Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Quimsa Cruz

Ever since we moved to Bolivia, I have wanted to make a trip to the Quimsa Cruz.  Located south of Illimani, it holds a paradise of granite rock climbing.  Finally, the weather and my schedule allowed a four day trip.  Roberto Rauch, a regular feature on this blog, and Gregg Beisly, a new friend from New Zealand, came with me. 

We left early Saturday.  The Quimsa Cruz extends to the right of Illimani in this photo:

It is possible to take a bike:

Or a bus:

Or fly, Carlos Castenada style:

We chose to drive.  The way passes several villages on a road that is paved at first:

We make a wide traverse around Illimani from north to south along the west side:

After about two hours, we leave the paved road and then pass Gigante Grande, at 18,700' the highest peak in the Quuimsa Cruz, after an hour on the dirt road.  Both of the two obvious ice routes have been climbed.  The left looks really good:

The dirt road is quite good but long:

Sajama, a volcano on the Bolivia/Chile border and the highest point in Bolivia, is visible to the west:

One of the many churches in this area:

The south face of Illimani is one of the longest climbs in the world:

In the mining town of Viloco, this mural exhibits some less than subtle imagery in its details:

The view from base camp:

Looks promising, but the best climbing is actually out of sight above:

Getting ready to set up camp:

We had enough time to visit La Escuela de Las Viscachas where Roberto attacked this innocuous looking bolted climb.  It turns out that it is rated 8a (5.13b) which explains our difficulties in climbing it:

Roberto tries hard but the route was harder than us:

We leave camp the next morning not long after sunrise.  The hike to the pass from our base camp at about 13,700' to around 15,700' was exhausting but we were rewarded for the effort.  Greg checks out Los Cuernos del Diablo (17,300'): 

A few minute later, Gregg checks out El Obelisco de Aracas and La Flama to its right.  We would climb La Flama in five pitches.

Trying to get oriented using the sparsely detailed guide book:

Part of Muralla Grande with potential routes around six pitches (900' or so) long:

Roberto casts a glance towards Illimani's south face where he has made several first ascents:

Nice cracks that are apparently unclimbed:

Getting closer to the day's climbing goal, I really start to feel the fatigue and elevation:

Looking through the pass at El Obelisco down to the Yungas:

Roberto leads the first pitch of La Flama:

Here he is passing an awkward but easy offwidth section on the third pitch:

A photo at the one foot wide summit:

Los Cuernos looks fun:

This peak adjoins Los Cuernos but we had no information about it at all: 

This group of formations appears to have no names and no recorded ascents:

El Obelisco in the late afternoon sun:

On the way back to camp:

As far as we know, there is only one route to the top of Gran Muralla:

Not sure if the fingers of rock above La Flama have had ascents:

Nothing about this formation either:

Gregg looks for Roberto who had taken a detour to check out Gran Muralla while we pushed on towards camp:

A panorama from the pass leading back to camp:

Los Cuernos in the fading light:

Still 2,000' to descend to camp and dinner:

In the morning, we wake to some local llamas taking a sand bath on the football field:

Other than a few miners and the area caretaker and his wife, we saw no one for four days.  Home sweet home:

Gregg left before first light and made a huge solo traverse of Los Cuernos and two other peaks before returning to La Escuala de Las Viscachas where Roberto and I had made six new sport routes.  Gregg looks none the worse for wear after his big day out:

We finished the last of the six new routes just as the sun set:

So beautiful:

Los tres amigos y el perrito del campo en la ultima manana:

Spectacular scenery abounds on the way back to La Paz:

Another church:

An abandoned mine by the side of the road:

Illimani is everywhere:

Just past the mining town of Viloco:

Quimsa Cruz was amazing but my peeps need me at home, too:

I can't wait to return to Quimsa Cruz.  The climbing exceeded my rather high expectations and I hope to make a few first ascents there this season between other goals for the climbing season in the mountains.  Roberto and Gregg were great partners and I am sure I can convince them to return with me soon.