Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Bolivia Expedition - Part 3 Illimani - 9/3 - 9/7/2013

Guides: Chad Cochran & Mike Pond

Climbers: Kris Knudsen, Bill Chockla, Terry Teed, Paul Greenberg, Barry Ohm, Jack Palmer II

Wednesday September 4

This morning we left La Paz after a good day’s rest yesterday, heading for the foothills of Illimani. We were quickly transported from the bustling streets of the city to the dirt roads and narrow canyons of the countryside, following rivers out to the base of Illimani. After our scenic morning drive we arrived at the end of the Road in Ponaya, a small town made up of farmers and mountain folk, the starting
point of our final climb of the trip.

After a spread of sandwiches in town we grabbed our daypacks and walked several miles to our base camp, followed by porters and horses carrying the rest of our things. Through fields and trails constructed by the locals we made our way to a beautiful meadow shadowed by the mountain. As the sun set we prepared ourselves for the days to come, watching the yellow glow of the sky change to a
orange glow from the bustling city miles below us in the valley.

Thursday September 5

Today we moved to high camp at nearly 18,000 feet. We enjoyed a breakfast of pancakes and hot drinks before packing our things for the day. We were accompanied by several people from Panaya that had traveled up to our camp this morning in order to help move our things up to our final launching point for the summit. We left the babbling creeks of the meadow and climbed steep rocky slopes to gain the ridge leading to camp. We passed an abandoned gold mine on the way and learned the glaciers here had receded several thousand feet in the past two decades. Once on the ridge proper we were rewarded with a picnic of fresh vegetables, fruit and sandwiches. We quickly gained altitude from here scrambling along the ridge enjoying the ever-amazing views we were presented with along the way.

Arriving at high camp we set up our tents and bundled up as the sun started to fade to stars. We had an early dinner and crawled into our sleeping bags to try and get some rest before heading out early in the morning to the summit.

Friday September 6

We climbed out of our tents to a still morning air accompanied by clear skies and the night light lent by nearby La Paz. A quick breakfast of hot cereal and a hot drink had us on the move up snow slopes next to camp. The snow had an incredible firmness that lent well to our crampons and made for fairly easy travel on an otherwise steep climb. Throughout the predawn hours we patiently climbed up constantly being reminded of the altitude we were gaining with heavier and heavier steps. Just as the sun broke the darkness of the night we had arrived at the steepest part of the route. Climbing our last mountain of the trip wouldn’t be complete without such an obstacle in the way of the summit. After stopping for a short bit to rehydrate and digest some calories we stepped onto the slope moving up one step at a time until
we were in the basking glory of the sun and plateau just below the summit proper.

The air warm now we shedded some clothes and walked to the top, looking back at the town were the journey had all began. As the morning hours passed the environment turned from warm to hot. Arriving
back at high camp we were greeted with water and our last spread of sandwiches of the trip. Tired now we packed our things and headed back the way we came. In the meadow were we had our base camp pitched we were once again met by the people of Panaya and their horses to help carry loads the last little way to our resting place of the night and a hot locally raised, grown, and cooked meal of pork and potatoes.

Saturday September 7

With the efforts we extended the day before we slept soundly until the warm sun came around this morning. We all woke to a hot breakfast of eggs, potatoes, and fruit with coffee and tea. We basked in the morning sun remembering the days past. Although we all didn’t stand on top of Illimani we all enjoyed it’s grandeur and were safely able to return from the mountains. As the bus rolled out of Panaya we said our last good byes to the locals and settled into our trip back to La Paz and back to our homes in the U.S.

Mike and I would like to thank everyone that came out into these amazing mountains in Bolivia. We hope this experience last with you for many years to come and that you continue to find your way into the hills.

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