Historic route on the West face of Illampu

Recent information has come to us about a little known climb of Illampu in 1978. The West Spur route TD- was climbed over 3 days and was one of the most difficult climbs in Bolivia at the time and the first ascent of the west face.

Àlex Ossó and Òscar Cadiach, from Tarragona and Enric Dalmau and Francesc Magrinyà, of Valls made the climb with 2 bivouacs, descending the South West ridge. This was a significant climb for 40 years ago and has possibly not been repeated.

Photo courtesy of Alex Osso

Many thanks to Àlex Ossó for letting us know of the ascent.

Photo courtesy of Alex Osso

 

Francesc Magriñá, Cadiach and Enric Dalmau on the summit of Illampu.  Photo courtesy of Alex Osso

 

Ossó and Cadiach on the summit.  Photo courtesy of Alex Osso

Early July conditions and news

There has been plenty of action in the hills over June. A French team apparently did a new route on the impressive south face of Illimani, a pro ski team did some out there skiing in the Condoriri area and on Huayna Potosi, including launching off cliffs, some probable first snowboard descents on Illimani and Sajama, a probable youngest ski/board descent of the high peak of Huayna Potosi by a 15 year old, some exploratory climbing and new routes by a British team in the little visited Kasiri area, a full traverse of the Illimani massif over 2 days and a new mixed route on Charquini. There is probably more to report so let us know what you’ve been up to for the next update.

Conditions were mostly fantastic for skiing/boarding up till mid June and have given way to good climbing conditions more recently. Last week a good storm and dump of snow along with strong Northerly to Westerly winds has complicated conditions for climbing for now, although penitente formation will have slowed which is a bonus for later in the season. There is still some wind about but hopefully that will get calmer over the coming week.

NE face of Pico Mesili June 2015 (680x1024)

Toby Beisly on an attempt on a new mixed/ice line on the NE face of Pico Mesili.

Illimani traverse June 2015(1024x681)

Erik Monasterio and Andy Baker on a 2 day traverse of all 5 6000m peaks of the Illimani massif.

 

Early May conditions and news

The weather and snow conditions have changed a fair bit in the last couple of weeks.

Snow:  With plenty of fine days and nights getting colder the mornings down low see a fairly well frozen snow pack, unless you are on a southerly slope close under a face in which case the snow will probably be unconsolidated. The snow is softening considerably by midday. Up higher things are a bit more complex with a mixture of crust, firm windblown snow and deep unconsolidated and unsupportive stuff. Some small loose snow avalanche activity (<size 1) has been noted on high (approx. 6000m) steep east aspects later in the day.

Weather: There are an increasing number of fine days on offer with most other days being mostly fine with afternoon cloud arriving by mid day but without the electrical storms of a couple weeks ago. Winds have been mostly westerly.

Overall as I said last week:  conditions should continue to improve and there are plenty of climbing possibilities but be aware of fairly quick changes in weather – best to be up and off high peaks early, particularly if your route is on the east side of a mountain or has an east aspect – and also take care on higher slopes. Be prepared to analyse the snow pack and change objectives if needed.

Recent activity in the hills:  An international team of ski mountaineers has had some success in the Cordillera Real recently. Notably they skied the Cabeza de Condor via the west side, a probable first. Hannu (FIN), Petter (NOR), Hugo (UK) and Juan (ESP) climbed the direct SE face which they found to have shallow loose snow over rock and skied the other side which was icy but doable. A good effort and hopefully we’ll hear of more steep descents this month.

A local team did a good circumnavigation of Charquini on snowboards, ascending the NW glacier, descending the NE, ascending the SE glacier and finally descending the NW in about 6 hours.

A bit of rock climbing action has happened on the south peak of Pico Milluni with a possible new 3 pith route put up.

DSC00403 (680x1024)

Alex von Ungern on Pico Milluni

 

DSC00434 (1024x680)

Sal Beisly on Charquini NE side

DSC00529 (1024x680)

Climbers high on Huayna Potosi 2 days ago

DSC00568 (1024x680)

Climber near Huayna Potosi summit with the Cordillera Real behind

 

 

Late April conditions

The wet season is coming to an end and good climbing conditions are hopefully on its way. Hence it must be time to start regular conditions updates.

Snow: There has been a lot of snow over the last 5 weeks, sometimes with strong easterly to northerly winds and relatively high freezing levels. This means there is plenty of snow down to about 5000m on most peaks in the Cordillera Real with the lower stuff being isothermal and the higher snowpack harbouring some potential slabs on west through to south aspects. Increasing amounts of sun hours in the ranges will hopefully stabilise the higher snow pack over the coming weeks and lower freezing levels in May will improve the lower altitude snow. Slab avalanche activity has been observed above 5500m on a south west aspect (size 1) and loose snow avalanches ( <size 1) on steep solar aspects.

