Bolivia is a land of vivid colour, the variety and intensity of which is instantly remarkable upon arrival at El Alto. Whether it is deep blue sky, the snow-capped peaks or the rainbow costumes of the 26 de Mayo Fiesta del Gran Poder, all is clear and bright.
Not an obvious ski destination, Bolivia did have the highest ski lift in the world at 5379m Chacaltaya. It was also the closest to the Equator. Sadly climate change has removed the glacier there and the lifts have not worked in 10 years or more. The ‘resort’ is worth a visit and the peaks around give an easy day’s acclimatisation – on foot.
John Biggar probably knows more about the mountains of South America than anyone who has ever lived. Using his local knowledge we initially set up camp at 4700m in the Khara Kota valley. We spent a week there and summited five 5000m peaks. The snow and skiing were good though the approach walks are lengthening year on year due to the relentless recession of the glaciers.
We then took a chance on skiing the beautiful 6348m Volcan Parinacota. We carried our skis in the dark to the snow line only to find that the sun had created penitentes since our recce two weeks previously. The summit was therefore done on foot.
Ski mountaineering without transceiver, shovel or probe on avalanche free snow with perfect sunshine and cloudless skies. Bolivia. What’s not to like?