Bolivia - Ancohuma and Illampu Expedition


This trip is currently unavailable.

Contact the AAI Office for further details. Alternatively, we offer our Cotopaxi Skills Expedition and Chimborazo Ascent in Ecuador or our Ice Field Expedition or Gorra Blanca Ascent in Patagonia.

Bolivia's Cordillera Real has as its northern crown the Sorata Massif, a large group of peaks rising abruptly from the altiplano just east of Lake Titicaca and dropping its eastern ridges right down into the Amazon Basin. In the group are nineteen peaks over 19,000 feet that offer all varieties of alpine climbing, and two higher peaks that are perhaps the most spectacular in the central Andes. The goal of this expedition is to climb the highest summits, 21,095-foot Ancohuma by way of its Northeast Buttress and spectacular North Ridge, and 20,873-foot Nevado Illampu by way of its Northwest Face. Additional attractions of this expedition are the remarkably scenic approach to the mountains from La Paz and our stay with the highland Aymara people.

The Bolivian scenery leaves a lasting impact on those that are lucky enough to visit.

The Bolivian scenery leaves a lasting impact on those that are lucky enough to visit. AAI Collection

Bolivia - Ancohuma and Illampu Expedition


After seven days of acclimatization (see Bolivia - La Paz and Remote Bolivia Trek), we drive north from La Paz across the altiplano and around the northern end of the range to approach Ancohuma from the east. With our gear on llamas, we trek in to our base camp below Ancohuma by a beautiful lake at 15,400 feet. From there we ascend to 17,200 feet where we establish Camp I, take a full day to rest, and further acclimatize. We then climb through an icefall, move onto open glacier, and cross a col that gives us access to the north side of the mountain and to another glacier on which we establish Camp II at 18,900 feet. On summit day we ascend that glacier to the base of the Northeast Buttress, where two challenging pitches of 50-degree ice and mixed climbing give us access to the crest of the 1500-foot, knife-edged North Ridge. The gradient gradually steepens on the ridge from 35 to 40-degrees, and the high altitude plus 60 to 70-degree drop-offs on either side add to the challenge and excitement of the climb to the 21,095-foot summit. The ice climbing and beauty of this ascent are an equal match in quality.

Ancohuma (21,095 ft) rises dramatically above the altiplano.

Ancohuma (21,095 ft) rises dramatically above the altiplano.
Mike McWherter

After our descent to base and a day of rest, we leave the Ancohuma basin via a pass and trek over a beautiful Aymara trade route to reach the East Face of Illampu. We establish one camp outside the mountain's eastern cirque, a second at the margin of the mountain's northern glacier system, and a third at 17,000 feet near the base of the Northwest Face. That camp puts us in position to tackle the crux of the climb: negotiation of a serac area, complex glacier travel around large crevasses, and 1000 feet of 50 to 55-degree ice to reach the long summit crest. We finish our ascent on a 1000-foot ridge - usually narrow and sometimes corniced - that takes us to the 20,873-foot summit. As several climbers have noted, 2500 feet of exposure down the east and west faces adds to the excitement of the final delicate walk to the summit. We get very impressive views of our route on Ancohuma and of the vast Cordillera Real, Lake Titicaca and eastern Peru, and the Amazon Basin.

Beauty, remoteness, and route quality all combine to make the ascents of Ancohuma and Illampu two of our staff's favorite expedition climbs in the world. 

Bolivia - Ancohuma and Illampu Expedition

Prices and Details

Max Ratio - 3:1 or 6:2

Capacity - 6


No public course dates available. May be available on a private basis, contact the AAI office for futher details. 


  • Previous altitude experience
  • Previous glacier travel and belaying on snow and ice
  • Ability to climb 30-degree ice with a full pack and 55-degree ice with a 20 lb. pack

Bolivia - Ancohuma and Illampu Expedition

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