Ascent of Cerro Tunupa on 2016-06-29

Climber: Bradley R

Others in Party:Frank Esposito
Date:Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
Peak:Cerro Tunupa
    Elevation:16437 ft / 5009 m

Ascent Trip Report

How we chose this peak: Frank and I had planned a trip to Bolivia to climb Ancohuma. We decided we wanted to try to fit in a second peak. Tunupa, based on some on line reading, was possible in a single day.

The original plan: summit Tunupa in a single day.

The main mistake: I had recognized that most trip reports had stated that the true summit of Tunupa had not been reached. I did ask our guide about reaching the summit of Tunupa, but did not reiterate that we wanted to reach the true high point. Upon arriving in Bolivia we discussed Tunupa some and learned there was no intentions for us to reach the actual high point, but instead a point that could be hiked to. The true summit would require technical rock climbing, more than we were prepared for and more than our guide had given time for.

The day: Frank and I started the day in Uyuni, leaving around 7:45 AM with our driver. We soon hit the salt flats and could see Tunupa in the distance. The night before a bit of snow had fallen and the peak was covered. The salt flats throw off your depth perception and you feel that everything is closer than it actually is. After about two hours of driving we reach a village, Coqueza. The driver stops and picks up a guide, costing 500 Boliviano (about 72 USD at the time). The guide speaks only Spanish, neither Frank or I speak Spanish. We drive a bit above the town and visit mummies first. The mummies have been propped for show.

After the mummies we start hiking. Early on the guide is setting a quick pace, but I'm able to keep up. The hike is through rather steep grass fields. Behind us are endless views of the salt flats. Eventually we come out to a bit of a crest and the crater becomes visible, covered with snow. We continue towards this. The trail gets steeper and rockier and I begin to slow down, and the guide continues to push the pace. Soon we come to another crest with the crater seemingly close up in front of us. By this time we're walking in 3-4" of snow. We misunderstand our guide and believe he does not intend to take us further. We lollygag around and eat our snacks slowly.

Now our guide says let's continue. We're a bit confused because we thought we were done, but we are happy to continue. However time has now became a significant factor as our driver had told us we needed to return by a certain time. We take off on up the mountain. It is much steeper at this point, with a bit more snow on the ground. I'm struggling with the quick pace, well above 16,000' and must stop 5-10 minutes before our turn around time. Frank and the guide continue a bit further. In hind site I wish I had dropped my pack and taken every step up that was possible.

A few minutes later Frank and the guide turn back and meet me. Unfortunately this point ended up being the high point I reached in this trip and almost certainly will be the highest point I reach in 2016. The views of the crater and salt flats were beautiful.

Suggestions: If you want to reach the true summit expect rock climbing.

Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3433 ft / 1046 m
    Total Elevation Loss:3433 ft / 1045 m
    Round-Trip Distance:6.6 mi / 10.7 km
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Snow on Ground
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles, Guide
    Weather:Blue skies, a little cool
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3433 ft / 1046 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 3379 ft / 1029 m; Extra: 54 ft / 16m
    Loss on way in:54 ft / 16 m
    Distance:3.2 mi / 5.2 km
    Start Trailhead:13058 ft / 3980 m
    Time:3 Hours 54 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:3379 ft / 1029 m
    Distance:3.4 mi / 5.5 km
    End Trailhead:13058 ft / 3980 m
    Time:2 Hours 29 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Bradley R
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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