E-Mails from Bolivia 2000


By Gary Hill


Hi All,

Day 1 (06-07-00) Here I am in sunny La Paz. Flew in this morning (Friday 9 hours to Miami, 7 hours wait in Miami, 6 hours flight to La Paz). Flying in at 4100m has been ok, so far - but I do feel a little lightheaded (for the lads out there: I bought a new watch on Wednesday - a Suunto Vector Wrist Top Computer 'thingey-bob'. I can't get it to make the tea yet, but it does most other 'things'. I've been measuring and logging barometric trends). The flight to Miami was pretty good as I sat between two women who were very easy to put off their food - especially the clotted cream.


la pas

Figure 1: La Paz (3900m) with Illimani (6485m)


Jeff met me at the Airport and we've got a good Hotel, but plan to move to another one on Sunday (better and cheaper - accommodation seems expensive $32 for a double room). Jeff's Spanish is brilliant - most of the old ladies around La Paz are after him for their daughters!


We're off to Lake Titicaca tomorrow (Copocabana etc) and then planning to get the bus to the ski resort at 54oom!! (This keyboard is a Spanish one and the keys are in strange places with strange symbols).


Jeff has spotted a Mountain Biking trip, which descends 3500m in one day, which we're thinking of saving for a rest day.


So far all I've done is rest. Tried a few Cafes for breakfast and lunch (cheap and good - meal with drinks about 3.5pounds - I've managed to find lemon meringue pie and an excellent avocado meal already. It's very sunny here, but cold. Compared with Peru La Paz seem more cosmopolitan, friendly and clean. The people are friendly (I've still got my wallet, although I thought it had gone missing - but half the contents are in my shoes and the rest in other places (guesses on a postcard please)). The Internet cafe we're in is 80pence per hour and called Jesus Inside - the logo being the same as Intel inside or whatever it is.


We are discussing the first trip to the hills at the moment and can get a jeep to take us within a 4 hour walk-in for $60 maximum - we may be able to get other people to join in. Still looking for snow stakesí


Hi All,

Hope you got my last message. Not too much to report really. Those expecting any climbing news - I wouldn't bother reading any further - just more tourism info. My apologies to some of you for sending this general e-mail to so many people. Hopefully there will be something of interest! (They'll act as a good record for me when I get my slides back and have forgotten what I've been up to for the last month). I probably won't be sending many once I get acclimatized and out in the hills (fingers crossed).


Day 2 (07-07-00) Finished with us wandering off (in search of a pasta meal) down the bustling streets of La Paz (3900m) treated to the surreal view of alpen-glow on the peak of Illimani (6485m) towering above the end of the street.


Day 3 (08-07-00) 6am start for Lake Titicaca, which is a minibus ride NW from La Paz. Spectacular sunrise views of the Cordillera Real from the window - in particular the Condoriri Group (which is where we're planning to climb first). The snow cover looked good (snowed last night) on the peak Cabeza De Condor (5,648m) we hope to attempt later this week.



Figure 2: Lake Titicaca 3820m


My initial feel-good factor dampened by pressure around my temples, so Lake Titicaca at 3820m was a good objective. We got to the ferry crossing at Tiquina in time for a fried egg sandwich for breakfast, then continued on to Copacabana with its Moorish style cathedral and the cranky priest blessing (Cha┤lla) flower festooned vehicles. He seemed to delight in flicking water over its occupantsí


Before treating ourselves to a fresh trout (trucha) lunch we traversed a shoreside hill (Cerro Calvario - 4100m) with great views of the lake and Copacabana.


Day 4 (09-07-00) Today we moved to a really nice hostel (Naira) which has a balcony overlooking a bustling street and the 16th century Igesia de San Francisco Church.


In Bolivian-Holiday mode, so the trip to the ski resort and 5400m hilltop is now tomorrow.


Acclimatization going slowly and I've now just got a bl**dy cold!


Will keep you posted



Hi All,


Day 5 (Mon 10-07-00) The easiest and cheapest way of walking up Cerro Chacaltaya (5345) was to book onto a minibus day trip (8am start)


North of La Paz is the 'worlds highest developed ski area'. After a 2hour rid up and out of La Paz (past El Alto) we arrived at the tired looking shacks of the ski resort (at 5200m). Huayna Potosi (6088m) looked particularly striking (another peak for Jeff and I to add to a very long list of peaks - only a few of which we're likely to get up).


We managed to wander to the top of Chacaltaya without too much difficulty - acclimatization seems ok - so far.


Cerro Chacaltaya (5345)

Figure 3: Cerro Chacaltaya (5345)


We spent the afternoon travelling to, and having a look round, the Valle De La Lina (Valley of the moon - south of La Paz 3200m). This is the 'badlands' of La Paz (bizarre eroded hillside maze of canyons and pinnacles).


Day 6 (Tues 11-07-00) Spent all day getting sorted for our first proper trip to the hills.

We leave tomorrow morning and plan to be away for a week, so you should hear from me again Wednesday-ish. We're heading for the Condoriri Range with a few objectives in mind (Pequeno Alpamayo, Ala Derecha and Cabeza de Condor).


Will keep you posted



Hi All,


Not another bl**dy message from me eh!


Well we're back safe and smelly from the mountains. We got a cheap lift with the 'Bronson Brothers - from hell with no name'. I thought my driving was bad, but these three space cadets were playing chicken with every thing coming the other way and the bigger the better.


