Bolivia Climber - My Perfect Trip?
By: Sulphonamide, posted
Not normally given to this sort of malarky, but the Bolivia Climber was such a splendid trip that it deserved comment of some sort (and I couldn't work out how to write a review). Apart from that, my previous trip with another company warranted a scathing review which was rapidly removed by the company involved - so I should be fair and publicise the good times too.
I may consider myself a hardened mountaineer, but the reality is I do rather like my creature comforts - hence this trip was probably just about perfect for me. It had three fantastic mountains, which should be enough to satisfy most lesser mortals (Illimani at 6438ish and the highly-entertaining Pequeno Alpamayo) but also had its share of luxury and relaxation. OK, it might not really be what you go on these trips for, but how often can you climb a 6000er (Huayna Potosi) and then still have a fantastic meal and stay in a 5* hotel. The food in La Paz (La Comedie in our case) was genuinely superb - with mountaineer-sized quantities to match the quality. Likewise, the hotel in Copacabana (glass wall in the bathroom so you could lie in the bath and still watch the boats on Titicaca) was like nothing I had ever stayed in. The walk across the spine of Isola Del Sol was a lovely start to any holiday and chugging across the Lake on the top of the boat was pure soul food. Speaking of food, the cook did wonders - the biggest of which was not making me ill a single time (there is probably no higher accolade from my constitution of balsa wood). We had less work to do than expected, the porters carrying our climbing gear and sleeping bags (rather than just the tents) up to high camps - some may have felt hard-done by, but are holidays really meant to be about suffering?
The mountains themselves and the scenery were an absolute joy - OK we got lucky with the weather, apart from a couple of snowy days it was generally beautiful, and it presumably has been less pleasant for other groups. We also got lucky with the timing - 24 hrs later and I believe the cloudy / snowy conditions would not have allowed us to get up Illimani. Whether the trip was challenging enough is down to personal opinion: if looking for something really hard-core, then possibly you might be disappointed; on the other hand, I acclimatised very poorly, found it exceptionally tough and was as astonished as the guide when I got up Illimani (having previously hit the wall on the final steps up Potosi). Not sure if this could be a small gripe at the itinerary or purely my encroaching dotage. A second slightly negative comment might relate to how positive the brochure is about the conditions - one gets the impression that it will be sunny and the snow will be perfect, but in reality it is far from reliable and seems to involve a precarious balance between wind and ice (with clear skies) on one hand and good snow (with the risk of bad weather from above). We got lucky, but I note that other diaries seem to end after Huayna Potosi has been climbed - mentioning that they are off to do Illimani but never trumpeting the ensuing success.
The only problem I have now is the knowledge that probably nothing else like this trip exists - anything else I do will probably have to be less challenging mountains or much much less comfortable.