Tahoe/Chamonix resident Dave Rosenbarger recently returned from what sounds like an epic ski mountaineering expedition to Bolivia. Check out is partner Giulia Monego’s blog at http://giuliamonego.com/ or keep on reading below for the first of 4 reports from their trip. Photo’s courtesy of Christian Pondella.
I met my friends Dave Rosembarger and Christian Pondella at the airport, waiting for me after the tiring flight. We took quickly a cab for the center and we shoot down to La Paz downtown. As we checked-in at the hotel, we realized how sweet was the choice! Nice rooms, hot showers and first class service. Since most of the time we treat ourselves badly in mountain huts and tents, it’s nice to have a comfortable base in La Paz, the place where we will rest and acclimatize.
The first stroll in town was chaotic and horns loud. The traffic is pretty bad in the center, and every single car around is a taxi, a “micros”,“trufis” (collectivos, minibuses) or a old Dodge bus customized in different colors, smoke-spewing and blowing the horn every ten meters. The people are as I was expecting: men busy in their shops, guarding bank doors or around the streets driving the minibuses. The women are sitting on every corner of the street, selling fruits, vegetables, or all sorts of objects, near the markets, and in the busy streets. It seams that the constant wave of people around is endless. People buy small items all the times, it could be a sweet, and ice-cream, a chicken soup, or a pack of mani (peanuts). There aren’t many tourists around, and only in certain areas. I feel good when, as a tourist, I pass unobserved and people keep doing their businesses as I was invisible. It make me feel like I can have a real look at the true Bolivian life style on the streets, not like they are faking some king of tourist show like in other countries do.
Spending the entire day at 3600m in La Paz is already a good acclimatization. There isn’t much to do in the beginning, just breath hard, walk slowly and take some good rest seams the good recipe to get over the jet leg, and the change of pressure.
The next day, after a good nigh of sleep, we felt pretty good, and so we decided to go higher and take a small walk to the summit of a small peak. Chacaltaya was the ski resort of La Paz. A glacier up to 5300m now sadly melted leaving only traces of snow but no real glacier anywhere. Despite the elevation, this peak is really easy to reach, considering that a car can drive you along the bumpy dirt road up to 5100 meters! That’s the highest I’ve ever driven for sure!
Only few hundreds meter to walk up and around was good enough to test the body to get used to the thinner air. The most interesting point on choosing this destination was the fact that the view from the summit will allow us to have a straight look into one of our objectives, the Huana Potosi east face. This face looked simply beautiful on photos, but for real it was just incredible. The whole peak is stunning looking, and the good news was that the face we were looking at was perfectly white and looking skiable.
That view not only gave us a positive expectation for the upcoming summit/ski attempt but offered us a good idea for a shorter ski acclimatization for the next day. A shorter slope up on a smaller glacier below one of the ridges going at the top of the peak will give us an idea of how the snow will look like on the higher face.
Back to the Hotel Rosario, I couldn’t believe I would be skiing the next day. It felt a bit of a rush, but that objective seamed too nice to not tackle it straight away.
An early start here in Bolivia seams an illusion. Nothing starts before 9 usually, but we managed to stretch our start around seven. Walking down the stairs from the room to the street generates funny looks and hilarious comments, on our ski equipment, and I found it even funnier imagining the thought of the hotel stuff. The 4×4 car that we arranged for the day was replaced at the last minute (no choice for us!) by a regular propane propelled taxi as dirty as it gets. With no worries and reassured by the driver that we would have made it up the dirt road anyway, we stuff our skis on the roof and the backpack in the trunk and took off.
The driver was super nice and took us exactly where we wanted to get dropped off. There we start hiking on shoes, carrying the boots and skis on the backpacks. It didn’t take us more than 3 hours and a half to summit the slope we wanted to ski but it felt quite long to me! I was pretty tired in the last steeper section and I slowed down a lot. The boys, were fast and strong, so motivated me to carry on till the top, despite I dropped a ski pole a couple hundreds meters from the summit. (which I luckily found on the way down stuck over some rocks!)
The snow was the kind of refrozen, firm smooth surface typical of the high mountains in spring season. It was soften by the sun in the surface, so felt pretty nice under the edges. The angle of the slope was hard to guess from a distance. We hoped for some steep skiing but not too much for our first day! Once at the top, we realized that was considerable steep, but still enjoyable in firm snow: just perfect.
Back down to the edge of the glacier, I was stocked! We just had our first turns in Bolivia the 3rd day after we landed in the country! Awesome.
Now a day to organize the logistic for the next objective and to rest in La Paz and we are set to go camping in a new area: the Condoriri region.
Stay tune for more…