A quick summary will follow (yawn!)


Day 7 (Wed 12-07-00) Got to the Condoriri Range for $30 (3 hours ride). The base camp (a further 3 hours walk up to 4650metres with a weeks worth of underwear and clean cloths (plus food and climbing gear was exhausting _ I don't know how donkeys can do that! (Cost 5 pound!). The campsite was in an idyllic (sp.) situation and was guarded and tended by the local villagers. They even had ready-made holes in the ground (all for a small few of 80pence a night). Of our objectives we managed the main one - Pequeno Alpamayo. This was brilliant more later.


Day 8 (Thurs 13-07-00) Walked up to 5000m on the 'glacier from hell with no name' to acclimatize - get a headache - and throw-up my breakfast!


Day 9 (Fri 14-07-00) Rest day and kept breakfast down. Jeff perfects his Chain Stokes breathing (3 huge puffs/breaths in my face in, what should be, every 15 breaths! - but his breath doesn't smell-yet!)


Day 10 (Sat 15-07-00) Climbed Piramide Blanca (5230m) by it's normal route via the glacier......


Piramide Blanca (5230m)

Figure 4: Piramide Blanca (5230m)


Day 11 (Sun 16-07-00) Rest day


Day 12 (Mon 17-07-00) Set off for Pequeno Alpamayo (5370m), but had to climb over Tarija (5250m) via you guessed it ┤the glacier...┤. Tarija is a bit like the Wellenkuppe on the approach to the Obergarblehorn ( a pain in the *****). The route we chose on the Pequeno Alpamayo was like the NE Face on the Ober.... Except it's the Directisima SE Face - boy what a route.


You climb the whole of the face (about 450m) of 55 - 60 degree snow and ice (obviously, mostly above 5000m). It beats plodding. The top just came in to the sun as we were topping out. I didn't take any shots on the route, but I hope it will look good in the distant shots (Steve: Quite a few folks were looking and said it looked impossible and seemed gobsmacked - either that or we were typical soft in the head Englishmen... At the camp site later it was a bit like the time we did the Frendo Spur - people looking at us funny, pointing and avoiding us - letting us go first with the washing up - that sort of thing). Jeff discovers the wonders of wet wipes! - Carries small 2 man tent seems to be getting smaller by the night.


Pequeno Alpamayo

Figure 5: Pequeno Alpamayo (5370m) Directisima (SE Face)


Day 13 (Tues 18-07-00) Journey from hell with the 'Bronson Brothers' back to our Hotel - they laughed at the look of us, until they smelt us!


Tonight: Jeff's after another Llama and I'll probably be on trout.


Tomorrow, rest day and try to find a launderette. We're off to the hills soon, but civilization smells and tastes good...


Bye for now


Hi All,


Yet another...


Day 14 (Wed 19-07-00) Rest day and Laundry


Day 15 (Thurs 19-07-00) Mountain Biking down the Yungas Road from La Cumbre (4859m) to Coroico (1500m) - around 3500m of descent in less than 6 hours! This road (single track/unmade) has been declared the most dangerous road in the world (Inter-American Development bank! In 1993, 100 people died on it in one day! The traffic drives on the other side of the road than normal to try to make it safer. The mountain biking down was fantastic, but the drive back up was frightening!


Day 16 (Fri 19-07-00) Another rest day and collect laundry

Saturday we're off to attempt Huayna Potosi (6088m), but we're going to try for the high camp tomorrow at 5450m and then make the summit attempt on Sunday. Hopefully we will be acclimatized enough. There are a number of options for route depending on how we feel. I'll be in touch on Monday, Tues or Wed.

Bye for now



Hi All,


Day 17 (Sat 20-07-00) Got our 9am lift up to the Huayna Potosi (6088m) base camp (4750m) then walked up to a lower high! Camp at 5150m - due to high winds. We camped in the rock. Our objective was the South East Face.


Huayna Potosi (6088m)

Figure 6: View of Huayna Potosi (6088m) from 5150m camp - the direct line up the South East Face looked inviting!


Day 18 (Sun 21-07-00) Early start, but the snow conditions were very poor (Wind Slab) and the Face we were going to attempt was on the Lee side of the mountain. As we approached we noticed the cornice had collapsed in a couple of places and the face was scarred with the fall line of debris (plus we thought we could see potential crack/avalanche lines. So the executive decision was to retreat. We returned to La Paz late Sun. afternoon. We're in a bit of a dilemma as neither of us is keen on plodding up the peaks in Bolivia - we want too climb interesting lines. We're currently rethinking what we are going to do next.... More soon.

Bye for now



Hi All,

Been here three weeks now, Bolivia is very impressive, but conditions for climbing 'proper' routes instead of plodding at altitude are very limited (Neither of us is keen on the snow plods). Jeff and I are going to hot foot it back to 'blighty' with haste. Jeff has already been out of the country (UK) for over a month and has to return via Chile.


Bye for now - see you soon





Yossi Brain (1998) Bolivia: A Climbing Guide, Cordee, 1871890489

Brad Johnson (2009) Classic Climbs of the Cordillera Blanca, Peru, Peaks & Places Publishing; 2nd Revised Edition, 0975860615

John Biggar (2005) The Andes: A Guide for Climbers, Andes; 3rd Revised edition edition, 0953608727