alpenglow’s AMGA certified lead guides. AMGA (American Mountain Guides Association) certification is the highest possible training available to guides, and only the most experienced and dedicated attain it. Our lead guides have also traveled and climbed extensively in South America and know the Bolivian Andes intimately. 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 2 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. This is perhaps the most important aspect of high altitude climbing, and cannot be stressed enough. Regular, challenging exercise for many months in advance of departure is the only way to gain the necessary level of fitness that is needed on big peaks. We highly recommend a structured training regime with a gym or personal trainer to assist you in preparing for climbing at altitude. Please contact us for more information on physical training.

  • Technical Experience

    Prior roped climbing, cramponing, and ice axe skills are required.

  • 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.

Chad Peele

Chad Peele has been guiding for 15 years and works full time as a mountain guide. Based out of Ridgway Colorado, Chad spends his winters instructing and guiding on some of the best ice terrain the U.S. has to offer. Outside of Colorado he has traveled and guided extensively throughout North and South America with several trips to the Himalayas including Everest and Ama Dablam. When not in the Mountains Chad does clothing and equipment design for Eddie Bauer’s First Ascent outdoor line.

Chad is a AMGA certified Rock & Alpine guide.

Guide Certifications
  • AMGA Certified Alpine Guide
  • AMGA Certified Rock Guide

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. Topo 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. 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

Zeb Blais

From bushwhacking miles of Manzanita in ski boots to traversing huge glaciers in exotic ranges, adventure draws Zeb in. Originally from Vermont, Zeb has been hooked on big mountains since his first ski tour in Jackson Hole and has pursued skiing, climbing and exploring ever since. Zeb has climbed and guided in the Himalaya, Alaska, Argentina, Mexico, Ecuador and Asia among others and he’s working hard to keep that list growing. Working as a mountain guide allows Zeb to share his passion for human powered movement in the mountains and to pass along what he’s learned along the way.

Zeb has successfully guided Mt Everest [29,029′], Mt Cho Oyu [26,906′] including a ski descent from the summit, Lobuche East [20,075′],  and four expeditions on Denali [20,320’], including a ski descent from the summit. He has completed 64 summits of Mount Rainier [14,410’]. Additional credentials include 12 summits of Mount Shasta [14,179’]; 5 summits of Mount Shuksan [9,100’]; 3 summits via Mount Baker [10,678’], including one ski descent from the summit, and two ski descents via the North Ridge; 2 summits of Aconcagua [22,841’]; 1 summit of Cotopaxi and 1 summit of Cayabme; 2 summits of Ixtacihuatl in Mexico; 3 summits of Orizaba in Mexico, including a ski descent from the summit; and numerous rock, alpine and ski summits from the Cascades, Sierra Nevada, Coast ranges and Rockies.

Zeb is an AMGA certified ski guide.

Guide Certifications
  • AMGA Certified Ski Guide

Ben Mitchell

Ben has been in love with the mountains from a young age. He began hiking and skiing with his family and quickly decided he never wanted to stop. After finishing university in Portland, OR Ben moved back to Washington State and began guiding on Mt. Rainier and around the Cascades. For the next many years he followed the seasons, skiing, climbing and pursuing the art of human flight through out the world. He has made expeditions into both polar circles, skied first descents in Afghanistan and climbed throughout the Americas and Europe. When not looking forward to the next adventure he thoroughly enjoys roasting coffee, reading and taking his dog out for walks.

Ben is a fully certified IFMGA/AMGA mountain guide, Certified Level III Avalanche Professional, and Wilderness First Responder.

Guide Certifications
  • AMGA - American Mountain Guide
  • IVBV IFMGA UIAGM - Mountain Guide

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    Climb Pequeño Alpamayo, Huayna Potosi & Illimani