Cabeza de Condor, La Promenade des Braves; Huallomen, Duende del Diablo; and Illampu, La Conjuration des Imbecile. Jerome Mercader and I were in Bolivia for one month. We first acclimatized in the Condoriri Range, with a BC at 4,600m/15,100'. We climbed classics and also did two new gullies, on Cabeza de Condor and on Huallomen. Then we climbed 2,300' of the famous west face of Huyana Potosi (19,970') in only three hours, and were back in La Paz the same day. Soon after, we went to Illampu (6,368m/20,890') which is one of the most complicated and impressive summits of this range, with the hardest normal route in Bolivia.
On May 25, on the south face of Cabeza de Condor (5,648m/18,525'), we established La Promenade des Braves (The Walk of the Braves, 220m/720' in the gully, 570m/1,870' to the top, IV M6 WI4), spending four hours in the gully and another hour and 45 minutes to reach the summit. This gully is located on the right bank of the glacier. Climb directly to the bottom of a mixed pitch (M6), then follow a narrow ice line (55° to 75°, with a snow mushroom). Cross to the right on a snow ledge to a snow shoulder. A last pitch, with a 65° ice section, reaches the snow ridge at 5,300m (17,385'), where the route joins the normal route to the top.
On May 27 we climbed the east face of Huallomen (5,550m) via what we called Duende del Diablo (Spirit of the Devil, 500m/1,640', 570m/1,870' to the top, V M5 WI5), climbing the gully in 6:30 and taking another hour to reach the summit. We are not sure if we did the first ascent. The ice line is in the middle of the face—a narrow line with steep ice and dry-tooling sections. The start is the same as for the 2001 Bon Anniversaire Annick route. In the lower part of the gully were two pitches with ice sections of 70° to 85°. The line reaches the bottom of the headwall and turns left onto a snow ramp (55°, with some dry). Then the line ascends a steep, narrow gully (90°). The first crux, “Cross on your Feet,” is a 90° M5 pitch with small icicles. The next pitch and second crux, “The Belly,” is a 90° wall which leads toward a breach in a snow gully. However, just before reaching this breach, follow a snow ledge (50/55°) to the right for almost two pitches. A 70° M4 pitch to the right gives access to the central gully, which cuts into a second breach (60° to 75°). Escape right just before it. You are at the bottom of the rocky foresummit. A horizontal ledge takes you right for two easy pitches to the summit snow ridge and the normal route. Follow it to the top via snow and a rocky step. Descend by downclimbing the northeast ridge, always on the right side of the ridge.
Illampu is located in the Cordillera Real, close to the village of Sorata. It's a remote summit, with a three-day approach to base camp (17,400'). La Conjuration des Imbeciles (The Confederacy of Dunces, 870m/2,860', VI M4 WI5) is a great, aesthetic line that we established on June 9. It follows the impressive central gully of the north face. One-push style being the fastest and the safest way to climb this route, we reduced our gear to four ice screws, four pitons, four Friends, some nuts, one 200' 7.7mm rope, a little water, and two goose gilets. Such a way of climbing allows you to be fast, but only if everything is going okay. The start is the same as that of the 1978 Mesili Route, which heads to the left side of the face and surmounts three seracs to reach the foresummit (6,344m/20,810'). This face is now far drier than in 1978. The first part of the couloir we climbed is now a six-pitch gully with 85° ice steps and M4 dry-tooling sections. The gully reaches the bottom of a 50m-high serac. This, the crux, was a 70m pitch (WI5, with some M4 to start). Above a 150m, 55° snow slope, head right to a second serac. Climb it on the left (70°). Then climb snow below the last serac for one 70° pitch. Climb to the left, on snow with mixed sections, to avoid a rocky headwall. Follow a secondary ridge to the foresummit, which we reached in 7hrs, 30min from the start. From the foresummit we reached the main summit in two hours via a corniced ridge with no protection. We had 30 minutes of daylight left when we summited, and began down climbing the normal, Southwest Ridge route (III 65°). It wasn't easy finding our way through the icefall, avoiding ghostly crevasses, with a lamp that only gave 15 minutes of light, but without bivy gear we couldn't afford a night out. The only solution was to find the tent, which we did around 10 p.m.
We had an exceptional journey, an adventure that brought us to wild places without a soul around. We pushed our dream to the end, to be sure that life was worth being lived. The spirit of your climb is still more important than the climb itself. As long as there are climbers willing to escape from trails, adventure will exist.
Sebastien Constant, France