On September 15 Robert Rauch picked me up in La Paz at 4 a.m. The first crux was driving to the trailhead for Serkhe Khollu in Robert’s vehicle. The approach followed llama paths from 4,600m to 5,000m over gentle but steadily rising terrain, toward the left-hand end of the broad southwest face. The last few hundred meters found us in a snow storm, ascending firm snow unroped to the base of a classic water-ice gully. We followed it to the crux vertical icefall, which had options from WI5+ to WI4. We opted for the latter. Several more enjoyable ice pitches of around WI4 led to the top. Thunder and heavy snow caused us to decline walking the last few hundred feet to the summit, but this option is easily available for other parties. Descent was via standard route (the only one that gets traffic, maybe a few parties per year), which climbs a snowfield at the left end of the southwest face to gentle slopes, with no obvious crevasses, rising southeast to the summit. Tiers of Pachamama (350m, IV WI4) took 11 hours car-to-car and 17 hours roundtrip from La Paz, making it a suitable warm-up climb. It seems to have little stonefall or other objective hazard.
Based on Robert’s 20+ years of guiding in the Bolivian mountains, we believe that this type of ice is becoming more common in the country, where warmer temperatures are melting summit ice caps during the day and forming water ice during the night. So while Pachamama’s tears allow us to enjoy ephemeral routes today, we worry for the future.
Chris Clarke, Bolivia
Editor's note: Previous versions of this report called the climb Tears of Pachamama.