Bolivia

Climbing Huayna Potosi (>6000m): a once-in-a-lifetime experience

huayna-potosi-tom-and-reneeYes, we did it! We booked a tour to climb Huayna Potosi, a mountain of 6088m and relatively close to La Paz. To be honest, we were a bit nervous to start the climb. Read below our experiences of this exhaustive and worthwhile trip.

Why are we so crazy to climb a >6000m-peak?

This is the 6088 m mountain!

This is the 6088 m mountain!

After we observed the climbers who left to the top of the Mont Blanc a few years ago, we always thought of the thrills of climbing a snowcapped mountain. After we were at 5545m in Nepal, we put the +6000m on our bucket list. Therefore, with climbing the Huayna Potosi, we believed we had the perfect opportunity to combine both the high altitude and trekking on a glacier.

Huayna Potosi is famous for being a mountain that can be relatively easily climbed by beginners. And yes, it is really easy to book the tour. You just go to an office in La Paz and within a few minutes you have signed up. With some doubts we entered the office, but soon after we were convinced that it would be a fun trip. They led us believe it would be a sportive challenge, but the perfect mountain for a beginner.

Did we make it to the top of Huayna Potosi?

We won’t wait with revealing the end of the story until the end of this blog, as this is probably the main question you have. Tom made it to the top (hero!), Renée unfortunately not due to problems with the altitude and her mental state ;).

What did the climb of Huayna Potosi involve?

We opted for a tour of 3-days, so that we had enough opportunity to acclimatize and to have some training on the glacier.

Day 1 – great fun with practicing

Ice climbing

Ice climbing

We left for our big adventure with almost no sleep, due to a combination of the noise in our hotel and the nerves. The group with whom we would do the climb was great (thanks Basile, Shannon, Leo, Shaun and Peter for the great company!).

The first day was mainly to try the gear, to practice a bit on the glacier and to get acclimatized. We already felt like heroes standing in front of a massive glacier with our crampons on and our ice-axe in our hands! The practice involved walking on the glacier and also some real ice-climbing. With 2 ice-axes we had to climb up a vertical 10m ice-wall. Exhausting, but so much fun! We were happy though to hear that the real climb would not involve such steep parts…

Day 2 – getting to high camp

On our way to high camp

On our way to high camp

This day we went to an altitude of 5130m. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any sleep last night, because it was very noisy in the big dorm and the floor of the attic was shaking when someone walked by. Luckily, the day started really relaxed as we would only start hiking in the early afternoon. The hike itself was very beautiful, but also very exhaustive as we had to carry all the gear. Renée also had some issues with the altitude. Luckily, with the help of some coco-leaves she was able to make it to high-camp (finally!).

Day 3 – the real challenge

Our group on the glacier

Our group on the glacier

On the third day, or actually during the 2nd night, the real challenge started. The day before we went to bed around 7PM as we had to be fresh and fruity again at 12AM. Yes, we would start the climb just after midnight to reduce the risk of avalanches (scary? No way…!). With our headlamps on and in our mountain-outfit we started the climb. For 2 persons there was 1 guide, so we were together with our guide Felix. First, we had to scramble over moraine and to climb up using ropes. Imagine you need to do this with some kind of ski-boats on, your ice-axe in your hand and in the dark. Sounds like fun, not?

We already revealed how the story ends… Read further to get some insight into our experiences.

How did you experience the climb?

Renée

In my perception, the crevasse was this big

In my perception, the crevasse was this big

Already on day 2 I realized that my chances to reach the top were limited. With every step I took, I was completely out of breath. Next to this, being not the most thrill-seeking person, I was not particularly looking forward to the glacier-part. Very slowly I climbed up using the ropes and soon realized that Tom could better go with someone else to increase his chances of reaching the top. When reaching the glacier, we decided to split up.

Together with Felix, I started the climb on the glacier. I went slowly and tried not to look too much to the crevasses we passed. Then we reached the point that we had to cross a crevasse which was 2 meter wide (in my perception). Felix jumped over it and I had to step on the ridge. It was beautiful, but so deep. I looked at Felix who was almost my height and didn’t really trust he would be able to pull me out if I would fall. No way, I was going to cross this thing. Coca tea, coca leaves… I probably would need cocaine to be mentally equipped to do this. So in front of this crevasse my climb ended. Now it was time to wait for Tom to get back.

Tom

At the top!

At the top!

