Handy Andes by Dave Ferguson
Introduction | Bolivia | Peru | Equador | Essential Info
Bolivia is a wonderful country. The people are open and friendly, the jungle green and sweaty, the mountains white and pointy and the plains dusty and deserted. Add to this the culinary specialities of pasties and roast Llama; take away the shockingly bad wine and set it all in a volatile state (the second poorest in the western hemisphere) resulting from more military coups than any other and you have a great place to climb.
The scene is embryonic but has received significant boosts from visitors who have established the country's hardest routes. There is no climbing capital in the Huaraz vein though this allows for some interesting travelling mixed in with some breathless cranking.
Aranjuez, La Paz.
According to the locals, these are the best crags in Bolivia. They're certainly the most popular, being just twenty minutes by bus from the centre of La Paz. A series of orange crags line the sides of a bowl shaped valley in the posh Zona Sur area of the city. All routes are bolted (Petzl, Metolius and, on the odd gem, Fixe shinies) and climb conglomerate rubble of varying quality. The area was originally worked out, graded and bolted by a bunch of marauding Argentines; routes range from 4a to 8b, though most are in the 6s.
The most easily accessible sector is Amor de Dios which squats over a small football pitch of the same name. Every inch of this shiny lump has been climbed on, the harder (up to 7b) routes are ludicrously eliminate, but it's good for a work-out and is very sociable.
On the same side but further up the hill are a number of tall fins, reminiscent of Lower Sharpnose in a dusty, not nearly as good kind of way. A bit of scouting around will reveal a mixed bag of routes, the best of the bunch being El Pirate 6b+, but Las Alas Del Deseo 6a and the un-named 7a on the other side of the same fin are also worth doing. From here you can look across the valley at the final area on the opposite slope. The routes here are longer, steeper, dustier and seemed to be more susceptible to the scorching midday sun. Most of the 17 routes are in the 6c-7a+ range, though there are a couple of 8a+s.
To get to Aranjuez, get an Aranjuez, Florida or Mallasa bus (Mallasa is best) from the bottom of El Prado. Twenty minutes later you should see some big mud cliffs, so jump off at the metal bridge over the murky stream on your right (if you start going back up a hill and through some tunnels then you've gone too far). Cross the bridge (best done quickly because the river stinks) turn left and walk along the bank to Amor de Dios.
Kit (ropes, draws, harnesses et al) can be hired at various mountaineering agencies in La Paz for huge sums (~$15/day). In the same establishments you may also find the local guidebook for about $6, though you can survive without it. Chalk is hard to get hold of, locals buy little sachets of it from pharmacies, some of which are open 24hours, just in case you need a dip at 3am.
Rumi Campaña outside Oruro
According to locals this is the best crag in Bolivia. Take the blue bus marked "F" or green minibus 15 or 12 "Norte" as far as it goes, passing either the stadium or some old mines. The crag is scattered over the hill above the edge of town and consists of well-bolted lines on solid granite decorated with pockets and flakes of varying sizes. Routes range from "Facile" 5bish to a "Dificile" 8a+ courtesy of a visiting Spaniard. This achievement is even more impressive when you consider that the crag lies at over 3000m and the effect of the altitude on lowland gringo bodies is considerable.
If you are in Oruro without ropes and tackle then you have a couple of options:
- Boulder at the bottom of the crag or on the graffiti-ed boulders above the stream where this reportedly an Fr8a problem, or
- Go at the weekend and hook up with some of the really friendly local crankers who are always happy to share ropes. We went for option 2 and had completed a route within 15 minutes of arriving at the crag, something I never manage to do in Britain.
Recommended routes include: 3 nice 5+ routes on the obvious slabby wall; right of the wall is Choldsaurio, a poky 6a+; left of wall is Dedal 6b+ and Calbarrio 6a+, both excellent. On the impressive steep wall 200m south are a good 5+, strangely tricky Drockula 6c, a 7c and an improbable 8a+.
There are no climbing shops or places to rent kit in Oruro. The city is a 3-hour bus ride from La Paz so it's a feasible day trip. Other stuff to do in Oruro: not much apart from the festival on the weekend of Ash Wednesday, which has to be one of the world's wildest parties.
Cordillera Quimsa Cruz
This is where Bolivian climbers go for their holidays: the "Bolivian Yosemite". The photos I saw looked good, big mountaineery stuff so this is more suited to those on a dedicated climbing trip than the casual holiday cranker. It's bit of a git to get to, though a few articles have made it into the climbing press over the last few years.
Bouldering near Lagunas de Kari Kari
Though primarily a fantastic place to walk, the glaciated valley above Potosí does offer some worthwhile bouldering. It's a two-hour slog up the hill (remember you're at 4500masl) from Potosí main square, along Hoyos bearing right at the weird monument.
There is also a Climbing wall in Cochabamba stadium
Reportedly some excellent stuff exists in the Sajama national park on the border with Chile.
Just over the border in Chile is a little tourist village called St Pedro de Atacama where a number of outfits run climbing trips to some nearby crags. The pictures made it look pretty good though the prices were steeper than the crags.
Introduction | Bolivia | Peru | Equador | Essential Info
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