Weather: The weather remains somewhat unstable but improving. Midday to afternoon storms are common after fine early mornings.

Overall conditions should continue to improve and there are plenty of climbing possibilities but be aware of fairly quick changes in weather – best to be up and off high peaks early, particularly if your route is on the east side of a mountain or has an east aspect – and also take care on higher slopes. Be prepared to analyse the snow pack and change objectives if there is signs of slab formation.

Locals have mostly been climbing lower things, skiing and snowboarding, with the occasional ascent of a higher peak. Below are a few pics to follow to give an idea of snow levels. From now on locals will be getting into the ranges more often and we’ll be able to post conditions updates regularly.

Lower N Charquini glacier (1024x680)

Lower N Charquini glacier with snowline at about 5000m 2 days ago.

 

Boarders ascending the upper N Charquini glacier(1024x680)

Boarders ascending the upper N Charquini glacier.

Local snowboarder Wilar descending Charquini(1024x680)

Local snowboarder Wilar descending Charquini.

Climbers ascending HP (1024x680)

Climbers ascending Huayna Potosi 3 weeks ago in 20cm of new snow at 6000m.

 

November new routes and conditions

A bit of a delay on these routes as the team has been out exploring.

It has been fairly warm recently meaning the rock has been pleasant in the mornings, with the weather regularly closing in mid day. This is not so good for ice though with most of the lower to mid altitude stuff falling of over the last few weeks. Some new route action took place in the Huayna area over the last couple months, the ice and mixed routes done before the ice disappeared.

Early November Artem Bylinskii and Gregg Beisly climbed a 6 pitch line on the SW face of Charquini. It goes at about WI3 M5 and would be a great warm up for some of the bigger technical routes in the range. Artem’s report is here.

Artem pulling through the top of the first pitch.

Artem pulling through the top of the first pitch.

SW face of Charquini right side (1280x851)

A week later Chris Clarke and Robert Roach teamed with Beisly to climb a line on the left of the face. At WI4 M4 it is shorter, being 4 pitches + a little simulclimbing. It has been named Hit and Run after Robert was hit by a car and his lower leg run over the day before in La Paz. Fortunately he was wearing his high climbing boots which saved his foot and he escaped with bruising. Robert is obviously not easily broken.

Roberto nearing the top of Hit and Run.

Roberto nearing the top of Hit and Run.

SW face of Charquini left side (1280x851)

Reynaldo Choque Ramos and Daniel Flores climbed two very nice pitches on good rock to reach the south ridge of the South Peak of Pico Milluni.

Reynaldo and Daniel on their new route.

Reynaldo and Daniel on their new route.

Here’s a compilation of some of the october and november action on video.

New route on Wara Warani

Wara Warani (or Warawarani: Aymara  “the one with a star”) is a seldom climbed but striking peak that is accessed from the altiplano town of Peñas. 2 weeks ago Davide Vitale, Juvenal Condori Vallejo, Artem Bylinskii and Rodrigo Villaroel climbed a new route on the south west face, descending one of the east face couloirs before circling the peak by ascending NW to a col and then descending SW via a glacier back to their camp at Laguna Wara Warani. They found conditions to be mostly crust over soft snow, worsening as the day went on, and highly questionable rock. They have graded the route D+ 65° 5.6 M4 R 600m and called it Alaxpacha Warawara Thaki, meaning roughly “attain the sky, by the route of stars”.

wara warani west face route - Artem Bylinskii

Red line is that taken by Bylinskii and Vitale with the green being variations by Condori and Villaroel. Photo: Artem Bylinskii.

wara warani descent

Descent route via east face

wara warani ascent(960x1280)

Davide Vitale on lead. Photo: Artem Bylinskii.

wara warani descent(1280x960)

On the descent. Photo: Artem Bylinskii.

 

 

Early October conditions

Conditions in the hills continue to be mixed with more than usual snow on most aspects.

Last week a bit of climbing was done from Laguna Glaciar above Sorata. Conditions were surprisingly firm on snow on western aspects even though snow was down to 200m below base camp. Storms were coming in by midday after fine mornings.

DSC08320 (1024x232)

Laguna Glaciar base camp with Illampu behind

Above Laguna Glaciar base camp (1024x680)

Sal Beisly on the route to Ancohuma high camp

Southern side of Illampu and Pico Shulze(1024x680)

Pico Shulze, Huayna Illampu and Illampu from the south

Sal on new rock route (1024x680)

On a 4 pitch rock route on one of the peaks the western pillars of Ancohuma end on

In the Huayna Potosi area the normal route is in great condition but deeper snow prevails off route.

