Great Peaks of Bolivia
- Experience the unspoiled natural beauty of Bolivia
- Climb two majestic peaks: Huayna Potosi and Pequeño Alpamayo
- Visit La Paz, the highest capital city in the world
On this 15-day expedition we'll make ascents of Huayna Potosi (19,974 ft/6,088m) and Pequeño Alpamayo (17,618 ft/5,370m) in Bolivia's Cordillera Real.
The Cordillera Real (Royal Range), is Bolivia's foremost climbing region with eight peaks rising above 6,000m. The goal of our 15 day expedition is an ascent of Huayna Potosi (19,974 ft/6,088m) and Pequeño Alpamayo (17,618 ft/5,370m), which stand in bold relief above the altiplano (high plateau). The panoramic views from their summits are exquisite and their dramatic peaks are considered by many to be the most stunning mountains in the Cordillera Real.
Located in the heart of South America, Bolivia is the most Indian of the Andean countries, with about fifty percent of its inhabitants being descendants of Aymara and Quechua cultures. It is still an unspoiled country and its natural beauty and abundance of mountains, most of them easy accessible, is overwhelming.
The first day of the expedition is spent in La Paz, the world's highest capital city, which lies at 12,008ft/3,660m in a spectacular setting. We enjoy the day shopping, visiting the famous Witches' Market and at the same time acclimatizing. On our way to Lake Titicaca the next day, we will explore the great ceremonial center of Tiwanaku, a UNESCO world heritage and Bolivia's most important archaeological site. Finally we reach Lake Titicaca, one of the highest navigable lakes in the world and the second largest lake in South America. We spend the night at the bright town of Copacabana and visit the Island of the Sun (Isla del Sol) on the subsequent day. We combine our acclimatization hike from the northern to the southern end of the island with the visit of some interesting Inca ruins.
Upon leaving Lake Titicaca we begin our expedition to three beautiful mountains. These easy to moderately difficult ascents constitute an ideal trip for Mountaineering School graduates and experienced climbers alike. We will warm up on the pyramidal Pico Austria (16,400ft/5000m), which offers us a marvelous view of the Condoriri Group.
After having completed a basic skills review and practiced some ice-climbing, we then proceed to Pequeño Alpamayo (17,618 ft/5,370m), a peak that is both impressive and beautiful. The steep fluted faces and knife-edge ridges of this pyramid-shaped peak, allow us to enjoy unique and spectacular climbing.
Our final objective is Huayna Potosi (19,974 ft/6,088m), Bolivia's most popular major peak because of its imposing beauty. With moderately steep terrain of snow and ice and wonderful exposure from the narrow airy summit (looking over the 3000ft. west face), it is a highly memorable and challenging climb for even the most seasoned alpinist.
Already acclimatized from Huayna Potosi, those interested may remain in this stunning region to attempt Illimani, the 21,125 ft/6,439m giant overlooking La Paz's Southeastern skyline. Illimani is the highest mountain in the Cordillera Real and the second highest peak in Bolivia. Our climb will consist of two camps, climbing the West Ridge of Pico Sur, the highest peak of the massif. It is a challenging, steep climb including a heavily crevassed glacier. The ascent itself is quite spectacular as the entire massif spans more than 8 km/5 mi and contains more than 5 summits over 20,000 feet (6100m)! This wonderful climb will give you the chance to stand over 21,000 feet.
- All in-country transportation
- Hotels in La Paz and other lodging throughout the expedition
- All group climbing gear
- All meals while climbing
- Park fees and permits
- $25 wire transfer fee (if applicable)
- International round-trip airfare to La Paz, Bolivia
- Meals in La Paz
- Personal gear
- Excess baggage charges and airport taxes
- Alcoholic beverages and bottled drinks
- All expenses incurred in the event of early departure (evac fees, transport, extra hotel nights, etc.)
