Mountain Fellowship Fund Recipient Lynnea Anderson reports back on her successful trip to Bolivia. She found bomber cracks, total choss, and a whole lot of adventure. Read her report below!
After all the usual hassles of overweight and oversized baggage, and of just making the many connections on the long trip from Yosemite, we arrived in the Cordillera Quisma Cruz range just as the wet season was ending and winter was beginning.
We were psyched with the relatively short two mile hike into Laguna Blanca, which is where we set up our base camp. We had spent the entire previous day in a jeep coming up from La Paz, at about 11,500 feet, to about 14,200 feet. Then we each had to hump two 100 plus pound packs and one 50 pound pack up to 14,700 feet, needless to say we got worked. When we got everything to Laguna Blanca I spent the next couple of days eating ciproflaxen like candy, and using a month worth of toilet paper in order to counteract the affects of something I ate in La Paz.
After living no longer seemed like such a bad idea, we humped a load into Mocaya Valley, which is about 15,700 feet. There is no water where we bivied so we only brought up enough supplies for about a week. However that was enough time to do what we are pretty sure is a first ascent on The Big Wall. When we got to the base of what we feel is the most obvious line, we saw slings about 150 feet up. But we decided that since it was such a beautiful line that we would climb it anyway. After following some low angle slabs I got to an old anchor consisting of a pin and a tied off horn. Donny started leading the next pitch and about 30 feet up he came to three old style Austrian pins that had all been tied off, appearing to be a bail point. Above there we saw no further evidence of the route having been climbed. On that pitch there is about a 20 foot section of rock that is poor quality and both Donny and I took 30 foot whippers. The 3rd pitch follows a gorgeous left facing, left leaning orangish gold corner system for about 160 feet. The 4th pitch starts off in the same corner which then turns into a water groove, that is about shoulder width wide and almost 3 feet deep. However the same crack that we followed from the start of the 2nd pitch goes up the back of the groove. The 4thpitch ends on a ledge after about a 170 feet. From there the top is another 185 feet of broken climbing with occasional 5.8ish moves. Because the crack we followed was somewhat dirty and also rotten in a couple of places, the going was really slow. Climbing at 16,000 feet was also probably a factor in our speed. Each lead took about 5 hours. But three and a half of those hours were spent cleaning placements then trying to cry the dirt out of our eyes and sneeze it out of our noses. Because of the slow going we debated about going back to Laguna Blanca and getting the portaledge but decided not to because the wall is only about 800 feet. So every night we rapped down and then in the morning we would jug back up to our high point
After finishing the route we walked back down to Laguna Blanca and took a couple of rest days. Then we hiked back to Mocaya Valley for another week. Our intentions where to climb a spire called Penis Pinnacle, then go to the next valley east and climb Cuernous de Diablo, hopefully doing another 1st ascent. However the best laid plans sometimes change. Penis Pinnacle is an established, super well-bolted sport climb. In the first 25 feet there are six bolts. So the words run out, sporty, and dangerous are not really going through your head. However, I managed to find a loose hold, stand on it and have it break. My first thought when my ankle hit the horn was not very lady like. After hanging on the end of the rope for a couple of moments I was able to make my way back to the belay, so I was pretty sure I had not broken my ankle. But that was the end of my climbing for the trip. A few days later I played belay slave for Donny on a couple of single pitch crack climbs above our bivy. I was happy not to be sitting around base camp, let alone making Donny sit around base camp. Then we hiked back to Laguna Blanca, actually I should say Donny hiked, I gimped.
When we got back to base camp our adventure continued; my stove broke, one of the canisters for Donnys’ stove was defective, and all 5 of the cigarette lighters used for lighting those stoves broke. It was after our lighters broke that we realized our waterproof matches were safe at home. So, since I could not gimp my way through the talus fields to get to the climbing, we hiked to Viloco. From there we called our ride to be picked up early, bought lighters and food that was not rice or granola. We had decided by that point that uncooked rice was not quite gourmet enough for us.
Mocaya Valley has lots of potential, though I would recommend going in the Bolivian spring rather than the winter. We did not get to check out the next valley north, which supposedly has had no development. Directly north of The Big Wall there are a lot of formations that are up to about 500 feet with beautiful splitter cracks. The problem was, besides my gimp ankle, that in the sun it would be about 80 degrees, and in the shade about 25. Since we were there in the winter, the north side of the valley only saw the sun for about an hour every morning. So the snow that fell during the wet season was not melting and the cracks and ledges all had snow and ice. The winters are dry though, so I would imagine that when spring comes and those formations start to get the sun they would be very climbable.
I would like to give a lot of thanks to the American Alpine Club not only for the grant they were so kind to give me but also for their support through all my pretrip changes. Even though our trip did not work out exactly as planned we had a great time and would like to say thank you very much for helping make it happen!!!!