Huayna Potosi summit ridge oct 2014

Huayna Potosi Summit ridge 4th October

 

 

 

 

 

Mid September conditions

The last couple months have been highly unusual for how unsettled the weather has been. There have been good days but most years are fine every day this time of the year. New snow on the peaks has made skiing and snowboarding fantastic (with Bolivia’s first snowboard competition being a success with plenty of powder for the event) but has made climbing more difficult.

Southern aspects at around 5300m and above have significant amounts of snow which has generally stabilised fast with the sunny days that we’ve had. However be wary on loaded solar aspects, particularly on steep slopes, as even a small loose slide can cause problems in the wrong terrain. Below is an image from Monday showing plenty of loose snow that has come off the steep southern cliffs of Charquini.

DCIM100GOPRO

Loose snow avalanches on the south side of Charquini. 15 Sept 2014

In the Condoriri area a report from last Friday from Dan Bailey:

“That nasty moraine/scree slog was half covered from about 4800m, patchy new snow that’s firmed up nicely low down. I guess it’s been laid down in the last two weeks or so as there was none lying that low prior to this. Unfortunately by the time we got to that short traverse across from the scree gully to the Condoriri glacier there was loads more new snow, completely unconsolidated. Very hard going on the glacier with about 50cm of unconsolidated snow. It wasn’t bearing weight very well, sinking to ankle or knee depth with every step. Even some quite large crevasses were totally obscured. I was hoping that a height gain might get us to more wind-scoured ground but it actually got deeper with height. We made it nearly to the base of Cabeza, but the summit ridge looked loaded and the gully was obviously going to be too. Seemed like a pretty high avalanche risk. So that’s as far as we got. On the plus side, unless it snows again there is now a trodden trail to our high point which might help reduce some of the effort for subsequent parties. I don’t think I would be hurrying up there though.”

Cheers Dan. Sounds like the Cabeza at least needs a wee while to come good for climbing. However the skiing could be superb…

snowboard comp Charquini sept 2014(1024x680)

Competitor at the FEBSA snowboard competition, Charquini.

 

Early August conditions

It has been a little while since a conditions update was posted – sorry we’ve been away climbing.

There has been a surprising amount of unsettled weather the last 3 weeks. Very unusual for this time of year. A fair amount of snow fell in the Cordillera Real accompanied by strong westerly/north westerly winds over this period. This has improved base snow conditions in some ways – preventing the usual late season Nieve penitente formation somewhat, in some cases improving glacier travel by filling/covering crevasses and sending locals out to ski and snowboard spots that had got a bit icy to be pleasant. On eastern aspects the new snow generally compacted and iced up fairly quickly while on southern aspects this has happened quite unevenly, with firm cramponing interspersed with annoying wind crust and occasional deep drifts of powder.

Cordillera real from Chearoco looking north (1024x680)

Northern Cordillera Real from Chearoco. Late July.

Cordillera Real from Chearoco looking south (1024x680)

Southern Cordillera Real with Chachacomani in the left foreground and Huayna Potosi and Illimani in the distance.

unnamed peak sw ridge (1024x680)

Erik Monasterio enjoying good snow conditions on the SW ridge of a 5500m peak near Chearoco on a ‘bad weather day’.

Chearoco plugging(1024x680)

At 6000m on Chearoco and good cramponing turns to thigh deep plugging on a southern aspect. The upper SE ridge was reached and found to be in good condition to complete the climb. The SW ridge was deep snow at above 6000m.

 

Late July conditions and news

There has been heavy snowfall in much of the Cordillera Real over the past few days. Strong winds are forecast for the rest of the week. The Cordillera Occidental missed out on the snow and is fairly bare, icy snow slopes are prevalent with some penitente nieve formation.

Some recent climbs: The British Route on Huallomen (aka Wyoming) was climbed by 2 different teams recently. A Canadian group of 3 were helped down the mountain by local guides when one of them was injured by a chunk of ice knocked down by the leader where the route joins the summit ridge. A local team climbed a week later to recover equipment left in the rescue effort.

DSC06805 (1024x680)

Alex von Ungern mid way up the British route on the SE face of Huallomen.

 

DSC06807 (1024x680)

The final pitch before the summit ridge.

DSC06840 (1024x680)

Alex on the summit ridge

Some new route action on the east side of Pico Milluni:

DSC06981 (1024x680)

Jesus Churata on his new route Ruta de los Vikingos.

 

Pomerape (Pomerata) was recently climbed via the south face with conditions found to be icy.

DSC07306 (1024x680)

Max and Erik on the long slope to the summit of Pomerata.

DSC07315 (1024x680)

Max with Parinacota in the background.

DSC07296 (1024x680)

Sajama from Sajama village.