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Climbing Huayna Potosi

Washington DC...
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Climbing Huayna Potosi

Hi all,

Has anyone had any positive (or negative) experiences climbing Huayna Potosi (as a beginner climber)?? and could recommend a tour operator/agency?

Many thanks in advance!

Edinburgh, United...
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1. Re: Climbing Huayna Potosi

Hi BoliAmer,

When are you thinking of heading to climb the mountain? I take it you are a beginner?

You an take a glacier training course for a day or two, and then head up and climb the peak. We know quite a few folk with varying skill levels from experienced to novices who give the mountain a go and succeed.

You will need to make sure you are really well acclimatised to altitude before starting the climbing school. We know guides in the La Paz area, so get in touch!

All the best

La Paz, Bolivia
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2. Re: Climbing Huayna Potosi

It is very difficult to guarantee that you could get to summit it you are a beginner, ever if you are experienced. Normally companies have a training day at the bottom of the mountain where you can get familirized with the equipment and guide, Huayna Potosí is one of the most visited by beginners.

About acclimatization it is a requirement to be at least 4 days at 3600 of altitude.

Deinze, Belgium
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3. Re: Climbing Huayna Potosi

Hi,

We did the Huayna Potosi climb (or attempt) a couple of weeks ago.

After visiting a couple of travel agencies in La Paz, we noticed that the offers were pretty much the same everywhere (+-900 bolivianos for a 2d/1n trip). We checked the agencies for online reviews but not a lot of information could be found. We decided to go for the one agency that we found one positive review for, Viacha Tours.

When we booked the trip at the office (Sagarnaga street), we were convinced about there guides. They showed us tons of positive reactions written by happy customers, and all the mountaineering certificates they have. We booked and made an appointment for the clothes-fitting, the day before the trekking would start.

When we showed up at the office for the clothes fitting, they told us the guide couldn't make it that day, and he would bring the clothes to our hotel, the morning after, before the start of the trekking.

The day of the trekking, a guide showed up at the hotel (not the guide that was promised us), 30 minutes late, without clothes to fit. He told us we would fit the clothes at his house. After a 1h drive with a taxi to the guides house (somewhere in the outer areas of La Paz) he went into the house and took two plastic bags with clothes for the both of us, and threw them in the trunk. Didn't really resemble the "fitting" we had in mind.

In the meanwhile, we had called the Viacha Tours office, and they re-ensured us that the guide was the son of the original guide that was planned, and was just as good. They were annoyed that they weren't up-to-date about the change of guides, apparently it happened behind there back. We were ensured that we would get some money back, if we had anymore problems during the trip.

We arrived at the base-camp, got some food (which was ok), put our received equipment in our backpacks, and hiked up the mountain to high-camp. We constantly had the impression the guide was in a hurry, because we didn't get a lot of breaks, altough one of us was already suffering a bit from the altitude. Finally we arrived at high-camp around 2pm, leaving us an afternoon to relax and rest/sleep for the summit climb (but with no explanation why we had to hurry). We also had dinner there, which was the simpler version of the dinner of the other groups (that paid the same price).

The clothes we got from the guide were not at all comparable with the clothes from the other groups. They got to fit them the day before, and had almost brand-new, perfect-fit clothes. Ours were a few sizes wrong, and obviously of lower quality.

At midnight we started gearing up, and at 1am we started the summit climb. One of us was really suffering from altitude sickness now, and around 3am we had to return unsuccesfully, and at 4am we where back in high-camp. The "Huayna Potosi Ascent" that is advertised as non-technical and pretty feasable, was not that easy since only 2 of the 8 teams reached the summit, altough the weather conditions were optimal. The fact that we didn't reach the top was our own responsibility though, no-one is to blame for that ofcourse.

At 9am we descended from high-camp to base-camp, again seemingly in a hurry. The guide was constantly 50m in front of us, and when he stopped for us to catch up, he left again in a strong pace as soon as we caught up. On the way back from the base-camp to the hotel, we did the detour again to drop of the equipment at the guides house.

After a few hours of rest at the hotel, we went to the "Viacha Tours" agency again, to complain about the low-quality service we had received, compared to the service the other groups got that had booked with other agencies (i.e. High Camp Huayna Potosi, also in Sagarnaga street). The german owner of the agency had all kinds of explanations, but took no responsibility at all. He was very disrespectful about the Bolivian people, and invented one excuse after the other. He even told us we should have called the tourist police when we didn't get the clothes fitting, and we would have gotten our money back. No discount was given, no money was returned, but hopefully this review prevents other people of booking with this company.

Budapest, Hungary
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4. Re: Climbing Huayna Potosi

Have you gone yet?

I recently did a 6-day trek which culminated in the Huayna Potosi summit. I went with Bolivian Journeys (http://www.bolivianjourneys.org/). The advantage of the longer trip if you have time is the scenery on the early days is just amazing and rarely seen by travellers. And you have time to adjust to the altitude on the way. You join up with all the overnight trippers at High Camp on the last night.

I was a complete mountaineering novice before this trip. And not even remotely fit (the Inca Trail almost killed me). And I didn't get one seconds sleep at High Camp. But I made it to the top. It is definitely not easy but with perseverance, most people can do it. The most important thing is to be adjusted to the altitude and to really want it.

There are 2 separate challenges with the climb.

