American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

South America, Bolivia, Condoriri East Peak, Illampu West Face, and Climbs in the Apolobamba

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

Condoriri East Peak, Illampu West Face, and Climbs in the Apolobamba. The 1997 University of Edinburgh Apolobamba Expedition comprised Tom Bridgeland, Sam Chinnery, Rob Goodier, Jane McKay, Heather Smith and me. We spent July and August climbing in Bolivia’s Cordillera Real and the Apolobamba Range. We first went to the Condoriri area and climbed Pequeño Alpamayo (5370m) and the main summit of Condoriri (5648m) by the normal routes. Condoriri’s East Peak (Ala Derecha, 5330m) has four prominent couloirs visible from base camp. The right-hand couloir is the most obvious and was climbed by Mesili in 1976, but now appears to be badly melted out. On July 16, Sam and I climbed the narrow left-most couloir (Scottish VI/6,450m) of the four (possible second ascent). This was an excellent line, reminiscent of classic Scottish gully routes. There were three sections of vertical ice and a hard mixed section where the ice was discontinuous. We think this is probably the Couloir Colibri climbed by Gabbarou and Astier in 1989 (who reportedly found it hard). On the same day Rob and Tom climbed the second couloir (Scottish III/4, 450m) from the left (sans ropes), which was mostly névé with sections of steeper ice. It was probably a first ascent.

On July 19, Jane and Heather climbed Huayna Potosi (6088m) by the normal route on the east side, while Rob, Tom, Sam and I climbed the West Face (1000m of 55° névé). Jane and Heather then climbed Illimani (6438m) by the standard route. After this Sam and I traveled to the Illampu region, and on the east side of the range we climbed, together with Jenz Richter, the Austrian Route on Pico del Norte (6045m). This was an excellent 1000-meter ice face, beginning with 55-60° névé and leading to an upper rock band where a right-hand exit was taken, resulting in several hundred meters of water ice up to 70°.

On August 19, Sam and I did the probable second ascent of the French Direct Route on the West Face of Illampu (6438m). This 1000-meter line was first climbed by Gabbarou and Villerroel in 1990. The bottom half of the original ice ramp was badly melted out, so we opted for a thin ice ribbon cutting through the first major rock band well to the left of the French Route. This involved a short overhanging section (Scottish technical 6) to enter the narrow couloir, then several pitches of good ice to eventually join the French Route. The upper ramp was mostly 65° ice with very little snow or névé. The weather deteriorated in the afternoon and we had to climb through blizzards and whiteout. We reached the summit in a storm at midnight, and were forced to bivouac with no food or bivy gear. We descended the normal route the next day.

While Sam and I were in the Illampu area, the others traveled to the Sorel Oeste region of the Apolobamba range. On August 6 the foursome did the first ascent of the beautiful Southwest Face of Sorel Oeste (5471m). They approached the face by ascending the west side of the glacier on the south side of Sorel Oeste. The lower section of the face was 300 meters of 50° snow/névé, while the upper section was an icy runnel to the summit, with about 200 meters of 60° ice. Finally, from August 10 to 14, Rob and Tom did a four-day traverse of the Palomani group.

Paul Schweizer, University of Edinburgh Mountaineering Club

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