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.

      • Head

      • Smith I/O goggles

        These will be worn on stormy or windy days. Make sure you are getting a snug fit with lenses that are appropriate for bright and low-light conditions. Ventilation and anti-fog features are recommended.

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      • Kaenon Klay sunglasses

        Must have dark lenses. Minimal light should come in below, above, or around the sides of the lenses.“Wrap” style is best. Ventilation is important and a retainer strap recommended (Chums or Croakies).

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      • SmartWool Balaclava

        We recommend a tight-fitting balaclava that is worn under your hat. Make sure that it covers as much skin as possible and yet still comfy.

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      • Patagonia Lined Beanie

        A comfortable, warm well-fitting hat that covers your ears. Make sure that your beanie fits under a helmet. We also recommend the Marmot Summit Hat.

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      • Marmot PreCip Baseball Hat

        A great hat to help keep the sun out of your eyes and keep you cool on warm days.

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      • Hands

      • Black Diamond guide glove

        These gloves should be full GORE-TEX®, with a removable fleece liner (so you can take the liner out and dry it at night). The warmer the liner the better.

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      • Marmot Windstopper glove

        You will rarely take these gloves off.  They should be snug-fitting, and have some sort of reinforced palm.

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      • Feet

      • LaSportiva Bushido hiking shoe

        These light to mid-weight shoes are for every day use. The ideal shoe is comfortable to wear for multiple days and scrambles decently on rock. A Gore-tex lined shoe stays drier when hiking in rain or snow. High top hiking boots are heavy and unnecessary.

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      • LaSportiva Spantik

        Should be double boots that have a stiff sole and accept a step-in crampon. The boots should be comfortable, have adequate wiggle room for your toes, and your heel should not lift more than 1/8th of an inch when walking.

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      • Darn Tough 1/4 cushion hiking sock

        These are your every day sock, good for day hikes, trekking and town days.

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      • Darn Tough Cushion boot sock

        Your go-to mountain sock. It is very important to dial in your boot/ sock combo, as everyone will have a slightly different fit in their boots. Merino wool has become a guides favorite, and we have found these socks to be a solid performer.  NO COTTON.

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      • Upper Body

      • Icebreaker long sleeve Top

        A merino or poly-pro base layer that you will wear often. Fitted, light-weight and quick drying.

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      • Marmot Greenland Jacket

        A puffy jacket with a hood that will keep you warm during the coldest of conditions. The higher the quality down, the better (800-fill is best). However, be sure the jacket is still lightweight.

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      • Marmot Minimalist Jacket

        A lightweight, waterproof and breathable jacket WITH A HOOD that can withstand extreme weather conditions. Make sure you have pit-zips and if you are using an old jacket, re-waterproof it. PacLite® is preferred for lightweight.

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      • Marmot ROM softshell jacket

        While this item isn’t required, we know that those who don’t have one wish they did! More breathable than Gore-tex, these jackets block wind and light precipitation.

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      • Patagonia Nanopuff jacket

        Warmer than your expedition weight top, but not as extreme as your big puffy jacket. Full zip is recommended.

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      • Patagonia R1 hoody

        A poly-pro mid-layer that you will wear often. Fitted, light-weight and quick drying. Make sure it is long enough to tuck-in and we recommend zipper collars for more ventilation.

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      • Patagonia tropic comfort hoody

        This lite weight hoody has become a guide favorite for almost every day spent in the mountains. This layer can be worn on hot or cold days, and shields you from the sun during long hours spent outside.

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      • Icebreaker Tech Lite shirt

        Light base layer that effectively wicks moisture away from your body and is breathable. Quick-dry is important as well. One light colored shirt is recommended for extremely sunny days.  We have found that merino wool is the superior material for base layers, as they regulate body temperature very well, and are extremely odor resistant.

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      • Lower Body

      • Arc'teryx Atom LT insulated pants

        Full-length side zippers are recommended, for throwing on top of all of your layers.

