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.

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Alex von Ungern on Pico Milluni

 

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Sal Beisly on Charquini NE side

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Climbers high on Huayna Potosi 2 days ago

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Climber near Huayna Potosi summit with the Cordillera Real behind

 

 

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.

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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…

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Competitor at the FEBSA snowboard competition, Charquini.

 

Late April Conditions – Condoriri Area

There was 10-20cm of new snow in the Condoriri area a week ago. This fell over what was an increasingly firm snow pack making climbing conditions a little more difficult but skiing and boarding superb. The classic ridges and higher faces have by now firmed up again with lower south facing gullies requiring more time for the accumulated snow to become icy. No avalanche activity observed.

Condoriri Area April 2014

Condoriri Area April 2014

The SW ridge of Condoriri last friday (25th) below.

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SW ridge of Condoriri 25th April

Snowboarding on the Condoriri glacier above Laguna Juri Khota:

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Snowboarding near Condoriri April 2014

 

Skiing and snowboarding

The rainy season is in full swing here with few fine days (although we had 3 this week and great snow conditions for climbing). The good part is that pretty soon there will be epic fun to be had sliding down Andean peaks on planks. Generally by March but particularly in April and May conditions get pretty good for skiing or boarding.

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Sitting on the summit of Huayna Potosi, preparing to descend the east face to the normal route. March conditions.

Many of the normal routes on the big peaks are ski-able and there are some lower peaks with good runs on as well. Here’s a quick bit of info on a couple possibilities close to La Paz.

The northern and southern sides of Charquini have easy glacier runs with quick access and minimal crevasses. Good for acclimatisation and getting used to the snow conditions.

The normal route of Huayna Potosi is a classic moderate descent of about 900m. It is best to ski the east face from the summit rather than the very exposed and often icy summit ridge (see below).

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The summit ridge of Huayna Potosi in March conditions.

The east face is not too steep but does have rocky bluffs below the line of descent so care is needed to hit one of 2 small snow gullies that break through them. Waiting till mid – late morning is also a good idea as the face will usually be icy early but soften in the sun fairly quickly to whatever consistency you want as the day goes on. A French skier died on this line in 2013 when they got on top too early and then tried to ski the face in very icy first light conditions and fell over the rocks after apparently catching an edge (they were also not wearing a helmet). Climbing up the line rather than the normal, summit ridge, route is also not a bad idea, mainly to figure out exactly where the snow gullies are.

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East face and ski descent routes

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Summit of Huayna Potosi from the south showing the east face falling away on the right.

After the east face descent you can ski next to the normal route track taking whatever interesting looking variations you saw on the way up.

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Mid part of Huayna Potosi normal route (red) with possible ski descent variations (green)