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12.6.2006 - Illimani, or how to ski down the trone of gods...

12.6.2006 - Sajama - 6542m

5.6.2006 - Rejected in Cordillera Apalobamba...

28.5.2006 - Las Payachatas - the twins burning hearts


Illimani, or how to ski down the trone of gods...

A long long time ago...

before the big flood that destroyed the life on earth, acording to Inca and Aymara tales, only the Gods, ghosts and giants inhabited these lands.

The greatest of these gods - almighty Viracocha was looking looking disgusted at the arogant and bad giant Mururata from the trone of gods - the summit of Illimani mountain... Mururat's badness was so big, that Viracocha, screaming "Sarjama" - ("disapear!" in Aymara language), shot off Mururatas head with a shot from his sling. The shot beheaded Mururata and his head fell far away from its place, into the deserted lands of Altiplano and it became Sajama - the highest mountain of Bolivia...

During the 2004 expedition, mine and Miro´s skiing eager eyes were looking fascinated at the slopes of 6462m high Illimani after hearing this tale. This sacred mountains guards the La Paz valley and its moonlit snow-covered faces illuminate the dark and cold southamerican nights. Being fascinated by this mountain for so long, the choice of what was the next-to-ski objective was indisputable.

On Saturday (June 3) , we arive to La Paz after the withdrawal from Apalobamba range due to the bad weather... With help of our friend Hugo Berrios from Huayna Potosi Agency, we reserve transportation to Illimani area for the Sunday morning. The driver picks us up at 6am on Sunday and via a dirtroad in steep walls of the La Paz Canyon, we approach to Estancia Una village. No phone, some 40 houses, one store with basics but what is more important, arrieros with donkeys can be rented here. The same day, we are getting to the basecamp underneath the south (the highest) summit of Illimani. The life arround is busy - stock feeding on the grassy meadows, people conducting their agricultural chores - the time stopped here. From the village at 3600m, we moved to base camp at 4600 being surrounded by amazing views of the glaciers and steep faces of Illimani massif. The mountain hypntizes. Illimani is a magical massif consisting of 5 summits, huge icefalls and beautiful rocky ridges - definitely one of the most fotogenic mountains I have ever seen in Bolivia.

After packing up in the morning, we set out for the Nido de Condores - a highcamp situated in 5560m on a beautiful flat icefield on the ridge leading to the south summit. The views are breathtaking - summits and glaciers of Illimani, Huayna potosi and lago Titicaca to the north, Sajama and the Payachatas volcanoes to the northeast... Before the sunset, we manage to bring offerings to Apu Illimani...

It is Tueseday, June 5 and the alarm clock wakes us up at 4:45. Miro hasitates to wake up as usual, so our doctor Miso takes the fortune in his hands and cooks some tea and Millupa. At 6:30, the way up begins. Seracs continue collapsing into the valley accompanied by loud sounds, that we could hear the whole night. Luckily, our route is not exposed to their fall... We continue up the ridge until getting to the bottom of the summit wall, which is quite crevassed. Negotiating numerous crevasses, we make our way up to the summit ridge to finally reach the 6462m tall south summit at 11am...

Couple of hadshakes and photos and the ski descent can begin (Durco goes by feet as he left the skies in la Paz not being satisfied with the way the "snowruns" were prepared on the previous mountains:-)).

The snow quality is surprisingly good... something between firn and powder mixed up with junks of ice:-) Couple of icy fields and crevasses require some additional awareness but everything goes well and this is really the best skiing of the expedition. We descent to the highcamp, put the tents down and leave the big packs for the porters who carry them down whilst we are skiing down the last part of the glacier until we take the skis off at 5100m.

The evening down at Estancia Una is in medieval style:-) The locals prepared a Cordero (lamb) on the grill and it is served together with potatoes and OKA (sweet potato like vegetable) in big pots on the ground. No cutlery, pure hand style plus lots of beers create the hard earned prize for our previous efforts. We share the food with our porters and jump into our sleeping bags for a night under the starlit skies... Illimani watches our good night sleep and the dreams about ski turns somewhere high upthere, where the air is thin, the snow is powdery and the sun does not burn your nose:-)

Thank you, Apu Illimani.

Posted at: 12.6.2006

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