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South America, Bolivia, Alpamayo Chico, Condoriri, Illampu, Cordillera Real; Quimsa Cruz

Alpamayo Chico, Condoriri, Illampu, Cordillera Real; Quimsa Cruz. Holly Samson and I visited the easily accessed area around Condoriri. Our scenic Base Camp at 14,700 feet was an ideal spot to acclimatize and climb in a compact cirque of six or so peaks of 16,000 to 18,000 feet with one-day moderate mountaineering or technical alpine routes. We climbed Alpamayo Chico (5223 meters, 17,135 feet) by its northwest ridge, a fine, exposed route with a short section of 50° snow-and-ice below the summit. I later soloed the direct south face of Condoriri (5648 meters, 18,531 feet), a striking face of continuous 60° snow-and-ice with a tricky rock band of loose, shattered rock midway. I descended the normal southwest ridge, completing the round-trip in four hours. The highlight was visiting the northern Cordillera Real, where we climbed Illampu (6368 meters, 20,891 feet) by its northwest ridge. An approach now being used starts at Sorata (8500 feet) on a trail to Lacatiya (13,000 feet), the highest village, then crosses the steep, untrailed Huila Khota Pass (15,700 feet) before reaching Base Camp at Aguas Calientes (14,700 feet). This makes for an eight-hour day with a 7000-foot gain, but it avoids a two-day approach and an expensive jeep ride. Arrangements for pack animals are available at the Hotel Copacabana in Sorata. The northwest ridge of Illampu is considered one of the hardest “normal” routes on the major Bolivian peaks. The lower half ascends a 1200-foot of 50° snow-and-ice above a high camp at 18,000 feet. It then joins the northwest ridge for 1200 feet of 40° snow, which is frequently broken by crevasses and séracs. The final ridge involves tricky route-finding and short, steep ice sections. The summit is a classic Andean knifeblade of corniced snow. We also briefly visited the Quimsa Cruz, southeast of La Paz. The northern part has several valleys of spectacular granite spires and peaks, with continuous faces of 500 to 800 feet. The rock quality is good, but the cracks are choked with dirt and grass and the temperatures in the shade are cold. We had excellent weather during our month stay from mid May to mid June, which seems to be the norm. Apparently snow conditions improve as the season progresses into July and August, when firmer snow and ice are wanted on technical routes.

David Nettle, Unaffiliated