Sajama (6542m) – Highest point of Bolivia

It is done done DONE! Mount Sajama – Bolivia’s highest peak.
6542m! And trust me, this is bloody high…
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A good four weeks have I been in La Paz trying to find a partner, sitting out bad weather or violently emptying my body due to bad food, and right now I am the happiest and at the same time most exhausted Zigeiner on da planet!!
The season for climbing Sajama has ended a month ago and the conditions were bad.
Penitentes as high as a meter posed very tiring obstacles at altitude and hidden crevasses on the glacier would have made an approach to the otherwise not very technical demanding mountain irresponsible without a guide.

Thus Wil (an Australian climber I found days earlier in La Paz) and I hired transport, equipment and two local guides at one of the numerous mountain outfitters in La Paz.

The climb is usually done in 4 or 5 days, but due to the inevitable Bolivian efficiency and hence resulting organisational impotence we arrived at Sajama National Park without the promised support of mules or porters which were supposed to help us carry gear to Base, respectively High Camp.
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With day one lost in the village looking for helping legs for the next days, we had to climb the 1400m from Sajama village (4250m) via the Northwest Ridge to High Camp (5665m) in just one day, missing out on the highly recommended/needed night at Base Camp (4850m) to acclimatise. After arrival at High Camp (5665m) in the afternoon we pitched tents, prepared our gear and tried to sleep for about 3 hours before launching our summit attempt just after midnight.
The food which was (supposedly) included in the package consisted of a cup of tee in the morning and… nothing else! We climbed the country’s highest peak based on a handful peanuts, Snicker bars and deep-frozen RedBull!
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Zigeiner & Wil happy as Schnitzel! Bayern on top of Bolivia!
17 hard and looooong hours from High Camp to the summit, back to High Camp, down past Base Camp to the trailhead from where it was a further 12km hike to Sajama village. Simply because the next day (day 4 of our prepaid itinerary – which, of course, nobody told us before) was reserved for the 6-8 hour bus journey back to La Paz.

Zigeiner carefully climbing back down the icy penitentes at around 6500m
The DAV (German Alpine Club) itinerary schedules 3 full days / 2 nights for this very same distance including private transport from the trailhead to the village. But also charges exactly € 3690(!) on top of the U$ 280 we payed…
We climbed Sajama: village to  summit & back to village in under 36 hours, the fastest our guide has climbed it in his 30-year career on this mountain:-)
I can highly recommend our guides:
“Jose Chura” (Cel.: 77591407) and his son “Alfredo” (Cel.: 77744319; email:
They did a fantastic job & are as technically trained as Bolivian mountain guides will get.
Jose is certified through the “Asociación de Guías de Montaña AGMTB“.
For infos on current conditions and additional info call Parque Nacional Sajama:
+591 (0)1025135526

The village of Sajama (altitude 4250m) is 290km from La Paz and no particular climbing restrictions apply – no permit is needed, but as entering the Sajama National Park, you have to register at the Ranger station in Sajama village.
You also have to pay a fee of about U$4 to enter the park. The rangers (theoretically:-) can arrange anything for you there like transport, mules, guides etc.

At over six and a half thousand meters, weather conditions can be severe. You should be equipped to deal with very low temperatures and high winds, plus localised storms. We had -12.5° C (without windchill) on the summit.
And no matter what people tell you, bring a helmet! Just before you reach the glacier high on the Northwest Ridge there is a 3 pitch mixed rock & ice scramble on very loose rock. Get the rope out and climb very carefully one by one. This is the only really dangerous part on the mountain.

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Zigeiner and his fight with the Royal Bavarian Flag & the wind on the summit…

My altimeter stats:

Date Time Altitude (Meters) Place Notes
28.10.2009 07:32am 4470 Trailhead to Base Bamp Start hiking
28.10.2009 09:05am 4844 Base Camp
28.10.2009 09:36am 4844 Base camp
28.10.2009 12:45pm 5665 High Camp
28.10.2009 17:06pm 5850 Northwest Ridge Acclimatisation climb
29.10.2009 02:17am 5665 High Camp
Start climbing Sajama
29.10.2009 08:26am 6542 Summit Sajama
29.10.2009 08:54am 6542 Summit Sajama Departure
29.10.2009 13:01pm 5665 High Camp
Packing up camp
29.10.2009 14:38pm 5665 High Camp Departure
29.10.2009 17:16pm 4470 Trailhead to Base Camp Short rest
29.10.2009 18:33pm 4250 Sajama Village Finish hiking

Sajama is also the place where the highest football match in the world took place:

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The players ascending And finally playing the match

It took several attempts to meet the conditions necessary, but, finally in August 2001, on the slightly convex summit of the volcano, they marked the terrain, they installed the goals, and the 23 actors of the game (they of course had a referee), put on their shorts, T-shirts and mandatory crampons to play two 20-minute half time during which they used an unusual number of footballs…
History does not remember the score or the name of the winning team, the goal of this “summit” game literally reaching beyond human and sportive performance.

(Photos + info regarding our guides and various Internet sources)

Click here to read the BBC article!

Another story about the initial first attempt to play the match can be found here. It is another frustrating proof of typical Bolivian efficiency

October 28, 2009  Tags: , , ,   Posted in: Bolivia Views: 6983

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