- Personal items
- Charges incurred as a result of delays beyond Alpine Ascents International's control
Day by Day Itinerary
Depart USA and arrive La Paz, Bolivia: La Paz, the highest capital city in the world, stands at 12.008 feet-3.660 meters above sea level. Its population of roughly 1, 5 million people is diverse and rugged. The air at this altitude is quite thin and for most people it takes a few days to acclimatize. However, the sheer magnificence of the mountains that cradle the city more than makes up for any physical discomfort. We will spend some time here wandering the hilly streets of the Artesania Alley and exploring the Mercado de Hechiceria (Witche's Market). We also have a thorough equipment check and orientation including discussion of Leave No Trace practices.
Visit Tiwanaku, Bolivia's most important archaeological site. We spend the day wandering through the monumental stone figures, courtyards and the impressive Gate of the Sun. The Gate of the Sun is part of an elaborate observatory that is believed to have functioned as a solar calendar dating back to 600B.C. While not as imposing as Machu Picchu, it provides a fascinating glimpse into this pre-Inca culture. In the afternoon we reach Copacabana, the main town on Lake Titicaca, one of the highest navigable lakes in the world, and the "holy land of the Incas."
An early morning boat trip takes us to Cha'llapampa on the northern end of the Island of the Sun. This island has been identified as the birthplace of several revered entities, including the sun itself. After having visited the Piedra Sagrada, Titi Khar'ka (Rock of the Puma) and the Chincana Ruins we will start our hike across the island (2-3 hours). We take the dramatic ridge route which boasts spectacular views down to both coasts of the island and the Royal range in the distance, heading to the village Yumani on the southern end of the Island of the Sun. There we will visit the well-known "Palacio del Inca" and the beautifully constructed Inca-era staircase "Escalera del Inca" before taking the boat back to Copacabana.
Today, we drive to the village of Tuni, gateway to the spectacular Condoriri range of mountains. Here we spend one night in Tambo Condoriri hut which is located just inside the entrance of the Park with great views of the lake and the 3.300 feet-1.000 meter high west face of Huayna Potosi.
After an early breakfast, mules and llamas are loaded for our trek to Condoriri base camp. We establish base camp at 15,100 feet-4.600 meters by the Laguna Chiar Khota (“Black Lake”), a splendid alpine lake with views of the striking Cabeza de Condor and its two wings. Prepare for climbing and review of mountaineering techniques.
Today, we climb Pico Austria, a 16.400 feet-5.000 meter peak, with magnificent views towards the Condoriri range and Lake Titicaca. Overnight at Base Camp.
Hike to about 16,000 feet at the glacier terminus. This is an easy day geared toward acclimatization, reviewing cramponing skills & running belays.
Rest day and preparation for the Pequeño Alpamayo climb. We may do some ice-climbing in the nearby small frozen waterfalls.
We attempt Pequeño Alpamayo, a beautiful snow pyramid 17.618 feet-5.370 meters high. This stunning peak remains hidden until we reach the summit of Tarija, a subsidiary peak. The route is quite beautiful, following an aesthetic, airy ridge. From the summit, we have breathtaking views of the Royal Range, the Amazon Basin, the barren Altiplano, the impressive bulk of Mt. Sajama and our next objective, Huayna Potosi.
After a leisurely hike out we drive back to La Paz for some much needed rest.
Drive to Huayna Potosi. Overnight at "Casa Blanca" hut located at an altitude of 15,584 ft/4,750 m.
It takes about three hours to walk up to the "Campo de Rocas" hut (16,896 ft/5,150 m) where we will prepare for the climb the following day. Porters will assist us carrying some group gear and food.
Summit day. Early wake up as our ascent can take up to 8 hours. After some interesting glacier travel we reach the final exciting ridge (45-50° for about 490 ft/150 m) leading to Bolivia's famed summit. Fantastic views down the west face of the mountain and of the Cordillera Real await us on the top. We descend to "Casa Blanca" hut in the afternoon and drive back to La Paz.
