Bolivia 2019: Poor Weather in Bolivia, But Got a Summit!

As we left Copacabanna for the trailhead for our attempt of Pequeño Alpamayo, or Little Alpamayo Condoriri Group in La Coordillera Blanca, I was a bit apprehensive. I had felt good on our acclimatization hikes but we were now going over 17,000 feet and then on to almost 20 and then over 21,000.

The drive along the Bolivian roads was peaceful. The scenery calming and soon I was enjoying the ride. At some random kilometer marker, the driver of our small bus turned left onto a dirt road. The skyline of the Condoriri Group stood tall, covered in white snow as this is winter in Bolivia.

We drove for an hour stopping at a nondescript house built out of mud and straw. A family was standing there to meet us along with our logistics contact from La Paz. We unloaded the bus as we took in the views. That evening we took an acclimatization hike to over 14,000′ and said hello to a group of Llamas and alpaca! Stunning to say the least.

The next morning we walked about 1:30 to the “end of the road” From there we took a small trail that meandered ever higher towards base camp and more awesome views. The Coordillera Blanca unfolded before our eyes with each step. We jumped over streams while careful not to twist an ankle on the loose and slippery rocks.

Quickly after arriving at base camp, the tents went up as well as the cooking tent with our two wonderful Bolivian cooks. The food thus far has been excellent. We spent the next day hiking to 17,400′ on a nearby peak but the weather gave a hint of what was to come. Loud thunder and crisp lightening lit up the sky just as we reached the summit requiring a fast but orderly retreat lower. At one point we took cover in a shallow ravine hoping the storm would pass.

That night it returned with a vengeance along with heavy graupel then deep snow. Overall, a foot of fresh powder. Great if you are skiing but not so good for glacier climbing.

With growing concern over avalanche danger we discussed various options and selected to attempt Tirija at 17,500 feet and not go for Pequeno Alpamayo, our original objective.

This was a straight forward decision as you have to summit Tarija to get to Pequeno. We left roped up into small subgroups around 4:17 am on Sunday, July 21, 2019. We made good time to Crampon point at the base of the glacier then steady progressed higher. The snow was fresh and ankle to shin deep at times. We climbed through the dark approaching 17,000 feet just about sunrise.

The last scramble to the true summit of Tirija as fun. The slope was steep around 40 degrees and the top was a rocky outcropping. And the views simply amazing. We spent about 15 minutes up there and then returned to base camp arriving around 11:30 to pack up and hike back out to catch the bus and return to La Paz.

More pictures from the summit.


Next Peak

Our next peak is Huayna Potosi at ‎6,088 m (19,974 ft). We are a bit on edge as the weather calls for over 20 inches of new snow over the nest 24 hour. We have delayed our departure from La Paz by one day to let the storm pass. The current plan is to drive to the trailhead early Wednesday, July 24, 2019 then hike the 2-3 hours to the High Camp (hut) and leave early Thursday morning for the summit return to La Paz the same day. After that is Illimani on Monday.

I’ll report by social media as I can but a full blog post when I’m back.

Support Alan’s 63rd Birthday

with a Donation to Alzheimer’s Research


Alan’s 63 Birthday – Alzheimer’s Research

I am asking that for my 63rd birthday this Saturday, July 27th, 2019 that a donation in any amount that is meaningful to you be made to the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund using this Crowdrise site. 100% of your donations goes to research, none ever to me. Read more about why this cause is so important at this link and how Alzheimer’s took Ida Arnette’s life.

Ida with Alan at 6 months old
Ida with Alan at 6 months old

Climb On!
Memories are Everything

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5 thoughts on “Bolivia 2019: Poor Weather in Bolivia, But Got a Summit!

  1. Alan, thanks for a great website. I trained for the last 5.5 months for Huayna Potosi based entirely on your training/fitness information. I sort of based it around your Everest programme so I guess it might have been overkill but to be honest I’m really glad i did because 100 meters or so from the summit I was struggling a bit and was able to flash back to my training programme which gave me a much needed sense of entitlement. I’d never been to anywhere near 6000 meters. I also needed to lose a ton of weight prior to the climb (I lost 20kgs) and your programme was just the ticket.

    It would have been thrilling to have bumped into you at one one of the huts. We probably missed each other by that much! (as Maxwell Smart used to say).

    Anyway, thanks again Alan.

  2. Such a pretty area, I have climbed puequeno alpamayo–everytime i see that mountain I am amazed I climbed it! Hoping for good weather windows for you! Be safe!

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