Ancohuma & Illampu Expedition


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May-June 2010
by private arrangement
23 days
La Paz to La Paz


Booking info

Maximum Ratio
2 climbers per guide

See also:
Peru programs

more photos!The northern extremity of Bolivia's Cordillera Real is often compared to the Cordillera Blanca of Peru, with great vertical relief and steep fluted snow and ice faces. Ancohuma and Illampu are the highest peaks in this area, and offer some of the most difficult and rewarding climbing in Bolivia. Illampu is easily the most challenging 6000 meter peak in the country.

Climbing on Pico Schultz
On Pico Schulze

Our route on Ancohuma, the higher of the two at 21,081 feet, follows a beautiful snow and ice arête up the north side of the peak. We climb from the Sorata side, first to beautiful Laguna Glaciar, and then up a series of higher camps. The lower sections of the climb are not difficult. On summit day we have a number of options and our choice of routes will depend on conditions, and interests and abilities of the group. All routes involve some moderately steep and belayed climbing.

Illampu, 20,867 feet, is climbed from a glacial basin on its north side. We will need to move our base camp after our ascent of Ancohuma. Though it is possible to move from Ancohuma Base Camp directly to Illampu Base Camp, we feel that descending to Sorata to rest is worth the additional time required. If weather or other factors dictate, we can continue directly to Illampu after Ancohuma. After moving up to a high camp on Illampu we can make our summit attempt. The first challenge is a steep snow and ice face leading to a high col to the north of the peak. From here we follow an airy snow ridge, with a few steep steps to the pointed summit.

Illampu is a difficult climb, requiring many belayed pitches and steep and occasionally exposed climbing on the upper ridge.

Illampu and star tracks
Illampu and stars

Our program begins with three days of acclimatization activities In La Paz and on the Altiplano, exploring Lake Titicaca and the ancient cultures which have their roots in this fascinating area.

On our first full day we visit the pre-Incaic ruins of Tiahuanacu. This site displays advanced stone masonry comparable to that of the much later Incas. The ornate and highly decorated ruins are located some distance from the shores of Lake Titicaca, leading archeologists to believe that a lowering of the lake level contributed to the mysterious disappearance of their culture.

We spend the early part of our trip on Lake Titicaca, exploring the beautiful town of Copacabana and Isla del Sol.

On the third day we drive north to the jumping-off point for our climbs, the village of Sorata at the northern end of the Cordillera Real. Sorata is located below the level of the Altiplano on the eastern slope of this high plain. At an elevation of 8850 feet it is warm and lush, offering a brief respite from the more severe Altiplano climate. We continue driving around the north end of the Cordillera Real to the tiny village of Cocoyo where we'll begin our trek into Ancohuma base camp

On our approach to our base camps the bulk of our gear will be carried by burros in the lower sections and porters when the going gets steeper. Above base camp we will be carrying our own equipment.

As these are two technically challenging climbs at high altitude, participants should be in excellent physical condition, have previous climbing experience above 18,000 feet, be comfortable on ice up to 65 degrees in steepness, and be quite familiar with belay and rappel techniques.

Climbers need to be in excellent physical condition, and have significant experience climbing technical ice. They should be comfortable following up to water ice grade 3. Previous high altitude experience to at least 16,000 is required.

Illampu and Laguna Glaciar
Illampu and Laguna Glaciar
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Ancohuma from Illampu summit
Ancohuma seen from Illampu summit
photo info


Illampu & Ancohuma Expedition Itinerary
Day 0

Arrive in La Paz, Bolivia.

Day 1

Day trip to the ruins of Tiahuanacu - pre-Incaic ruins on the shores of lake Titicaca. We continue on to the lakeside town of Copacabana for the night.

Day 2

Visit Isla del Sol on lake Titicaca with a scenic boat ride. Return to Copacabana.

Day 3

Drive to Sorata, a beautiful town at the northern end of the Cordillera Real.

Day 4

From Sorata we begin our two day trek to Ancohuma Base Camp. Starting in the lush and semitropical warmth of Sorata we gradually climb to Laguna Colani, a beautiful lake perched high above the valley. We use burros to carry our equipment.

Day 5

On our second day of trekking we are joined by porters. The way becomes more difficult and the burros can no longer negotiate the steep terrain. We arrive at Base Camp on Laguna Glaciar, a high mountain lake in a giant cirque. Ancohuma lies to the South with Pico Schulze and Illampu to the north and northeast respectively.

Day 6

Rest and acclimatize in base camp.

Day 7

Move up to Camp 1 at the edge of the gentle glacier leading to the upper slopes of Ancohuma.

Day 8

Move up to a high camp on the glacial plateau northwest of the summit at about 18,400'.

Day 9

Summit and return to high camp.

Day 10

Second summit day as needed.

Day 11

Descend to base camp.

Day 12 Trek out to Sorata. This is a long walk, but with an early start we can arrive in Sorata in the late afternoon.
Day 13

Rest and relax in Sorata.

Day 14 Trek to Lakathiya, a cute little town nestled in a high valley in the foothills of the Ancohuma massif
Day 15

Trek to Illampu Base Camp, crossing the high Huila Khota pass and descending to a small plain where we establish our Base Camp for Illampu.

Day 16

Move up to Camp 1. If we are feeling energetic we can continue directly up to High Camp.

Day 17

Continue up to High Camp in the glacial basin below the NW Face of Illampu.

Day 18

Recon the lower section of the ice face on Illampu. If there is some risk of rockfall in the afternoon, we may choose to fix about 500 feet of rope to facilitate a quick descent by rappel on our summit climb.

Day 19

Summit climb of Illampu

Day 20 Extra summit day.
Day 21 Descend to Base Camp.
Day 22 With an early start we recross the Huila Khota pass and walk all the way to Sorata.
Day 23 Drive back to La Paz, a 4-hour trip.
Day 24

Depart La Paz for US.


Illampu from Picl Schultz summit
photo info

Kathy Cosley & Mark Houston
UIAGM Internationally Licensed Mountain Guides

AMGA Certified • SNGM members
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