Day in La Paz. We visit museums, go shopping and relax. (We may use this day as an extra summit day)
Depart for USA or Drive to Illimani trailhead where we begin our approach to base camp from the village of Pinaya. Burros will carry our food & equipment, making the 3 hour approach more enjoyable. "Puente Roto" base camp is at 14,440 ft/4,400 m.
From base camp we will walk up the rocky ridge leading to our high camp known as "Nido de Condores" (The Condor's Nest) located at 17,880 ft/5,450 m.
Summit Day. After threading our way along a spectacular airy snow ridge we then climb moderately steep slopes (30-40 °) for several hours before reaching the scenic summit ridge which we follow to get to the highest point (21,125 ft/6,439 m). The view from the summit of one of South America's finest peaks is outstanding; a great reward to a strenuous and fantastic day of climbing. We descend to base camp to rest.
Optional summit day.
After our summit climb we return to the trailhead for the drive back to La Paz.
Fly to USA.
About The Operator:
Alpine Ascents International
A Brief History
Founder Todd Burleson has traveled the globe incessantly (from 8 Everest expeditions and the 7 summits, to Greenland, Mongolia and Iran) not only for his love of guiding but his never-ending pursuit of perfecting the Alpine Ascents approach. In 1986 there wasn't much of a business model for international guiding, but making a living at something you love has its merits. While Todd's proficiency in climbing was well regarded, he had a propensity for not only guiding and teaching, but looking at mountains as to how they might be successfully and safely guided (routes, camps, guide ratios, supplies and itineraries). From our early successes on Himalayan Peaks, this approach soon took hold on mountains around the world. Willi Prittie joined on with Todd and added his relentless pursuit of perfection and joy of the mountains to the zeitgeist of Alpine Ascents. This unique combination snowballed into some of the finest logistics, training and guiding in the industry.
With this recipe, Todd and Willi began sculpting a reputation - as a climber's outfitter. This included Willi maniacally developing the Alpine Ascents Mountaineering School, with the theme that any graduate should possess enough safety skills to call themselves a climber. Enter Gordon Janow who brought his eclectic background of writing, business and many years of traveling through Asia to galvanize Alpine Ascents as a business and mind set. This led to other strategic and opportune partnerships with old climbing friends such as Vernon Tejas, Peter Athans, and Jose Luis Peralvo, as well as recruiting, developing and training a host of younger guides that eventually became the core of the Alpine Ascents guiding staff. The office staff, not to be outdone, put the expertise of Matt Lepisto and Kristine Kitayama, and more recently Brent LaDoux, Alayna Cullen, Garrett Madison and Savannah Klunder, along with Todd and Gordon to the task of organizing and creating all that manifests the visions of guides and climbers alike. Most of the original members are with us today, keeping it a jovial and enthusiastic (bordering on obsessive) team.
Alpine Ascents International Today
Alpine Ascents International leads expeditions that have become benchmarks of quality in the climbing community and operates what we believe is the finest mountaineering school in the country. This expertise is based upon years of accumulated experience, not just from individual mountain guides, but through experience on particular mountains where details are fine-tuned over time. We maintain our ongoing process of multi-leveled and critical evaluation for each expedition. Innovations like daily weather reports, established season-long base camps, environmental pioneering, and operating our trips with small climber-to-guide ratios led by Alpine Ascents guides are just some of the factors that keep us in the forefront. Our guides are the primary reason that Alpine Ascents has built such a unique reputation. Many of our guides have been with us for most of their careers and have had the opportunity to participate in a wealth of climbs and programs. Our guides are generally not seasonal employees, who teach a few courses and head back to "other lives", but are dedicated and committed to a life of climbing.
Along with these elements, our commitment to the environment and ethical global business practices make Alpine Ascents the most respected and well-rounded mountain guiding company in the industry. Alpine Ascents is proud to be one of a small minority of companies authorized to guide on Denali, Mt. Rainier and throughout Washington's Cascades.
