American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

South America, Bolivia, Various Activity

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1998

Bolivia, Various Activity. In June, a U.S. climber died of a heart attack on the normal route on Huayna Potosi. In August, a guided French climber died on Sajama from pulmonary edema at Camp I after descending from high camp. A Japanese woman died of edema while attempting the Payachatas, two 6000-meter-plus peaks on the Bolivia-Chile border. These were the only reported climbing deaths in Bolivia in 1997.

The Austrian guide in charge of the June, 1994, disaster on Illimani, Wilfrid Studer, was back in Bolivia, climbing on Sajama despite the loss of both feet to frostbite in 1994. That year, Studer climbed the normal route on Illimani in a storm with two clients and was forced to make an unplanned bivouac at more than 6000 meters. Continued bad weather prevented descent the next day, so the three snowholed again. During the night, one went mad, attacked his partners, then later walked out of the snowhole saying he was going to a restaurant. He was never seen again. The weather improved on the third day and Studer, together with the surviving client, started descending, but the client dropped dead from exhaustion. Studer continued down the southeast side of the mountain and back to La Paz, a hospital, and Austria, in quick succession.

The year saw the first signs of the development of weekend climbing in Bolivia. The late Stanley Shepard, a U.S. citizen living in La Paz, wrote in the 1981 AAJ, “At the moment, La Paz has one weekend climber: me. I solo a lot.” Little has changed, even though there are no practical reasons why someone living in La Paz at 3660 meters should not make weekend forays to the surrounding mountains. A jeep to the base of Huayna Potosi (6088m) takes one and a half hours from the center of the city; to Illimani (6439m) takes two and half hours and the Condoriri group can be reached in two hours. But the small number of climbers who own jeeps—and the fact that those who do tend to work Saturday mornings—means that virtually no weekend climbing takes place.

La Paz resident geologists Brock Bolin (U.S.) and Rod Feldtmann (Australia) climbed Cabeza del Condor (a.k.a. Condoriri, Gran Condoriri, 5648m) over one weekend in August via the route of first ascent (done solo in April, 1941, by Wilfrid Kuehn from Germany). The route (AD+ 55°, 400m) is a classic alpine ridge and is without doubt one of the best routes in Bolivia. The pair returned later the same month to climb the imposing south face (60° D-, 600m) of Ala Izquierda (a.k.a. Ala Norte, Condoriri West Peak, 5532m). Jean Steege (U.S.) and I did the French Route (AD+ 55°, 300m) on Huayna Potosi from the bergschrund in a straight push from the Zongo Pass (4770m). We were up and down in 26 hours (August 23- 24). We encountered deep snow between the Campamento Argentino high camp and the base of the route and spent a rather long time getting back to the normal route to descend. Another feat no non-resident climber should attempt was the climbing of Illimani (6439m) in less than 24 hours by resident engineer Robert Riesinger (Austria) and partner Carlos Cancino (Chile) on September 14. The pair left La Paz at 11 p.m. and drove to the first camp, Puente Roto (4400m), via an unused mining track. They set off at 2 a.m. and reached the Nido de Condores high camp at 5400 meters at 6 a.m., where they stopped for breakfast. They left high camp at 7 a.m., summited at 1:15 p.m., descended, and got back to the jeep at 5:30 p.m., arriving in La Paz at 8:30 p.m.

Also this year, French-born guide Alain Mesili was released from jail.

Yossi Brain, United Kingdom

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