Ascension of the Illimani

Ascension of the Illimani

18 October 2017 0 By Guillaume

D18: 9/21/2017

Departure at 2:30, François and I did not sleep, Eric took a Diamox. We both felt breathing difficulties and had twisted dreams. We’re putting this on the back of mountain sickness.

Goretex trousers, ice cream shoes, leggings, spikes, piolet, polar gloves, hood, double coat, helmet, shoulder harness, front… It’s curdling and it’s going to be earned.

There are three ropes:

  • François with Marcello
  • Alexandra with Ariel
  • Eric, 3rd in rope, me, 2nd in rope with Hilarion, our guide

We are moving at a slow and steady pace. The slope is steep.

Photo taken the day before, we can guess the trace

We cross several fields of penitents. These are blocks of ice/snow tens of centimetres high. They are formed by the wind. Around the penitents the snow is soft and sinks easily to the knees. So we have to walk on it like on the edge of a snow sidewalk.

Alexandra vomited several times. The abandonment is close, but it’s holding up.

Out of the penitents, a 60-degree wall of snow recline faces us. I can’t see the top with my forehead. We’re starting to make laces. With cleats and axes, we sometimes sink to the thigh.

Photo taken on the descent

It’s 6:30 a.m., we guess the sun on the other side of the wall as we climb. The temperature is around -15 or -20 degrees because I’m cold in my glacier shoes and my polar gloves. The weather seems mild. The sea of cloud stretches all around the massif.

Barely 1/3 of the wall, I ask for altitude. I know the summit is around 6400m. The answer is 6004! We did half… I am discouraged, strength and mental leave me. I am thinking of giving up. Hilarion doesn’t give me time to get lost in my thoughts. We continue very, very slowly. The effects of altitude are increasingly felt (stomach ache, unstable mental state, difficulty breathing, headache).


A technical passage occurs. Always with a considerable slope, you have to go around 2 crevices while passing on a snow bridge. Then you have to follow a surf and an avalanche corridor.


We arrive facing the sun on the combe. It is a plateau connecting the different peaks. We are at 6200m, it remains… 260m to ride.

I need a long time and supplies before I make up my mind. François seems HS too. No way to stop so close. Eric’s in good shape. Hilarion shortens the rope so I can pull me out. I am like a zombie battling nausea, headache, aberrant mental states, breathless breathing… With the sun, the view of our lens and the help of the rope, I regain some strength.

We’re reaching the top! (8:30 a.m.)


The view is exceptional. There are no peaks at the same height around. A huge sea of cloud stretches over the altiplano, revealing only the top of the mountains. What beauty, what satisfaction, we embrace and congratulate at length.


The summit is bordered by a huge crevasse. You can see the combe on the right with the north summit.

The descent will be ejected. I take out everything that’s left in my bag (drink, food). As it is hot, the guides urge us because they want to pass the technical point quickly.

In the technical passage, my leg crosses the snow bridge. Hilarion and Eric, on either side of the rope, are holding me back. I’m doing well, fortunately I was roped. Further on, we fail miserably to descend the wall by sliding on our buttocks. At the bottom of the wall begins the endless penitent field which will earn us some good bowls.

Arriving at the altitude camp, exhaustion affects us. I fall asleep by undoing my shoelaces… We walked 10 hours above 5500m.

A few hours of rest later, we fold our belongings to go down to base camp. A difficult descent (tough and slippery), François will fall, but the prospect of sharing a meal of Eugenia all together in the mess tent motivates us.

We are welcomed with open arms by Mary, Eugenia and Edwin. The dinner will be a succession of anecdotes about this night and this hellish and incredible day. Tonight, everyone’s asleep.

Tomorrow, we cross a canyon to get home.

Notre itinéraire en Bolivie :

J1 : Premier pas dans l’altiplano

J2 : De Tiwanaku à Copacabana

J3 : Vestige Inca et Isla del sol

J4 : Luna, Peñas et fiesta

J5 : Du folklore à la cordillère royale

J6 : Trek d’Ajwani à Juri Quota

J7 : Trek jusqu’au camp de base du Condoriri

J8 : Ascension du Pequeno Alpamayo et retour sur La Paz

J9 : Vallée des âmes

J10 : De La Paz au Salar d’Uyuni

J11 : Tunupa et Salar d’Uyuni

J12 : Uyuni à Sajama en longeant la frontière chilienne

J13 : Découverte du parc national de Sajama

J14 : Montée au camp d’altitude du Sajama

J15 : Sans ascension du Sajama

J16 : Viscachas et Curahuara

J17 : Camp d’altitude de l’Illimani

J18 : Ascension de l’Illimani

J19 : Canyon de palca