13 years ago I stood at the top of
Chacaltaya, a mountain in Bolivia not too far from La Paz and looked
at Huayna Potosi – ”I will climb that mountain once” I said
simultaneously as my travel companion Kasper. We both thought about
how one should gather people and equipment for such an adventure,
however this was not the time for it. On my working trip I came
through La Paz and this time I saw a sign outside a local tour
operator claiming that you could climb it in 2-3 days! On the way
back from Santa Cruz to Cusco where I was going to fly back to
Colombia from I had planned to have a few days – the plan was to
relax and take it slow. That was changed! I chose a 3 day trip to be
able to spend one day practising using the crampons and ice axe –
and to climb some ice!

We were driven in an old minibus to the
first basecamp in 4700 meters altitude and walked to the ”Old
Glacier” – unfortunately yet another one of the glaciers of the
world that has been retracting over the last couple of years. Here we
walked up and down – learning to walk on nails – those that are
pointing away from your feet though.


Ice axes were put into use and
we arrived at a small wall. Layer after layer of ice made up the
vertical glacierwall and here we tried ice-climbing – it is
brilliant!! – like Spiderman you’re able to walk up the wall and
retain a steady grip with your feet – super cool!

Ice climbing rocks!!

On the way back to base camp I
experienced for the first and hopefully last time – altitude
sickness. Headache and nausea big time – it felt like being sea
sick – bad. I had apparently been a little to hasty in my running
from stressful work and up a mountain. I had been in 3700+ meters for
a long time and never had any problems before. After a long nights
sleep though, I was back on top of things and we continued to the
second base camp at 5200 meters. Here more people arrived and after
an early dinner it was time to catch some sleep before we were
awakened at midnight and started in the dark.The moon was close to full and it was
needless to turn on the headlamps except when the mountain shaded of
the moonlight. After 2½ hours unfortunately my partner had to turn
around due to altitude sickness and tiredness.High camp – the dog is – of course “Rocky”

I was adopted by
another team and at a snails pace we continued towards the top. It
was the hardest thing I have ever done – any little thing that
brought you out of pace made you instantly made you start panting for
air. The landscape was amazing – before the sun rose the moonshine
lit everything. A distant thunderstorm was blinking like a tired
stroboscope lamp in a far away discotheque. Under us the low hanging
clouds were lit orange by the lights of El Alto. In front of us was
the path – sometimes it crossed the most fantastically beautiful
crevasses – formations of blue compressed ice…

Sunrise and crevasse..

Sunrise brought
some heat and helped us the last bit towards the top. Here we had to
cross a short stretch of rocks – which is almost impossible in
crampons – it felt completely impossible – but we did it and
reached the summit with the most amazing view!!

A short strecth of rock..

The very last stretchAt the top with the guide

Kasper should fit right here 🙂

The decent was slow – the sun had
gained strength and the ice that had squeaked under our soles now
resembled slush-ice and it was time to come down. In high camp we
could finally loose the gear and raise our arms in victory – 6088
meters – way to go!!

This is where you walk – beautiful isn’t it??

The rest of the way down was a walk in
the park – I had climbed Huayna Potosi! How crazy! The bubbling
feeling comes back every time I think about it! 😀