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South America, Bolivia, Cordillera Real, Cordillera Real and the Cordillera de la Quimsa Cruz, Various Ascents

Cordillera Real and the Cordillera de la Quimsa Cruz, Various Ascents. On June 1, the Salt Lake-based team of Ben Folsom, Steven Su, and Andy Gresh arrived in La Paz, Bolivia, intending to do lightweight ascents in the Cordillera Real and the Cordillera de la Quimsa Cruz. After several days in La Paz, the entire team, along with several friends from Salt Lake City, departed on June 7 for the town of Sorata, hoping to make an ascent of Ancohuma via the normal route (Laguna Glaciar) for acclimatization purposes. The attempt over June 9 to 13 was unsuccessful due to sickness, heinous penitentes, and underestimation of the route’s length.

On June 18, I arrived in La Paz and joined up with Ben and Steve. After two days of organization/acclimatization in La Paz, Steve and I departed for the 6080-meter Huayna Potosí, which we climbed on June 23 in three hours via the normal route. This year the summit ridge was rather exposed. On June 27, Ben, Steve, Andy, and I left La Paz for the Condoriri group. After a day of rest, Ben, Steve, and I departed Base Camp at 5 a.m. and headed for Ala Oeste (the “left wing” of Condoriri). Andy remained in camp due to a twisted knee and a persistent head-cold.

We were at the ‘schrund at 11 a.m. and after a short bit of shenanigans were established on the face. We simul-climbed the entire 650 meters, which was a variation of the Mesili route on the face. The line follows ice runnels in the central part of the wall up to a large serac about half-way up the face, then cuts slightly left. The conditions varied and we passed sections of styrofoam, brittle ice, plate ice, crappy ice, etc.—the full Andean experience.

We topped out at 3 p.m. in a rather intense hail storm and immediately began the descent via ten 60-meter rappels. The majority of our anchors were good V-threads drilled in runnels of ice. We were back to Base Camp and coca tea at 10:30 p.m. The day’s catch: Red Storm Rising (D 70°, 650m).

Other routes climbed by the team were: Illampu, via the direct normal route, July 6, Ben, Steve, Andy, and me; Pico Norte, via its 900-meter east face couloir, on July 18, Pat, Eric, Steve (it should be noted that the normal route on Pico Norte has basically ceased to exist; it is an unsavory rappel descent at best due to glacial recession); the technically easy 5540-meter Viluyo, on July 17, Ben and me; the French route on Huayna Potosí, July 25-27, Danika Gilbert and Steve; Illimani (6640m), on July 26, Ben.

It is sad to see how much recession has taken place in Bolivia over the past couple of years. Routes on Illampu, Condoriri, Tiquimani, and other peaks are now very dangerous or impossible due to lack of adequate snow/ice coverage.

I thank the American Alpine Club for the support given to me. Without your help this trip would not have been possible. ¡ Gracías por los recuerdos! Uastata sita!

Bart Paull*

*Recipient of a 1998 AAC Mountaineering Fellowship Fund Grant