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South America, Boliva, Huayna Potosí

Huayna Potosí. After our climbs in the Cordillera Blanca, Don McKay of the New Zealand expedition and I traveled south to Bolivia as ordinary tourists. After leaving the Titicaca boat, we journeyed all afternoon by rail in full view of the Cordillera Real. By the time we reached La Paz we were in such a frenzy about climbing that the first thing we did was to call the Club Andino Boliviano and ask about borrowing equipment. Sr. Farwig, the club president, called a meeting of the board to help us. On September 9 we left for Huayna Potosí in the club bus, which deposited us at a dam at 16,000 feet, south of the peak. Since the summit is 19,996 feet, we planned to use only one camp. Because a snowstorm that afternoon forced us to camp at only 17,000 feet, we decided against the unclimbed southwest ridge in favor of the proven southeast one. We left the tent at nine after a leisurely breakfast of eggs, ham, toast and coffee. Soon our lack of overboots made itself felt. Nor was Don up to par. Since the climbing in deep snow was easy, we unroped, and I went ahead to break trail. When at two o’clock Don had not caught up, I waited some 700 feet below the summit until he arrived at 2:30, still feeling rocky. During this wait my feet became numb in my frozen leather boots. Don urged me on, saying that he would follow after a rest. Knowing that inactivity would be the worst thing for my feet, I crossed the broad plateau to the base of the summit mass. The slope steepened, but the sun had cupped the snow into natural holds. After these ran out 100 feet below the top, I cut steps in the ice over this short distance. At 3 p.m. I photographed the summit cornice after gingerly placing my axe in it. (Sixth ascent.—Editor.) Although I wanted to wait on the summit for Don, my fingers had started to lose feeling and the thought of a surgeon without fingers forced me to begin the descent. When I reached Don, he confided that he too was very cold and we descended as quickly as possible.

David L. Dingman