Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Skiing Charquini

I finally went skiing in Bolivia.  It's the rainy season so the mountains are getting to their yearly maximum snowpack.  Unfortunately, that also means that it is rarely clear at elevation.  Nevertheless, we picked a day when the weather on Charquini, a 17,500' peak with a mostly crevasse free glacier, was supposed to be clear.

We left my house at 6:30 am and made it smoothly through La Paz before rush hour.  For me, the driving is always the psychological crux of a Bolivian adventure.  The big truck going downhill gets the right of way:

Getting ready in the parking lot at 15,500':

Not blue bird but not raining either:

It looked like the glacier was just over the small hillock shown below.  In fact, the moraine seemed to go up and up forever.  I'm ready to start the walk uphill:

Roberto chose to wear his ski boots:

The moraine looks like it has been plowed here:

The weather starts to roll in as we get higher:

Finally, we reach the toe of the glacier:

The snow was hard.  We had expected some powder given how much we thought it had snowed in recent week.  Not much to say about the ascent, except I couldn't see a thing most of the time and it started to snow.  We skied uphill to where the snow ended and a short rock scramble led to the summit.  Here's Roberto at the top of the glacier.  He looks happy despite the conditions:

I wasn't too happy about the conditions but it certainly could have been worse.  Me getting cold in the snow and wind:

The descent was interesting.  I couldn't see anything and, at times, couldn't even tell if I was moving or not, much less where the fall line was.  The conditions made turning more challenging than usual.  Here's a shot from the descent when it cleared up a bit so you could vaguely sense of the rock walls at the edge of the glacier but not much else:

The whiteout, and repeatedly turning in it, made me sick.  Of course, the weather cleared as soon as we got to the end of the snow:

The skiing would have been a lot more fun in the clearer conditions.  Looking back up from where we came:

Neither of us had the energy for another run.  So it was time to walk back to the car which is in the patch of gravel beyond the end of the moraine:

More walking:

The weather closed in again so I didn't feel so bad about leaving after one run.  Roberto negotiates the slope in some light snow:

Happy to see the car:

Life at altitude isn't easy:

But apparently the viscachas are thriving.  Those round things aren't rocks:

The creek didn't rise too much:

You can see the glacier up and left of the car:

Buses get the right of way, too:

The miners' cemetery near Milluni:

Huyani Potosi is mostly hidden in the clouds which is typical for the rainy season:

I see you over there Tiquimani:

Lake Titicaca:

La Paz and El Alto come into view:

Down, down, down we go:

Into downtown La Paz and eventually home by 2:30 pm:

It is a lot of work to go skiing in Bolivia but I think it is worth it for the adventure and look forward to another ski trip soon.

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