Trip Start Sep 17, 2010
Trip End Aug 28, 2011

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Where I stayed
Hotel Milton La Paz
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of Bolivia  ,
Friday, March 4, 2011

Weapons of Mass Destruction? Not quite, but potentially not far off on a personal level. Round here this abbreviation stands for "World´s most dangerous..."

First trip, WMD Road aka "Road of Death". With a slight feeling of apprehension we decided this was the thing to do. Safety first though (of course!) we scoped out a respectable tour company who prides themselves on their top notch equipment, especially the brakes.

Turns out the gravel road itself is more harrowing that the vertical drop to the side, which when at full concentration on whats ahead you don´t see as much as you might have thought. Clambering over recent landslides and wondering whether another in in store overhead was probably the worst part.

Hardest part technically wasn't even part of the main road, instead it was the last 500m when we opted for a "single track" that pinched the corner and started with a 45 degree drop off. Would have cained it 15 years ago but with the nearest hospital literally hours away and being at the end of a tiring 60km downhill run I opted for a more cautious approach which seemed thrilling enough at the time, just to stay on.

Next up. WMD shopping. No, not really. La Paz was by far the best and cheapest place we´ve hit the shops. Finger crossed at 16kg will make it home, and clear customs! Presents are included!

Later we found the gringo area for some long missed western cuisine. A dutch restaurant was first on the menu, followed by an Indian place the following day boasting the WMD curry - t-shirt to all those who could finish it. Choosing a meal I could actually finish turned out to be the right thing to do. It was plenty hot enough for me and I love my spices. The WMD would have one this time I think, Ganesh help those idoits who try (and fail) and Krishna praise those that succeed.

Last up on the ´extreme list´ was the 6088m giant of Huayna Potosí. With air a third as thick at the top as at sea level this was not a challenge I decided to undertake lightly and I started off knowing full well not everyone can make it at the altitude up there.  Turns out that that was going to include our group but for another reason I hadn´t expected - snow storms and patience.

The first day we just traveled up to base camp by van, dumped our gear and and climbed to a glacier where we could practice ice-climbing and emergency ice-axe stops in case we did end up in a crevasse. All rather fun. Day two saw us climb up to advanced base camp aka ´a hut at 5300m´ from where we´d stage our final assault. This was when I first realised that this was know walk in the park. In full gear, crampons and all, it seemed a world above the 5000m I´d climb to on Cotopaxi volcano.

We bedded down at 6pm and tried to get some precious sleep before setting of at midnight to the top. You have to climb at night to minimise the avalanche risk and to summit for sunrise - at least that was the plan. Pachamama (Mother Nature in these parts) had other ideas. Setting off in a snow storm seemed to a mystique to the expedition at frist. Five hours later with the path lost, three different ways tried without joy and the only options left to sit it out and see if light brought a fourth option or to return home, we chose home. The summit should only take five hours on a good day and we were at 5842m according to the GPS and pretty shattered.

Turning back was sensible, especially when in the cold light of day on the way down you see how close you have to wind your way through the the crevasses either side of the route that are hidden at night. However, I was gutted. This despite being the highest Crockett in the world (or ever I believe if you exclude air travel!). Those with an hour extra patience and willingness to wait out the snowstorm on the remote chance that it would clear for the first time in 12 hours were rewarded. It did clear as we descended a vertical snow wall that signified the point of no return (back up). Those who waited got a crack at the top, whether they even made it we´re still not sure. Nothing is that certain with that much snow and at that height.

This one is going down as a learning experience! 
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