Program Philosophy ~ Mission Statement
Alpine Ascents is committed to developing safe, self-reliant and environmentally-conscious mountaineers and offering courses and expeditions of unsurpassed quality throughout the world. Our business practices stress ethical and culturally aware travel.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the skill level of this climb?
Climbers should have successfully completed our 6-Day Training course or have equivalent skills and experience. They must have basic knowledge of progression on snow and ice, self arrest, crevasse rescue and glacier travel. Snow and ice slopes to be dealt with are moderate (up to 45-55 degrees for 800 feet on Pequeño Alpamayo and up to 40-50 degrees on Huayna Potosi). Before attempting Pequeño Alpamayo we will review glacier skills on the Pirámide Blanca glacier. For the Illimani Extension, climbers additionally must feel comfortable walking along airy rocky and snowy ridges. The requirements are also based on our desire to have similarly skilled team members.
What is the physical conditioning level needed for this climb?
Climbers must be in very good to excellent physical condition. Summit day can be 10-12 hours long on Huayna Potosi (starting from Campo Argentino camp to the summit and then all the way down to base camp), 12-14 hours long on Illimani (starting from Nido de Condores camp to the summit and then all the way down to base camp).
Any tips on how a climber can maximize their chances of success?
Our itinerary provides a fair amount of time to acclimatize before attempting Pequeño Alpamayo, Huayna Potosi and Illimani . We strongly recommend following the advice of our guides to acclimatize properly. Try to improve your cramponing skills to comfortably climb hard-snow slopes of up to 40-55 degrees.
Who is the guiding team composed of (How many guides? Climber to guide ratio?)
Your expedition leader will be one of our International Mountain Guides. They will have along as many assistant guides as necessary to ensure a low climber to guide ratio.
What is the best season to climb / which dates will have the most chance for success?
Bolivia has one climbing season: May through September. During May and June the snow conditions are better. June has the best and most stable weather. Some routes can become icy after June making climbing harder and more demanding.
How many climbers are on this expedition?
Generally, our maximum for this climb is 12 climbers plus guides.
Will I be sharing a tent or lodging with other climbers?
Yes, you will be sharing a tent (two climbers per tent) along the expedition. Besides, there will be a couple big tents at base camp for dining and cooking.
How much will my pack weigh?
During the approach to base camps and on summit day climbers carry approximately 20 pounds. Climbers must be prepared to carry 40-50 pounds moving from base camps up to high camps on Huayna Potosi and Illimani.
What gear will I need?
Please review the annotated gear list.
How does your gear rental system work?
Those requesting rental gear must submit an expedition rental form with payment by fax or mail. All rental gear will be mailed to the climber prior to the climb. Climbers are expected to clean all rental gear and return it to us by mail following the expedition.
Any further advice on gear and using your gear list?
We recommend that you get a pair of anti-balling plates for your crampons. These useful devices made of a special type of rubber prevent crampons from balling up in soft snow conditions. There are different types depending on the model of crampons and brand. Please, make sure you get the right ones for the crampons you have.
While all items are required there may be times when some of the items on the gear list may not be used (such as warm weather or changing conditions). The gear lists are created by the guides to assist in having climbers be prepared to summit in any conditions.
As it is impossible for us to list all brands for certain gear, we do have a current suggested brand list for most items on the gear list. We also list manufacturers which have a strong track record of providing quality gear. Please feel free to call our offices with any gear questions or substitutes. Plastic boots are required for this climb.
How is drinking water treated?
There will be bottled water available while staying in our hotel in La Paz and for the one-day-long approaches to the different base camps on this expedition. All water will be boiled while the group is in the mountains. Doing so for several minutes will kill anything that can live at the altitude the camps are located.
What will the meals on the expedition be like?
Meals in the mountains consist of a diet rich in carbohydrates because our bodies do not process fat and protein efficiently at higher elevations and to compensate the increase in caloric need that high altitude climbing involves. We try to make meals and breakfast varied and as normal as possible. The selection of meals is wide in the restaurants of hotels and haciendas we will stay on this trip.
