Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Route Profile: Huayna Potosi - Bolivia

Considered the "easiest" 6000-meter peak in the world, Huayna Potosi is not that easy, but it is reasonable. The mountain is a mere fifteen miles from Bolivia's capitol city of La Paz, which provides amazing access to the peak. This may be why people refer to it as the easiest 6000-meter peak. But it wasn't always so accessible or "easy."

From Wikipedia:

In 1877 a group of six German climbers tried to climb Huayna Potosí for the first time. Without proper equipment and with little practical information, they set off toward the unclimbed peak. Their unsuccessful attempt met with tragedy. Four climbers died at an altitude around 5600m; the remaining two managed to retreat in deteriorating conditions, but died by exhaustion just after finding their way to the Zongo Pass. 21 years later, on the 9th of September 1898, an expedition of Austrian climbers tried again to climb the mountain but after five days spent at 5900m they were forced to descend. Finally, in 1919 the Germans R. Dienst and O. Lhose reached the south summit (marginally higher than the north summit) climbing the mountain on the east face on a route that later would become the current normal route, with some variants.

Huayna Potosi
The American Alpine Institute began guiding in Bolivia in the early eighties and our guides have been responsible for serval first ascents in the region, including on Huayna Potosi.

The standard route climbs up a rocky trail to a hut at the terminus of the glacier. From there, easy glacier travel leads to a bergshrund. Sometimes this requires a short ice climb and other times a ladder is installed to cross it. From there, easy terrain leads to a final 45-degree headwall that is climbed in four pitches.

The awe inspiring west face of Huayna Potosi. 
AAI usually climbs the Normal Route on the other side of the mountain.

The hut on Huayna Potosi.

 The author climbing a ladder over the bergshund in 2002.

 A climber on Huayna Potosi, just above the bergshrund.

At the summit of Huayna Potosi.

To learn more about the American Alpine Institute Bolivia offerings, click here.

--Jason D. Martin

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