In August 2011, Matt headed to Bolivia to climb three pretty big Bolivian peaks: Pequeno Alpamayo (17,618 ft), Huyana Potosi (19,974 ft) and Illimani (21,122 ft). The team summited the peaks plus managed to get in an adventerous 64 km mountain bike ride. Also joining the climb are Matt's dad, Mike Moniz, Charley Mace (aslo acting as the official team video/photographer) and Ben Mace.
Check back here and also the Climb 7 blog for expedition updates!
August 13-15: Illimani (21,122 ft)
The team had a great day resting in La Paz - as much as a 64km bike ride is considered restful - and then headed out on Saturday morning to tackle Illimani. I got the SPOT on Saturday that they had hit base camp. Base camp is actually pretty nice. The tents are pitched on a bed of thin soft grass which makes for slightly more comfortable sleep.
On Sunday, the team headed up to high camp (SPOT here) where they hit the sack at about 6:30. They were up at 1:30 setting up and then started for the summit around 2:30 am. It was a long, technical and very cold climb. Illimani is so massive that it blocks the sun. They didn't see the sun until they summited at 8:30 am local.
From there, they headed back down to high camp - and then again down to base camp - covering about 10,000 vertical feet down. It was a very very long day of hiking.
Once again, Joel Gratz (team meterologist) came through for the team. He predicted a light 20 mph wind at the summit and clear skies - and that is nearly exactly what happened. Don't leave home without a forecast from Joel, that is the new motto.
The mules will help shoulder some of the load out of camp tomorrow back to the main village. Then a two hour ride to La Paz and the journey home begins!
Today the team continued to climb and work their way back to La Paz. When I spoke to them about 4:00 MT, they were getting ready to head to a soccer match - a local Bolivian team versus a team from Paraguay. They summited an extra peak but I wasn't able to catch the name on the phone - will publish that in tomorrow's update.
Everyone was still pretty excited about the last two days of climbing. A variety of pictures from the days are below - click on any image to enlarge and view the caption.
Tomorrow is theoretically a rest day in La Paz. To celebrate and relax, the boys have opted to take their dads on a 64 km mountain bike ride. I'm sure there will be details and stories to follow.
August 10 - Pequeno Alpamayo
At 5:00 this morning, when most of the civilized world was asleep, the team headed out from base camp for a summit attempt on Pequeno Alpamayo. Team meteorologist Joel Gratz was called in early this week for forecasts and as usual, he did not fail the team. He predicted a beautiful sunny day on the mountain and under sunny skies, the team took off.
They took their time climbing because, wow, what a climb it was. Matt said that out of all the mountains so far, this was by far number one in quality. There may be higher mountains in his retinue, but today's climbing was far and away the best.
And another first for this trip - at 10:22 this morning local time, all four teammates summited. With Pequeno Alpamayo coming in at impressive 17,618 ft, Ben Mace set a personal altitude record! Congratulations, Ben!
There is a certain exhilaration that comes from doing what you are really passionate about - and even over a rough satellite connection from base camp elevations - that joy was coming through the phone crystal clear. Today was an amazing climb.
The team left La Paz at about 7:00 this morning and headed towards the Condoriri area. The range is named because the mountains form the shape of a condor - complete with head, left wing and right wing.
I spoke to the team around 2:30 MT today. They were making camp right at the base of the Condoriri. The plan is to depart at 4:00 tomorrow morning for a summit attempt of Pequeno Alpamayo (17,618 ft). They are reacclimating the whole party after the bout of illness on Huyana Potosi. The mountain is difficult but not over-the-top. Perfect practice ground for regrouping and recovery.
August 6/7 - Huyana Potosi Summit! August 8 - Recovery Day in La Paz and the Bolivian Candelaria
The team headed up to high camp (click for SPOT location) on Saturday at 17,700. Unfortunately, they weren't able to spend the night at the camp due to space/terrain issues so they stayed at the refugio about 1,000 vft up from base camp. The hut was very small and conditions were rough. The weather was also not cooperating and there was concern if there would be an adequate summit window.
