Sue Sullivan Answers Y2OK in Bolivia?

November 17, 2000

Because it’s there, of course! In fact, along a 70-mile span, as the crow flies (the distance between Spencer Butte and Middle Sister, for example) there are three peaks of over 21,000 ft. Sue and six friends climbed one of these, Mt. Illimani. These obviously are not your one-a-day type Cascade climbs, and are not to be taken lightly. They climbed without the help of auxiliary oxygen and experienced some serious bouts of high altitude sickness. The latter kept them about 200 ft. short of the summit of another climb of 19,000 ft. Mt. Condorori. Sue described the pace approaching the summits as “one step—two breaths”.

The views of the mountains on her slides were indeed breathtaking. Adding to the adventure, some of the drives on the dirt roads out of La Paz to the climbing trailheads were hair-raising.

Bolivia is a country of topographical superlatives. The city of La Paz, their base city, at about 12,000 ft. (13,450 at its highest point) is the highest capital city in the world (I wonder if this cuts down on the omission of legislative hot air?). The 3,100 square mile Lake Titicaca at 12,700 ft. elevation is the world’s highest navigable lake. It even sports a Bolivian Navy. At such altitudes the land is, of course, bare without a tree in sight to hug.

Unfortunately, it is a poor country; child beggars are a common sight, and there is little concern about the environment. A relatively new (1997) booklet, “Bolivia Handbook” by Alan Murphy, appears to be a good source of information for traveling and trekking in Bolivia.

The format for Sue’s talk was very effective. She first described the entire trip in detail, with the aid of slides. This was followed by an overview (more slides) of the trip (beginning with vignettes of the individual participants) accompanied only by appropriate music. The latter finished with the song “Secret O’ Life” by James Taylor. The song includes the seemingly appropriate line: “Nobody knows how we got to the top of the hill”.

Bep Fontana

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