At the glacier I went with another person, but soon he also couldn’t go further. This meant that I could only go with Leo and Shaun and in case one of us couldn’t make it we all needed to go back. Therefore, we all realized we had to make it to the top. Our guide was quite pushing us (vamos, vamos…) and we didn’t get a lot of time for breaks. The climb was very exhausting and scary in some parts as well.

 

Amazing view from the top!

Amazing view from the top!

The views from the top were amazing and the sunrise was just about to start. Unfortunately, it was so freaking cold there that batteries were not properly working, so I could only make a few pictures. The way back we went really fast, being pushed again by our slave driver. In the end we did the trip in just over 7 hours. I was happy to be down again. Well down… After a short break, we needed to pack our gear and to walk really down to the base camp. Exhaustive but very proud, this final 1,5 hour was peanuts… 🙂

Would we ever do this again?

Although we both believe it was a very worthwhile experience and we would not want to have missed it, it is really on of these once-in-a-life-time things…

 

 

Discussion

13 Responses to “Climbing Huayna Potosi (>6000m): a once-in-a-lifetime experience”

  1. Gaaf, ben ik nu de 1e die reageert? Haha
    Zo, nu eens rustig lezen…..

    Posted by Marion | 16 October 2016, 6:29 PM
  2. Spannende belevenis!

    Posted by Piet | 16 October 2016, 7:43 PM
  3. Wow wat een verhaal zeg, super spannend!! Goed gedaan allebei, leuk om de perspectives van jullie allebei te lezen 🙂

    Posted by Margot | 16 October 2016, 7:46 PM
  4. Wauw! Stoer! En Renee ook zal heb je de top niet gehaald alsnog heel knap. X

    Posted by Annette | 16 October 2016, 7:59 PM
  5. Wow wat een helden zijn jullie! 🙂 dit moet echt ontzettend gaaf maar tegelijkertijd ook zwaar zijn geweest. Respect. Ik hoorde dat jullie bijna naar Nieuw Zeeland gaan. Hij staat vast al op jullie to do list: de tongariro crossing was voor mij een van de hoogtepunten. Geniet !!

    Posted by Bregje | 16 October 2016, 8:47 PM
  6. Tot aan je grenzen gaan en zelfs daar nog over heen is natuurlijk groots . Ben trots dat jullie dit hebben gedaan maar ook blij dat het bij ‘ a once in a lifetime experience’ blijft. En Tom geweldig dat je de top hebt bereikt. En Renee ook geweldig. Goed dat je de uitdaging niet schuwt, maar wel tijdig gezond verstand laat prevaleren.

    Posted by Jan | 16 October 2016, 10:30 PM
  7. Stoer hoor!
    En herkenbaar hoor, Renee… 5000+ trekt mijn lijf ook niet 🙁
    Nu benen omhoog en nagenieten!

    Posted by Marlies | 17 October 2016, 12:30 AM
  8. Lieve Tom en Renee! Ik loop een beetje achter in het lezen van jullie verhalen… Maar vanavond pak ik de draad weer op en ga ik de voorgaande drie verhalen ook lezen… Maar dit stuk smaakt al naar meer zeg! Wat een verhaal! Ik ben zo trots op jullie, gewoon je dromen volgen en door gaan… Respect! Tom, knap dat je het het gehaald man! En Renee jouw prestatie is net zo bewonderenswaardig! Heel veel plezier nog en geniet van de reis en van elkaar. Liefs Christian

    Posted by Christian | 17 October 2016, 8:14 AM
  9. Mierda de grasa! Respec’

    Posted by Tim | 17 October 2016, 10:00 AM
  10. Wat zijn jullie stoer en sportief! Ik ben super trots op jullie. Liefs xx

    Posted by Engeline | 19 October 2016, 12:28 AM
  11. Hoi Tom en Renee. Knap dat jullie zo’n uitdaging aan zijn gegaan. Ook goed dat je op tijd weet te stoppen Renee.
    Ik vind het geweldig om jullie verhalen te lezen.
    Geniet er nog van.

    Jeanne

    Posted by Jeanne van de Pas | 20 October 2016, 8:15 AM
  12. Hello Renee,

    I also climbed Huayna Potosi this year, (even with the same agency but only 2 days) 🙂 it was one of the best experiences in my life!

    Good luck with your next trip!
    Cheers from The Hague

    Malgorzata

    Posted by Malgorzata | 20 November 2016, 5:22 AM
  13. Hello dear climbers good informations about Huayna Potosi climbing in the Bolivian Mountains.

    I invite you visit Peruvian Mountains – Cordillera Blanca the best area for climbing trekking in the Peruvian Andes

    Posted by rodolfo reyes | 24 October 2018, 7:35 PM

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