Huayna Potosi is advertised as the easiest 6000m peak in the world, which is a little disheartening considering it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
La Paz, the capital of Bolivia, is one of the highest capital cities in the world sitting at 3640m above sea level. Surrounding the already high city is an array of peaks most sitting at, or above, 5500m. It’s hard to walk down the main tourist strip in La Paz without seeing signs for Huayna Potosi. Ever since Colombia, when other travellers had told me about this challenging climb, I had my sights set on climbing Huayna.
Our agency of choice was “High Camp Lodge” and as they themselves told us, it’s best to book your tour the day before your climb (unless you’re there in high season) as many people get sick in La Paz (cooking hygiene isn’t the best) and the climb is weather dependant. The 3 day tour cost us 1000 Bolivianos. You also have an option for a 2 day tour, which cuts out the first day of ice climbing practise, but since we were all novices, we opted for the 3 day tour. Very glad we did.
The first day began at 9am from the tour office, where our gear, which we tried on the day before, was waiting along with our guides and the transport. The drive to Base Camp is a bumpy 3 hour trip out of La Paz Central. After an early lunch we put on ALL our ice climbing gear and began the one hour walk to our practise glacier climb.
This was a super fun afternoon of climbing and falling. Alot.
After everyone had had enough practise, and//or couldn’t continue from exhaustion (it happens trust me), we walked back down to camp.
Day 2: today is a bit of a slow day. Really all you have to do is walk to high camp, at around 5130m, which takes around 2-3 hours depending on the speed you walk. But because your getting up at 11:30pm to start your summit attempt, it’s good to have a day just to relax. The morning was dedicated to eating both breakfast and lunch, packing and relaxing before the walk. After the short walk, the afternoon was spent playing cards and eating a very early dinner, before getting into bed at around 6:30 in attempt to get some rest before the climb.
Day 3: The summit day! (Aka the hardest day of my life). This night was honestly a bit of a painful blur. I woke up with an upset stomach, which wasn’t the most ideal start by any means. So with nothing but a tea fuelling me and a gurgling tummy, we suited up, doubled checked everything and headed out into the night.
Side note: for people like me with pee anxiety, AKA if I can’t go to the bathroom I’ll instantly need to, know that the clothes you wear can be extremely triggering. We were so kitted up, that trying to pee would involved taking off almost everything, which would not only took a long time, but also would expose important parts to the elements. Needless to say this caused great anxiety and also meant I was intentionally trying not to drink, because the thought of needing to pee, was just too much. DONT do this. So Stupid. Just Drink. Trust me, just do it.
Anywayyyy…The next 4.5hrs consisted of looking at your own feet, trying not to fall over, trying to catch your breath and fighting every urge in your body to turn around, because WTF are you even doing?!?
About 2 hours or so into the climb (who really knows I was so delirious), there is a vertical, like seriously vertical, ascent that you have to climb with nothing but your head light to guide you. This almost broke me. It was so challenging, slippery and just plain hard, that it literally took everything in me to make it up this god-dam-thing. Thankfully there is only really one of these, with every other technical climb being slightly easier than this first hurdle.
But despite the pain and discomfort, getting to the top for sunrise is soooo worth it!!! There are literally no words to describe the feeling of standing at 6080m, high above the clouds and surrounding peaks, watching as the night sky turns pink as the sun rises. It was the BEST thing I’ve ever done!!