January 2 – 3, 2020
Day 450 – 451
We take two days off our volunteering in The Rooftop hostel in La Paz to go climbing the Huayna Potosi. This 6,088m mountain is very known as one of the easiest +6,000m mountain in the world, and many many people try to climb it every day. It is also very accessible in term of transports and facilities there.
I have done a lot of trekking in Peru and I have been quite a few time over 5,000m. So it makes sense that the next stop is +6,000m. With Mathilde, we decide to take a try at it and to attempt the summit of the Huayna Potosi.
As there is many people there going every day, and as we are fully acclimated, we decide to go there self-guided. We will carry our own rented equipment and manage the camping there. And for the summiting, we will basically go after the other groups in order to see the path. And we will also see if any other guides want to turn back in case of bad conditions.
We rent our equipment in store in La Paz (crampons, piolets, harness, ropes, …), buy our food, pack our bag and we are ready to roll.
Instead of an expensive taxi, we take a local bus that brings us directly to the base camp at 4,750m. We start gearing up for the cold that is already here, along with the snow. We put our warm clothes, our harness and we start to tie each other with the rope. We know it way too early to put the rope on, but it is for practice for tomorrow, where it will probably be harder to try something for the first time.
It is very foggy this first day.We basically dont see anything at all. We hike for around 2-3 hours before we reach the third refuge.
We wanted to camp there, but I didnt except the place to be completely recovered in snow. And my tent is not capable on keeping us warm on the snow. So we decide to sleep in the shelter, for a few hours. We go to bed at 20h to wake up during the night at midnight.
We spend this night at the refuge at 5,210m. We are at high altitude, and sleeping will be more than difficult.
We wake up to quickly get ready. We wear every piece of clothe we have. so far, it is not that cold, but when we will get outside, with the wind, it will be a different story. We dont forget any piece of skin. And again, we tie up to each other.
The key here is to walk slowly, but always with the same rythm. Also, Mathilde and me have to get the same pace. We make our way on the snow. The weather is quite nice as it is not too windy. And as long as you walk, you get warm enough to counter the coldness.
There are a few other groups that we follow, in order to see clearly the path in front of us. We get a good pace. We are moving fast and with the same pace Mathilde and me.
After an hour and a half walking, we made 700m (Believe it or not, but it is fast) and went up to 5,450m. The snow is getting higher and higher (at some places, it reach our hips). At this point, the guides in front of us can see it is getting harder. The snow is fresh and with that comes the risks of avalanches.
So unfortunately, they decide that it is safer to turn back…
We go down back to the refuge to get a few hours more of sleep. We are cold, covered in snow and ice.
After beeing a bit more rested, we hike down the mountain. We pass a few other group going up and we try to hide our disappointment about the previous night.
It is a bit less foggy, so at least we can enjoy the views ! It is indeed beautiful
Reaching back the base camp, we find a van that just dropped tourists. He will be on his way back to La Paz so we jump on it. As we drive, we can see the Huayna Potosi getting away. Funny, but this is actually the first time we see the top of the mountain.
For this trek we are obviously frustrated to not have been to the top. But it is for the best. The guides made the good choice by turning back. Better safe than sorry. And especially in the mountain, you cannot control the weather.
It was still very interesting as we slept over 5,000m and we also learned and practice how to hike while beeing roped together. We saw what our gears are capable of with extreme weather like we had.
So overall, I am disapointed, but I still know there will be over +6,000m on my road to come. So, it will only be another time 😉
Overall, as we went self-guided, we saved some money. A normal tour with a guide cost around 600Bs (78€), which is really cheap which when it comes to make a high-mountain summit.
For us, we paid:
- Transport: 31Bs both ways
- Renting the gears: 75Bs (for the piolet, the harness and the rope as I already have crampons)
- Accomodation in the refugio: 25Bs
- Food: around 25Bs
So in total that would be around 160Bs which makes less than 21€.