Climb Great Peaks of Bolivia With Alpine Ascents
A proper superlative is hard to find as all fail to do justice to the experience. The experience was all I could have asked for. First and foremost the climbing was interesting and challenging, and summiting Pequeño Alpamayo and Chachacomani gave me a great sense of accomplishment. The cultural experience was also enriching and enhanced greatly by Rachael’s knowledge and experience. In short the climbing was great, the guides were fantastic, logistics were handled smoothly and efficiently, and my climbing team was a joy.
Our new itinerary launched in 2018 was a huge success in both 2018 and 2019 and we are looking forward to 2022 departures with Bolivia expert Rachel Molstad as lead guide.
Bolivia’s Cordillera Real (Royal Range) contains seven peaks above 6,000 meters and over 600 peaks above 5,000 meters, all packed within a range that stretches a mere 78 miles/125 km in length. Despite the immensity of climbing possibilities, Bolivia’s premier mountain range remains one of South America’s best kept climbing secrets. This is a new itinerary designed by our Bolivian climbing expert Rachel Molstad.
An expedition to Bolivia provides the opportunity for climbers to make the transition to high altitude climbing in a spectacular and exotic range that offers fine routes at an intermediate grade. In addition to easy accessibility to big peaks, Bolivia also boasts some of the most stable mountain weather in the world. As the tourism infrastructure in Bolivia is behind that of other neighboring Andean countries, travel here is well-suited to the adventurous; the intrepid traveler to Bolivia will find endlessly fascinating cultural depth, authenticity, and natural beauty.
The climbing was challenging in the best ways, the guides were great, and the logistics smooth.
The goal of this expedition is the ascent of two peaks in the Cordillera Real chosen for their beauty, accessibility, quality of climbing, and usefulness as a training ground for future high altitude expeditions: Pequeño Alpamayo (17,618 ft./5370 m) and Chachacomani (19,928 ft./6074 m).
We’ll begin our expedition in La Paz, the world’s highest capital city, which sits at 11,975 ft./3650 m in a spectacular setting. As we acclimatize, we’ll ride the world’s highest and longest cable car network across the city with views of the Andes and the rugged city hillsides. On our way to Lake Titicaca the next day, we’ll explore Tiwanaku, a UNESCO world heritage site, and Bolivia’s most important archeological site. Finally we reach beautiful Lake Titicaca, one of the highest navigable lakes in the world and the second-largest lake in South America. We spend the night at the bright town of Copacabana and visit the Island of the Sun (Isla del Sol) the next day. We’ll continue our acclimatization by hiking from the northern to the southern end of the picturesque island, spending the night in bungalows at a locally run ecolodge.
Upon leaving Lake Titicaca, we begin our expedition to three beautiful mountains. These easy-to-moderately difficult ascents constitute an ideal trip for mountaineering school graduates, beginners at high altitude, and experienced climbers alike. We will warm up on the pyramidal Pico Austria (17,454 ft./5320 m), which offers us a marvelous view of the Condoriri Group.
After having completed a basic skills review and practiced some ice climbing, we proceed to the impressive and beautiful Pequeño Alpamayo (17,618 ft./5,370 m). The steep fluted faces and knife-edge ridges of this pyramid-shaped peak allow us to enjoy unique and spectacular climbing.
Our final objective is Chachacomani (19,928 ft./6074 m), a 6000 meter plus unspoiled peak only recently opened to tourism by the local community. Chachacomani sits in the heart of the Cordillera Real and is notable from afar for its immense expanse of glacier. Our final steeper ascent will place us high in the middle of the Cordillera Real with views over the barren altiplano and Lake Titicaca on one side to the sub-tropics and the Amazon basin on the other.
It was a wonderful expedition. Rachel’s knowledge of not only the mountains, but the culture of Bolivia really enhanced the trip.
The Aymara People and the Altiplano
Bolivia is a land of geographical extremes and superlatives made all the more fascinating by the rich authentic cultural background found in daily life. A nation landlocked in the heart of South America, over sixty percent of Bolivia’s population is of indigenous descent, more than in any other country in South America. The altiplano, or high altitude plateau, we will explore during our expedition, is the land of the Aymara people. The Aymara trace their culture, language, and descendancy from the advanced pre-Incan Tiwanaku civilization. Today, the Aymara in the countryside raise alpaca and llama while living off potatoes, barley, and quinoa, which are grown in the altiplano.
Already acclimatized from Chachacomani, those interested in looking for further challenge can remain in this stunning region to attempt Illimani, the 21,125 ft./6,439 m giant overlooking La Paz’s southeastern skyline. Illimani is the highest mountain in the Cordillera Real and the second highest peak in Bolivia. Our climb will consist of two camps, climbing the West Ridge of Pico Sur, the highest peak of the massif. It is a challenging, steep climb that includes a heavily crevassed glacier. The ascent itself is spectacular, as the entire massif spans more than 5 miles/8 km and contains five summits, three of them over 20,000 ft./6100 m! This wonderful climb will give you the chance to stand over 21,000 feet, absorbing the grandeur that is Bolivia. Some climbers find Illimani more challenging than the prior climbs.
This is a highly recommended shortlist and we would be happy to pass on a longer reading list for those interested. These links will bounce to Amazon.com with reviews.
Bolivia climbing is a well-kept secret. The climbing is spectacular, challenging and very satisfying. The fact that the peaks are all below 21,000 ft. and can be climbed in just a few days leads them to be underappreciated and underestimated.