American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

South America, Bolivia, Cordillera Sud Lípez, Overview

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 1999

Cordillera Sud Lipez, Overview. The Cordillera Sud Lípez lies to the east of the southern part of the Cordillera Occidental and runs down to the Bolivia-Chile-Argentina border. Major peaks include Cerro Lípez, Morurco (5681m), Uturuncu (6008m), and Zapeleri (5656m), which sits exactly on the point where the borders of Bolivia, Chile and Argentina meet. The peaks are volcanic, technically easy and normally snow-covered, but in 1998 no snow was seen anywhere in the area, leaving huge piles of scree to climb. The first recorded climbing in the area was by the Frenchman G. Courty before 1903, which left the intriguing reference in Jill Neate’s Mountaineering in the Andes, “Nuevo Mundo, 6020m, location uncertain.” Further exploration in the area was done by German geologist Frederic Ahlfeld, who emigrated to Bolivia in 1924. Ahlfeld began exploring the region in 1945 and climbed a number of peaks, including Uturuncu and Bonete (5695m).

In 1962, in a letter to Andean historian Evelio Echevarría, Ahlfeld stated that Nuevo Mundo, at ca. 5850 meters, was the highest peak in the Cordillera Sud Lipez and suggested that it was one of the two Cerro Lípez peaks. The Bolivian IGM map has a Nuevo Mundo lying immediately south of Cerro Lípez. However, in his book Geografîa Fisica de Bolivia, published in 1969, Ahlfeld has a drawing of a Nuevo Mundo (5438m) and a description of its location far to the north of the Cerro Lípez group.

La Paz residents Toto Aramayo (Bolivia), Yossi Brain (U.K.) and Dakin Cook (U.S.) decided to go and look for Nuevo Mundo. After ten days and 2700 kilometers in a long-wheel-based Toyota Land Cruiser, they found Ahlfeld’s Nuevo Mundo (5438m), failed on Cerro Lípez due to appallingly loose rock, and managed to climb Uturuncu (6008m) on October 8. They were greatly helped by the existence of a sulphur mining road to 5770 meters, which left them a 45-minute stroll to the summit.

Uturuncu would appear to be a good contender for Courty’s Nuevo Mundo and, once you’ve got to it, certainly deserves the epithet, until now applied to Huayna Potosí in the Cordillera Real, as “the easiest 6000er in the world.”

Yossi Brain, United Kingdom

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