Can I bring some food from home?
You may bring power bars, Gu, Power Gel, cereal bars or similar high energy foods, powder Gatorade is also recommended to fight dehydration. All meals will be provided on this expedition.
Are there any innoculation requirements?
Yes, currently a yellow fever vaccination is required for entry.
What is the best air route to my destination?
Most routes from the States to La Paz are via Miami . Most climbers arrive on the American Airlines flight. LACSA also known as TACA is another option. It flies to La Paz with a connection in Lima-Peru. Climbers that arrive early or depart late will incur in an additional airport pick up fee.
When should I book my flight? Do I need to use your Travel Agent?
Fares are generally less expensive when booked early. You may use our Travel Agent (Charles Mulvehill 1-800-727-2157) or book flights yourself. Please note that flights booked online are often difficult to change. Please send us a copy of your flight schedule as early as possible as this allows us to book pick ups and hotels.
Will I have to pay any airport tax at my arrival or departure?
You will have to pay an international exit tax from La Paz airport of $20.00 U.S. Dollars or its equivalent in Bolivianos (the Bolivian currency).
What time should I arrive and leave and where do I meet the guides?
Your guide or an Alpine Ascents representative will meet you at the airport. Look for a large Alpine Ascents sign.
What if I arrive early or depart late? Can you arrange extra night lodging? Is there a single room option for this expedition?
We are happy to make arrangements such as personalized tours, extra hotels rooms, airport pick ups and arrange for private rooms. Please indicate that you would like a private room on your application and we will contact you with information on single room supplement costs.
Are there any entry or Visa requirements?
Yes currently you do need a visa to enter the country, please contact the office or the Bolivian Consulate with questions.
Is there any communication while we are on the mountain?
In La Paz telephones are readily available. Our guides will carry cellular phones in the mountains. The quality of the reception varies from mountain to mountain.
Can I contact the others on the climb? How about the guide?
You can always call our offices and we will have our Bolivia lead guide contact you. 30 days prior to departure, we will mail a list of the other team members to you.
How much should I budget for this expedition? How much cash should I plan to bring?
$500 should easily cover any extra expenses and tips. Most climbers prefer to bring about $1000 and have credit cards.
How much should I tip my guide and staff?
$150 total is the suggested tips for all Ecuadorian guides and you may have some perfunctory tips at hotels and at time of transport. Tipping is not required but a common practice. Climbers may also opt to tip the Lead guide ( $100+ is an average tip)
What paperwork do I need to send in?
Each climber should submit an application and flight information.
When is the money due for this expedition? What kind of payment do you except?
We accept MasterCard, Visa, American Express, personal checks and Alpine Ascents gift certificates. To reserve a space the deposit is $700.00 and balances are due 90 days prior to departure. Unpaid balances can result in forfeiture of trip.
What is your cancellation policy? What is your refund policy?
Note: Alpine Ascents International highly recommends trip cancellation insurance for all programs.
Due to the nature and heavy costs of government and operator permits, Alpine Ascents International must adhere to a stringent refund policy. Specific brochure cancellation and refund policies may supercede those enumerated below.
- Each deposit, regardless of amount, includes a $200.00 non-refundable registration fee.
- All Expedition balances are due 90 days prior to departure date unless otherwise specified.
- Full refunds, less registration fee, will be provided 90-days prior to departure date.
- 50% refunds will be provided 60-89 days prior to departure date.
- No refunds will be provided 59-days prior to departure date.
- Participants whose balances are not received by the 90-day deadline as stated above, risk forfeiture of their place on the expedition.
- All refund requests must be made in writing and be received in our office within the 90-day period, as stated above.
What happens if I need to leave the expedition early?
Communication is sometimes difficult in the Bolivian mountains. However our guides and local staff will make the necessary efforts to obtain the necessary transportation and reservations to get you home as quickly as possible if for any reason you need to depart early.