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      • Marmot Minimalist Pant

        Your waterproof bottom layer for extreme weather days. Make sure you have water-resistant zippers, crampon patches + good pockets.

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      • Marmot Scree Pant

        You will spend most of your days in these pants. Choose Schoeller® or a soft-shell equivalent. Breathable + water-resistant. These pants should have an ankle zip so they will accommodate your mountain boot.

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      • Patagonia expedition weight bottoms

        Fitted, light-weight and quick drying. The mid-weight will be a base-layer that will get you through a wide range of temperatures.

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      • Icebreaker long underwear

        Fitted, light-weight and quick drying. This base-layer will get you through a wide range of temperatures. NO COTTON.

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      • Patagonia Shorts

        Throw these on under other layers for when the sun begins to beat, or you have a sudden urge to jump in a glacial lake. Lightweight, durable and comfortable. NO COTTON.

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      • Equipment

      • Black Diamond HotWire Carabiner

        Lightweight, non-locking carabiner.

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      • Black Diamond VaporLock Screwgate Carabiner

        Lightweight, locking carabiner.

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      • Black Diamond ATC-XP belay device

        Light, easy to use + simple. Should have teeth/grooves for skinny ropes.

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      • Black Diamond Raven Ultra ice axe

        Non-technical ice tool, 50-60 cm long. Make sure axe has a comfortable hold, and is lightweight.

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      • Nalgene 1 liter water bottle

        Two Lexan 1 liter, wide mouth bottles.

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      • Black Diamond Trekking Poles

        Must be collapsible poles. Make sure that they are durable, lightweight + easily adjustable. You must have at least one, but we recommend 2.

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      • Black Diamond Serac crampon

        Steel crampons with anti-balling plates are required (so that snow does not build-up in the base of your foot). Make sure that crampons have a heel bail. * crampons are also available to rent at no charge from Alpenglow expeditions on a first come, first serve basis.

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      • Petzl Sitta harness

        Must have belay loop, gear loops and adjustable or stretchable leg loops so that you can layer up underneath it. Easy to pack, lightweight + comfortable. *Harnesses are also available to rent at no charge from Alpenglow expeditions on a first come, first serve basis.

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      • Black Diamond Spot Headlamp

        L.E.D. headlamps are required.. Make sure they have 3+ bulbs. Bring extra batteries. We highly recommend a tilting lamp.

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      • Marmot Col sleeping bag

        Rated to -20º F. Choose an 800+ Fill Premium Goose Down bag. Make certain that the sleeping bag is the right length. DON’T FORGET A COMPRESSION SACK FOR THE SLEEPING BAG. Many climbers also like a silk liner. Recommended: Granite Gear Compression Sack.

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      • Therm-a-rest NeoAir Therm sleeping pad

        72 inch long inflatable pad required. Make sure you also purchase and bring a repair kit + bag for the sleeping pad.

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      • Marmot Long Hauler Duffel

        These bags should be extremely durable, waterproof, and big! You should feel comfortable leaving it in a puddle for several hours. Remember dry clothes are hot commodities in the mountains! Large enough to fit everything you own, plus what you anticipate buying.

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      • Black Diamond Speed 50 pack

        Internal frame pack that is between 50 and 60 liters. This pack should be comfortable, lightweight and fitted to your body.

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      • Black Diamond Bullet pack

        A small pack for city days and trekking. Streamlined, neat and lightweight (10-20 liters). This pack is also great to use for your carry on luggage.

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      • Black Diamond Vapor Helmet

        Easily adjustable lightweight helmet that fits with hat and Balaclava. Make sure this is a climbing-specific helmet. *Climbing helmets are also available to rent at no charge from Alpenglow expeditions on a first come, first serve basis.

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    • 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 certified mountain guide.

 

Guide Certifications
  • ASEGUIM

Gaspar Navarrete

Gaspar Navarrete

ASEGUIM Certified Mountain Guide

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.

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