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skiing at 17,785 ft

View 1985 on 1985 trip's travel map.

Sunday 24th November 1985

La Paz is pretty in its dramatic super bowl location. Clean and quiet. The streets are filled with indian ladies sitting on a pile of skirts with their produce spread around them on the pavement, fruit, meat, herbs, coca leaves, toiletries, jumpers, medicines, magic ingredients.

In the centre of town old cafes serve capuchin, cafe con leche, mate de coca/manzanilla/herbia/anis and cake. Set meal usually 1 mill or less, a la carte 3 mill or more. Catch Club Andino bus again. Half way up Chacaltaya it is obvious more snow has fallen in the night. Trying to round a sharp bend the bus slides backwards and stops with its back wheels on the edge of doom and the rear seats sticking well out over the drop. The bus driver is wearing a crash helmet. We all get out and start walking. Driver puts snow chains on the wheels, drives slowly on the snow, cautiously negotiating the hair pin bends. We get back on, lots of nervous laughter. We are now in the clouds with a foot of snow on the rocky road. We cannot go on. We walk again in small groups, the air is thin and walking is slow. Visibility is poor. Hard work. My alpaca wooly hat crackles and writhes on my scalp with static from the clouds.

Refreshed by mate de coca and a lay down. Breathing has an abnormal rhythm. There is a fire in the grate but the building is unfinished. Hire skis for 10$ and set off into the white. The is one run on the glacier, which opened in 1930. (The 17000 year old glacier has since melted). A long cable rattles round the mountain on car wheel pulleys. It goes in and out of a large wooden house, the original lodge, perched on a bluff above the glacier, powered by a car engine. The cable is moving quite fast and you have to hook on it with a bent piece of iron attached to a rope round your waist. There is no level land so you stand with one ski at right angles and the other pointing up the slope in readiness. A violent jerk and away you go for a long steep pull. Have to avoid hooking onto the cable at a splice. At each car wheel pulley I derail the cable, lots of Spanish from the man behind who skilfully hooks it back again as he goes past.

No moguls, not piste, plenty of snow, few skiers and stunning views of lake Titicaca miles below when the clouds break. Meet a 'blanco boliviano' is third generation Bolivian of irish descent, came over the build the railway. On one run a meet Pete a medical student from the Radcliffe Oxford on his elective. He tells me Bolivians have a high incidence of gall bladder cancer. Pete and companion came up by taxi. They built and photographed what they claimed was the world's highest snowman. His friend has been in Bolivia for nine months painting.

Noone seems to know how many are expected on the bus down. Some ski part of the way. In the event we leave without the cook and her family who only catch the bus by sending the boy after the bus on skis. The locals are bare legged from the knees with only thin shoes. No hope of the 6pm coach to
Potosi as I am still up the mountain. Back to the Turino and a noisy night. The rooms have canvas ceilings.

Posted by 1985 trip 09:20 Archived in Bolivia

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