The physical challenge is well documented. There are 2 steep sections where the slope goes over 45 degrees. In both these sections, you use an ice axe to pull yourself up. I wasn't aware of this before I left and specifically asked whether this was a rope climb or an axe climb. I thought I could take the step up to what I thought was mountaineering (climbing with the aid of a fixed rope) but didn't want to try my hand at ice climbing with the axe. Well, there is no fixed rope - you are just tied to your guide - and you do need to use the axe to climb up 2 different sections. It is hard work if you haven't done it before.

The next challenge is less well known and the reason I wouldn't do this again. After the second steep section, you reach a mini-summit about 6000m high. From there you have to walk across a thin ridge to the main summit at 6088m. Parts of this ridge are no wider than your foot and it is a sheer cliff drop on BOTH sides. If you're anything like me with heights, you will just freeze up, which is the worst thing because you can't afford to be nervous. I had 2 brief slips on this ridge and just managed to regain my footing before falling off the cliff. It is a seriously dangerous ridge that I think it pays to be aware of before you're actually on it!

In saying that, if you are in reasonable shape (I wasn't), you can handle the physical challenge. If you have spent a bit of time in the nearby mountains, altitude won't be an issue. I suspect you won't know how you will handle that final ridge until you get there!

Barcelona, Spain
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5. Re: Climbing Huayna Potosi

Hi,

Unfortunately Huayna Potosi really depends on the weather conditions but also mainly on the guide.

I went on January 2nd with the agency Adolfo Andino. It was my mistake to do it so close from New Year's Eve but also I didn't expect it to be so hard. There were different conditions that made it difficult for me, but the worst was how Mario, my guide, treated me. It was already hard to be suffering physically, but worst was to have a guide behaving badly with me.

He first started by not waiting for me on the first day and as it was snowing I couldn't see him. The worst moment was when I was hardly walking up the mountain in fresh snow and no sleeping as we left at 1am and he told me with an irritated tone that if we kept walking so slowly we would never do it up to the summit. It is when I lost the motivation I still had despite his constant remarks. When I wanted to stop to have a rest, he complained that he was cold. When I asked to stop to remove some clothes as I was sweating, he told me that he didn't want to hear me complaining 5min later that I was cold. When I tried to make the conversation with him he told me that he hadn't been listening to me. When I asked him some help with the material, he answered that I should know how to use it.

Anyway the conditions were not favorable to reach the summit as the couple who was walking in front of us was only able to walk up 100m more than us because of the fresh snow. At least I could have had a nice walk and wait with them at the sunset, but it was unthinkable with Super Mario.

Be aware that Mario works with different agencies. He is supposed to be one of the most experienced guide of La Paz, but maybe it is time for him to retire. I didn't deserve such a treatment and even if I wasn't fit enough, it was my problem and it was already hard enough for me to feel so weak. I had a really bad experience and at the moment I just regret having done it. It is one of the problems of Bolivia: you can have either a great guide or such a bad one, it's like a lottery.

I can see that I was not the only one not happy with my guide but in my case they were all Bolivia.

I hope that nobody will have such a bad experience as I had!

Singapore
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6. Re: Climbing Huayna Potosi

Sorry to hear about your experience. We had a guide called Super Mario when we climbed a couple of years back. Small, sticky guy with little English but a good guide, that time at least. We summited although the of seven who set off in total, three failed due to sickness. This is a good review though and I think shows that even the same guides and agencies can provide different levels of service because things are often very unprofessional in Bolivia.

Galapagos Islands...
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7. Re: Climbing Huayna Potosi

Hi, Huayna Potosi is not a particulary difficult mountain and in fact it is one of the easiest 6000 peaks in Bolivia. With this meaning that you do not need to be a extrem climber or an expert and not even previous experience on high mountains is requiered. However and due to the high altitude you have to be in very good physical conditions and with a good acclimatization with at least a previous couple of nights in La Paz.

I recommend you Ecoandes Travel Bolivia, a very good company using very good profesional guides (this is crucial for Huayana Potosi). They can also provide you hotel accommodations in La Paz and offer you other good tours too. Contact them at www.salaruyunitours.com

Hope this helps you traveling in Bolivia.

Edited: 17 May 2013, 21:19
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8. Re: Climbing Huayna Potosi

I successfully summited Huayna Potosi in Oct 2012',.. We were a group of 7 friends, 4 of us made the summit, 3 had to turn back. I'd say that's probably the normal percentage of summit to fail ratio.

The reason for the three fails were all altitude related. Not acclimatised enough, causing stomach in knots, and exhaustion.

For a much better chance of summit success, I would advise heading up into the mountains +4,500m a few days in advance for preliminary treks beforehand... Simply going from La Paz (3,700m) straight to Huayna Potosi was too much increase in altitude for 3 of our group.

London, United...
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9. Re: Climbing Huayna Potosi

It’s a great climb but you need some mountaineering experience to make it safe and enjoyable. I climbed it this year and made a video if you’re interested in seeing what it’s like.

Video - high-empire.tumblr.com/post/62169770760

London, United...
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10. Re: Climbing Huayna Potosi

It’s a great climb but you need some mountaineering experience to make it safe and enjoyable. I climbed it this year and made a video if you’re interested in seeing what it’s like.

high-empire.tumblr.com/post/62169770760