However, at 1:00 am the skies cleared and the team jumped and made the summit at 7:33 am local time. The climb was great - Huyana Potosi was much more technical than anyone had anticipated and they busted out the crampons and ice axes. Check out Matt's boots in the pictures. This was some serious terrain! Good practice for Illimani.
The real disappointment of Huyana Potosi was that one of the team went down sick and wasn't able to make the summit. Today, they are back in La Paz for some recovery time. While he recuperates, they are going to explore the Bolivian Candelaria but foremost on everyone's minds is evaluating the third peak in the expedition.
Sajama (their third destination) has some wicked "penitentes" - snow formation tsaking the form of closely spaced tall thin blades of hardened snow or ice - some up to six feet tall and solid as rock. Huyana Potosi had some penitentes, but apparently nothing like Sajama's. While penitentes are part and parcel of Andes climbing, Sajama's are particularly challenging this year.
Until the decision is made, the expedition will continue on with only a few changes. Tomorrow the team is going to head back up towards Pequeno Alapamayo to maintain acclimation and finish recovering. Then it is onwards to Illimani.
The team spent the day acclimating by moving up to Base Camp and tooling around with hikes to just under 17,000 feet. The weather is snowy and cold and fortunately base camp is a small hut appropriately named "Refugio Casa Blanca." They are with a German team and at the time of the sat call, Matt and Ben were collecting Deutsche marks handily won at a game of Hearts. Everyone is acclimating well with no signs of AMS. Moods were great.
Tomorrow, the burros will meet the team at Base Camp to haul the gear (the team will hike) up to High Camp at 17,700. The trek will be about two hours. They will catch whatever sleep they can before heading out for a 3:00 am summit start on Sunday.
The team continues to acclimate in Copacabana. They happen to be there during the week of the celebration of the Virgen de Copacabana plus Bolivian independence day. The town is full of pilgrams paying homage to the statue of the Virgin, praying at the stations of the cross on the mountain and locals and Peruvians making offerings and partying like crazy. Oh, and all of this being done at 14,400 feet.
Tomorrow the team plans to head up to Huayana Potosi (19,968 ft) where they will hike out to their first base camp at 15,700 feet. The plan is to spend the night acclimating and then moving to high camp on Saturday at 17,700 feet. This is where they will truly feel the altitude for the first time - a successful night here is critical to the whole trip. They are aiming for summit on Sunday.
Below are some pictures from Copacabana and Lake Titicaca. You can see the mountain range to which they are headed in the picture of the Inca ruins behind the stone face. (Click on the images to make them larger)
August 3 - Copacabana
The team arrived safely in chilly La Paz this morning with most of their gear. I say "most of the gear" as one key bag of Charley's gear has been "delayed" by the airlines. We are on pins and needles waiting for the call that the bag has arrived.
In the meantime, the team headed off to Lake Titicaca (3,278m/12,628 ft). The Land Cruiser heat failed leaving them in 20F temps in only summer clothes. Bundled in sleeping bags, they made it to the hotel in Copacabana to wait for the luggage and explore.
In a note giving immediate perspective, Matt wrote that at one point they realized they need to just breathe.
"We're driving at 13K feet," he said. "The bumps next to us are 14ers!" Fourteeners are the highest peaks in Colorado and where he's been acclimating for the last week.
Sunrise on the Andes was surreal - jagged and massive shadows and light. Photos to be posted soon.
The team had a great first day in Bolivia. They spent the day acclimating to the high altitudes (12,500-13,500 ft). Everyone is feeling strong and there are no signs of AMS.
They are staying the shores of Lake Titicaca here in Copacabana. Normally this is a sleepy mountain hamlet but with uncanny timing they hit the busiest celebration of the year - Festival of Independence of Bolivia and to visit the Virgin Mary at the cathedral.
Tomorrow they will continue getting adjusted to the altitude and prepare to move to their first base camp in the Cordillera Real to stage for Pequeno Alpamayo.