Sunday, November 4, 2012

Bloqueando 2012!

Last weekend, I attended El Club Vertigo's 2012 Bloqueando held in the Valle de Challkupunku about 3 hours from La Paz towards the Chilean border.  In Bolivia, a Bloqueando is a climbers' gathering.  It's a play on the words "bloque" which can mean boulder and the verb "bloquear" which means to block and gives rise to the word "bloqueo" which is a popular form of Bolivian social protest where aggrieved citizens block the roads with boulders or burning tires and anything else handy and don't let traffic pass until they get some sort of satisfaction from the authorities.

But before I get to the climbing, we attempted to celebrate Halloween but a hard cold rain somewhat dampened the spirits of three ballerinas and a vampire: 

The rain didn't seem to disturb our local ghosts:

Or AnnaMaria's collection of Monster High dolls:

AM's room:

I made some vital preparations in the days before the Bloqueando, including a fine batch of banana elixir:

At last, the bouldering began.  Julio takes on a moderate problem near the camp:

Jorgi takes a breather between problems.  Challkupunku is around 13,000' which you can feel on the longer problems for sure.

Enjoying the summit:

That pad is looking pretty tiny from the exit moves:

Marco and Jorgi celebrate the end of day one:

Lots of interesting features on the volcanic rock:

Miles and miles of boulders:

Boulders as far as you can see:

The bonfire after the movies:

In the morning, Roberto was nearly carried off by a Bolivian rock dinosaur:

Red Bull sponsored the event:

Jorgi and our camping area:

Jorgi warms up on an easy traverse:

Roberto shows us how it is done:

Jorgi contemplates the start:

Focusing on the crux:

Celebrating the send:

I think Roberto is out of range for that crash pad:

Jorgi again:

Going for the exit stage right:

Plenty of tall easy problems:

Jorgi looks like an old hand at this bouldering business:

I happened upon Jeff sending this harder problem:

Latching the crux hueco and trying to minimize the swing:

Just a few more moves:


On day 2, Jorgi and I conked out after a few dozen problems:

Plenty of cool wind erosions:

Sajama, the highest mountain in Bolivia, presides over the bouldering area from afar:

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Vamos a ver . . .

El Ascenso al Cielo por el Camino de la Muerte is a bike race that goes from about 4,000' to about 15,500' over 63 kilometers.  "We'll see" was my standard reply to how I thought I would manage in the race up the Death Road.  It finishes here:

On the way to Coroico, we met another group of racers at the Cumbre.  We stared at the bikes for a while:

Trucha (trout) in Pongo with Kevin and Ariel.  What could be better?:

Kevin's cabanas:

Bananas at the cabanas:

Our accommodations:

Slack lining by the pool:

The veranda:

Bird watching was most extreme:

The pre-race banquet in progress:

Morning from the cabanas:

The 159 racers set off in groups of 20-30 from 6:00 to 8:00 when the elites began.  Staggered starts is a great way to run a race like this.  I started at 6:50.  Next year, I might start earlier to avoid totally the sun at the bottom.

Feeling the Jesus love:

The unpaved portion goes from about 4,000' to about 11,000'.  It's not too steep but it wears on you:

Trying to follow the plan:

Just about to the tarmac.  The last two kilometers of loose rocks are the worst but you know you get pavement next so that's sort of motivational:

The paved section ascends almost 5,000' more to La Cumbre and the Jesus statue:

Cold rain started but it didn't last too long:

Instead, it turned to sleet:

And then snow.  Having a big tent with gas warmers at the finish was a good idea:

A little windy too:

In your face to the end, a suitable finish for this race:

Plenty of medical help available:

Aaron warms his feet:

La Cumbre:

Looking back down the paved section:

Roberto and Jesus:

After a few hours, the snow stopped:

The Gold Medal winners:

Ariel and I display the hardware:

I was third in my age group (45-55) out of 42 and fifteenth overall out of 159.  The two guys ahead of me in the age group were 3rd and 6th overall.  The gold medal was for finishing within an age-graded time.  I was about hour ahead of the gold medal time limit in six hours and 21 minutes.

It was a pretty big day for me.  Not as bad as the SM100 or Wilderness 101 but quite a bit harder than anything else I can think of.  There were very few sections where you weren't riding uphill so you don't get the periodic breaks from descents like most mtb races.  Also, the elevation just gets worse and worse until the end.

Here the link to the race:

Also, if going downhill is more your thing.  There's that in La Paz as well:

Can't wait for next year.