Well hi! My name is Fred. I’m a 26 year old Dutch guy. In this post I will be sharing my experiences climbing Huayna Potosi. I’m someone who has always been interested in sporty activities. I’m optimistic and love challenges. Many years ago, my girlfriend (Celine) and I decided we wanted to take a big trip. Honestly, it was Celine who gave me the travel bug!
Thanks to her, I also started to dream about traveling. After committing to save enough money, it was time to fulfill our dream by taking a world trip. We started in Latin America and the country of Bolivia simply cannot be missed! Bolivia was quite an unknown entity for us. It’s a raw country with a lot of culture on offer, and many fun sights and adventures.
Huayna Potosi was one of those adventures I ticked off but it wasn’t always on my bucket list. Nor was it spontaneous. It was only later in our trip that I found out about this climbing journey by reading other blogs and seeing photos via other people’s Instagram accounts. When I learnt more about it and dug deeper, I was sure that I wanted to conquer the mountain myself. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I couldn’t miss out.
Huayna Potosi is located in the Cordillera Real mountain range, an hour’s drive from La Paz. The top of the mountain stands at 6,088 meters. Obviously the altitude makes it particularly difficult. Also, the fact that you have to go ice climbing to reach the top makes it extra exciting. I had never climbed to this height before. Like I said, I love challenges so I had to give it a shot to see if I could push my limits. And what a great decision that was!
Expedition with German Mountain Guide
I did the climb with German Mountain Guide. His office is located in downtown La Paz. The guides are very calm and relaxed. They ensure that a good meal is ready for you three times a day plus some snacks in between, such as tasty popcorn. Although the communication was at times a little difficult due to a language barrier, their explanations were well received and I felt safe and at ease at all times while climbing Huayna Potosi.
Climbing Huayna Potosi in Three Days
We managed to climb to the top in three days. Huayna Potosi can also be done in two – it’s up to you how fast you want to go. If you do it in two, you basically skip the ice climbing practice part on the first day. Our expedition started with an early morning drive to the base camp, which sits at an altitude of 4,700 meters. We then received our equipment (what you fitted the day before). This day is all about practicing ice climbing!
You do this at a nearby glacier at 4,900 meters. Not to forget that you also get to know your fellow climbers. Throughout the climb, you go up together as a group. On the second day you hike with all of your equipment, of 15 or 20 kg, to a high camp situated at 5,200 meters. This takes roughly three hours. After that, you want to rest as much as possible because at midnight the alarm goes off and the climb to the summit starts.
At 1am our climb began with the aim of being at the top of 6,088 meters before sunrise. After a few minutes, there was snow and it got steeper. The crampons then get turned on and there is a division of one guide per two climbers – you stay connected to them via a rope. Following two hours of walking, you then reach the part where ice climbing is required.
It’s an exhilarating experience as it’s still dark and your legs are already sore. The ice climbing is not just straight up, which fortunately makes it a bit easier. Then the time comes to reach the top. As you get closer, the path gets more narrow and you occasionally have to step/jump over gaps. You need to use the ice picks on this section to keep your balance.
Once you make it to the top, of course you must go back. If your legs aren’t sore now, and your heart isn’t pounding in your throat yet, this will kick off on the way down. From the top you walk the same obstacles back down. At high camp you pick up your stuff and walk back to base camp with your backpack. Then you hop in the car that takes you back to La Paz where you arrive at 2pm. This experience is not for the faint of heart but boy is it epic!
Favorite Moment from Huayna Potosi
Many moments stand out on Huayna Potosi. One of them is practicing ice climbing. I would love to have the chance to try that more often. However, perhaps the best experience is walking in the snow while it’s dark and seeing the lights of La Paz in the distance. From here you are almost at the top. You are suffering but slowly seeing the colors of sunrise. It was at this moment that I remembered why I wanted to climb Huayna Potosi so badly.
Most Difficult Aspect of Huayna Potosi
The most challenging aspect about Huayna Potosi was several things at once. The snow is heavy to walk on with crampons. I had shoes that were too wide, so after 30 minutes of walking I already had blisters on both heels. It’s also the lack of sleep. And the last 200 meters I had trouble breathing due to the altitude. I didn’t suffer from altitude sickness on the way up, but when walking down I did suffer from dizziness and sometimes nausea.
Feeling at the Top of Huayna Potosi
The feeling at the top was a mixed one for me. I was exhausted when I got to the top of Huayna Potosi. But of course, I was happy that I made it. You give your guide and fellow climbers a high-five and a hug. Due to the lack of energy and concentration, it was difficult to properly soak in the view. Nevertheless, I was incredibly grateful. After 20 minutes it was time to walk back down and because it’s light then, you see what you have achieved!
Need to Know Before You Go
Know your capabilities, so you can judge whether or not you can physically do the climb. You don’t have to be an experienced climber. Check with one or more tour agencies what you can expect and what the tour entails. Take into account the weather and wear layers. Additionally, bring snacks for some energy during the hike and climb. And make sure the shoes you get fit properly to prevent blisters (bring blister plasters just in case).