Thursday, 4 November 2010

The 20,000 ft mountain in Bolivia we were supposed to summit

Huayna Potosi, as seen from a local graveyard.  It´s just over 20 000 feet or 6,000 metres above sea level.  It´s part  of the Cordillera Real range, not far from La Paz.  And it´s supposed to be an easy climb for beginners.

So here we are practising our moves on crampons with our guide Eloy.  This is the very bottom of the glacier on the side of Huayna Potosi we were going to scale and right next door to High Camp at 5100 metres.  This picture was taken yesterday afternoon.  At 1 am today (Bolivia time) we got up, put on our crampons again, got roped up and started up the glacier under the gleam of the Milky Way.

This is us at about 3.45 am after more than two hours of slogging up the ice to 5650 metres above sea level.  It was totally knackering and freezing.  We did not go any further than this sort of ice-cave staircase within the glacier.  Just to the side of us is a deep and scary looking crevasse.  And just beyond the top right corner was the point of go-no-further for us.  This was a steep narrow ledge out into the open (below which seemed to be only the black abyss) and on which you had to climb up steeply, first left and then right.  Two violent vertigo attacks brought the summit attempt to an end.  It would have been another 2-3 hours anyway.... We trudged back to High Camp accompanied by the odd mini avalanche and a few heart- stopping sounds of ice cracking profoundly as we went near crevasses.  It wasn´t without its thrills and enjoyable bits but after this experience we are decided trekkers, and not climbers.

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