2006 Apolobamba Expedition
Expedition Preparations and Planning
I wonder if there is ever sufficient time to train for an expedition such as this when one works for a living in a job that requires travel and/or long work hours. Unfortunately, both of have such an arrangement and to be honest, my preparation for this trip was not adequate. My primary effort was biking 10 miles per day to work in an effort to keep the ski legs that I incurred so many falls in acquiring. G and I skied a number of 13k peaks over the last half of the winter but could not schedule a single steep snow climb to prepare for this trip. We paddle 50+ miles of the Green River in Utah, including an 18 mile hike through a back section of Canyonlands National Park in early June and we climbed McHenry's Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park in late June. Outside of these pursuits, our mid July departure came all to fast.
We've done enough of these trips to have most of the necessary gear on hand already. I satisfied a months long infatuation with Black Diamond's new Venom ice axe and purchased one to try on this trip in lieu of taking both of my BD Shrike axes. I also left my standard alpine axe home, taking one Shrike and the Venom and realizing a 1/2 pound savings in climbing weight.
We both swapped out older helmets for the new 8 oz. Petzl models. It was a good move as we hardly knew we were wearing helmets and it shaved another 6 ounces off the load our legs would have to carry on any climb.
I think we both took a hard look at other gear as well and I was able to shave some more weight off by leaving home items that 3 three trips to South America told me I would not likely use. For example, I have not used Gore tex bibs since 2001, I have not used my heavy balaclava in about as long (instead I use a combination of light balaclava, hood on down jacket, and neck gaiter), I hate using fleece pants and I don't have a problem with stinky long underwear. I took into account that there is a good grocery store in La Paz and I left all but the minimum load ofCliff bars at home and took along 24 Goo's. Every other food item would have to be found in La Paz. In the end, I was able to reduce my load to one carry-on bag and one heavy duffle bag, i.e. one less bag to carry through the airports.
The Expedition Plan:
The is not a great deal of information available about the Apolobamba, therefore putting a firm plan together before you leave home is a bit of a challenge. We spoke with Dr. Berrios who is familiar with both the northern and southern Apolobamba and combined his list of suggested climbs with a review of the routes shown in the Yossi Brain book. We were not really interested in the "guidebook" climbs so the general trekking routes and peak photos showing a plethora of surrounding mountains told us to "go and wander"
We gave thought to peaks around Katanika as well as those to the south of Pelechuco and came to two conclusions, firstly that we would have time for only one of the two options and secondly that this trip could very easily turn into a two week reconaissance that yielded no summits. Given the recon angle, we chose to start in Pelechuco and end in Charazani. Once we had a route between a drop off point and a pick up point, we looked at peaks to climb along the way and broke the climbs into two halves, the Cololo vicinity and the Cuchillo vicinity. We knew that these peaks did not stand alone without neighbors, so we figured to use the base camps for these two "guidebook" climbs as the starting point for whatever adjoining peaks or routes caught our fancy. We did not know what was available but figured our worse case was a climb of Cuchillo and an attempt of Cololo. We also envisioned that we might stay in one camp for the duration of the trip if the routes were promising or pick the brain of the arriero to determine if some other nearby peaks were climbing possibilities.
We were able to proof our expedition plan to a minimal extent after an acquaintance of G's provided a portion of an Apolobamba map produced by the Russians and a very small portion of another map showing lots of ridges and high points north of Akamani. This data combined with the photos in the Brain guidebook and the degree of glaciation evident on the Google Earth images told us we had a plan, albeit a very loose one. We left the States with a worst case scenario of a long walk and a shot at Cuchillo, the roadside mountain.
To summarize our expedition plan as we left the U.S.: we would fly to La Paz, go by 4wd to Pelechuco, trek an unknown distance to Charazani, and stop along the way to recon routes and climb for about 8 of the 14 days allotted to travel from the drop off point to the pick up point. Then 4wd back to La Paz and on to home. You plan your expeditions the same way . . . right?