Thursday, June 28, 2012


My man would like to climb Denali one of these days.  I don't expect him to do it in the next couple of months but definitely in the next year or so.  I am thinking, if we decide to go to Alaska next summer, we will pretty much be headed to Denali's base-camp.

He's climbed a few big mountains in the past, and as years go by and we still "hang out", I somewhat wish I could be part of some of his expeditions since he's been there cheering me on during my big events.  Last May, he flew down to La Paz, Bolivia in an attempt to climb a few high peaks finishing off with a 21,000 ft. mountain.

So, La Paz.  It's the second largest city in Bolivia and sits at roughly 11,975 ft. above sea level which makes it the highest de facto capital city in the world.  Sucre is the actual capital of Bolivia, but La Paz has more government departments, hence the "de facto" qualifier.  Quito in Ecuador is the highest legal capital sitting at 9,350 ft.  As La Paz grows, it climbs the hills resulting in varying elevations between 9,800 ft. to 13,500 ft.  Overlooking the city is towering triple-peaked Illimani which is always snow-covered and can be seen from several spots within the City.

La Paz, Bolivia with Illimani in the back. 
My man-friend, along with his friend Lee, planned this trip in two weeks.  Honestly, I was freaking out, but I know they both make pretty good decisions while on the mountain which somehow gives me a little bit of peace of mind.  The man flew into La Paz on a Monday morning (after a red-eye), was picked up by their guiding service and drove straight to the trailhead of their first adventure.  The Cordillera Real.  This is a mountain range that has six summits higher than 6000m (19,685 ft): Pico del Norte, Illampu, Ancohuma, Chachacomani, Huayna Potosi, and Illimani.  Condorri Massif is part of this range also, and is complex of 13 peaks all above 5000m (16,404 ft) which include: Cabeza del Condor and Pequeno Alpamayo which Lee and Chuck planned on climbing for acclimatization.

My man and his climbing partner Lee with "Cabeza del Codor" in the background. 

They planned on climbing this as training before heading for their big mountain: Illimani.  Their plan was to hike in to get close to the base of the mountain, sleep at altitude and go for a couple summits the following day.

Luxurious mountain home

The next morning they headed up to Pico de Austria, their first acclimatization peak.  He says it's a fairly easy hike... it sits at 16,700 ft above sea level, they had a very luxurious lunch up there and continued on with their trip which included another summit of another small peak.  The next morning, they left camp at 1:30am and headed towards Pequeno Alpamayo.  This is the part of hiking that I'm not a huge fan of... when you have to leave in the dark and "guess" where you are stepping.  But I guess it's part of mountaineering, which tends to pay off.  Usually, you get to reach the summit (or at least get pretty high up there) by the time the sun rises.

Lee and Chuck at the summit of Pequeno Alpamayo... AMAZING

Views of the amazon (under the clouds) from the summit of Pequeno Alpamayo. 

Granted... the views are amazing, and I must say that when I've been on top of a mountain, the feeling is amazing.  I can't imagine being so high up there like at 17,618 ft, which is where Pequeno Alpamayo's summit is at.  Now, the fun part... as a runner and triathlete who tends to find herself at the start line of a race AT LEAST once a month, my "summit" is the finish line.  Not with climbing.  Getting to the summit is just half the work.  I ALWAYS complain.  I feel like I work so hard on pacing myself while racing but tend to use all my energy to get up a mountain, which then requires me to come down it.  On bigger expeditions, you may be subject to something like this:

Going down!! (Leaving the summit of Pequeno Alpamayo)

After coming down to camp, they pack and hike down to the trailhead for a well-deserved break in the City.  The next morning, they'd be heading to the trailhead of the next mountain and the main challenge: Illimani.  This is the highest mountain of this range.  It's summit is at 21,122 ft.  It's the 18th highest peak in S. America and if you ask me, it's gorgeous looking.  For this second part of the trip, they follow the same protocol.  Hike in, camp high, camp higher, attempt summit, hike out.  I've never done a mountain that requires camp and a higher camp, but I guess going from 14,000 ft to 21,000 ft is a lot to do in a day, or even two... and you of course need to give your brain some time to get used to the lack of oxygen.  But heck... it'd be awesome to give it a shot one day... especially if I'm going to wake up to this view from high camp:

Illimani high camp - Nido de Condores. 

Or go to bed after a sunset like this:

Sunset as seen from high camp on Illimani

Summit morning is always the same, as I mentioned before.  Midnight wake up call and hike in the dark... and those who know me, know I get grumpy when I don't sleep good (or eat good).  But again, it's like you forget EVERYTHING once you reach the summit.  The views are breathtaking and you feel on top of the world (well, sometimes you are).

Summit of Illimani with views of the amazon in the back

Coming off the mountain tends to be a death march EVERY TIME I get on a mountain, but there's a sense of satisfaction to it.  I climb mountains because my man loves it.  Why HE does it?  I don't know, but I find happiness in supporting his passion and at the same time, I get to explore places where not many people have set foot.  It's no secret that I love challenges, and while I don't have some ridiculous goal like climbing all 14ers in Colorado by the time I'm 30, I'm always game for a fun hike that will present a challenge and will provide some amazing views.

I'm bummed I haven't been able to be part of my man's "big summits", but hope to one day be standing on that amazing summit picture with him.  I have this crazy dream where I can see myself attempting Denali in Alaska with him next summer, but I'm aware it will require quite a bit of preparation, but I've proven to myself that with the proper training and dedication, I will get to that necessary level I need to head up that mountain.  Maybe I should learn how to use my ice axe one of these days.

My ice axe and me posing for a picture on the summit of Atlantic Peak in Summit County (13,841 ft). 

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