From the Valley of the Moon to Huayana Potosi
Trip Start Jul 20, 2004
248Trip End Jul 20, 2020
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Valley of the Moon: If there was not the asphalt serpentine or there were no coughs due to the combustion of the automobiles, you can even think that you have left the earth and have been transferred to the surface of the moon, because at this corner of La Paz -at less than 20 kilometers from the center- the erosion has given some incredible, surprising forms to the rocks. Forms that are strange to this world.
Before heading to the jungle area, I wanted to do a trek or mountain tour
With assurances of a successful summit we were fitted out in a wardrobe full of climbing gear, including rigid climbing boots and crampons, several layers of wind, water and all-round weatherproof clothing, ice pick, harness and head lamp. Head lamp? "We start the main climb at one in the morning," our guide, Eulogio said. We set off in Eulogio's car navigating through the canyon climbing streets of La Paz up to El Alto - an expedition of skill and tenacity in itself - and on into the Cordillera Real, the air-starved heart of the Bolivian Andes
We reached the guard station where we left the car and started our 2 day trek.After three hours of trekking we begin the long wait at 5,200 meters. Tents are pitched on a sleep-depriving bed of rock and a fierce gale threatens to blow us off the mountainside. Wind and snow delayed our 1am departure to 2:30am. Clouds make our departure one in pitch blackness, head lamps lighting up a small window to an icy world. For the next couple of hours it's head down, one foot crushing into the ice ahead of the other as we follow the safety of the guides ropes (Miguel and I and the girls with Eulogio) dragging ahead of us through snow frozen solid into fields of daggers. The occasional crevasse is cautiously stepped across. After about 2 hours, I could feel the altitude as I started having stomach problems, short breath and my legs feeling as if layered with steel plates.
By that time, I could only take a few steps and then had to stop for breathing. But the stops were dangerous as i got cold very fast. At 5600 meters, I decided that it is best to return as I did not want to freeze to death on the way to the top. From over 400 meters away, at over 5,600 meters, I look up at Potosi and see myself on its throne. Then, beaten by the cold and short breath, Miguel and I get ready for our retreat. The walk back to high camp is slow and beautiful as the sun had just come up and the wind had blown away clouds to reveal mountains in lower or even higher elevations. The beauty of our surroundings, filled with magical formations of snow caves and crevasses, is compensation for being forced down so close to the summit. Though I didn't make it to the top of Potosi, I still achieved something mountainous; I experienced an adventure that gave a glimpse into the world of those who meet and beat the challenge of high peaks around the world. For now at least, I'm happy to leave such admirable feats to the clan of mountain men and women whose world, if only for an instant from 400 meters away, I saw and felt. For my next 6000 meter trip, I have to acclimise longer and more carefully before attempting another trek. But, there will be another trek, that's for sure.