To Huayna Potosi

Posted: June 18, 2012 by Ben Weber in Climbing, English, Hiking, Mountaineering, Training
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Leaving the Condoriri base camp to go to Huayna Potosi… quite a change

Leaving the Condoriri base camp the day after summitting Pequeño Alpamayo was straightforward enough. We were mostly in cheerful spirits and all of us felt reasonably well and accomplished after the six days spent at the place, in spite of the bugs that had gone around and the varying degrees of illness we all experienced. Natalia still felt slightly bad because of the stomach bug, but was able to manage with the heavy rucksack. All of us turned back on a number of occasions to take last glimpses of the mountains behind us. Now we would have a day’s rest in La Paz before going to Huayna Potosi – what would be the first time any of us (with the exception of Caleb and Kirk) have been higher than 6,000 metres.

It was nice to get back to the hotel and have hot showers, and even get some laundry done, though it wasn’t long before we were up at dawn getting our re-packed bags downstairs to take to the first camp. The itinerary for the journey would be for us to go to base camp for one evening (4,800m), a couple of hours away from La Paz, and from there we would hike for about four hours or so up to high camp (5,200m), and whilst we would arrive there in the afternoon of day 2, we would start our summit attempt at 2am on day 3. Easy.

Huayna Potosi reveals itself

Driving to the mountain was quite impressive. On leaving La Paz, you can only see the peak of the mountain, however, after an hour or so, the full body of Huayna Potosi reveals itself and you can really see how beautiful it is. Also, looking at it up close for the first time filled each of us with a bit of nervousness as we all thought “are we really going to climb that in a couple of days..???!”.

When we got the the refuge at base camp, Caleb decided that we would stay in a small hostel building which was there, rather than pitching our tents. Much easier and much more convenient and even vaguely comfortable – though we could not wear our boots inside and the floor was freezing. We did have chance to play Uno though (which, miraculously enough, I managed to win!) whereas if we had been in our tents it probably would not have been quite so social. In the afternoon we also went for a hike in the area nearby, though Augusto was feeling worse and was not able to come with us. This was the first proper time Natalia wore here heavy mountaineering boots over difficult terrain as well, and it took her a little while getting used to them, but she managed okay with a little coaching.

In the evening, Augusto said that he would not be able to come to high camp as he was feeling terrible. He had just not been able to recover from the stomach bug and needed to get back to La Paz. Not much that could be done about it unfortunately, and it was clear he was not well in the way that he needed to leave the refuge to go to the outside toilets every half an hour or so. So the day after the remainder of us packed our things and began the walk. And it was a tricky hike. We were going over a mixture of loose rock and black ice at a steadily increasing gradient. There were a number of people who passed us as we went down as well and a few of them stumbled. This, again in conjunction, with the altitude, made things extremely slow as though the falls were not the steepest in the world, with rocky landings and our heavy rucksacks, we could have given ourselves significant injuries should we have lost our balance. We were all pretty much exhausted by the time we made it up though – especially considering that most people had used porters to carry their equipment up and we were carrying our own. Our team had used one porter and he had carried up the tents and sharp objects, but at least it was good seeing that the tents had all been setup for our arrival, so Natalia and I were able to crash down in to ours. I just had one task to do before taking  a nap before the summit hike – waddle down 15 metres of snow and ice to refill our water bottles from a water hole made in the ice. Doesn’t sound the hardest thing in the world to do, but after that hike… tiring!

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