Tupiza: Flommoxed by Red Mountain


My first impressions of Bolivia are very positive. The road from Villazón to Tupiza was pretty good really. They are in the process of asphalting it so from time to time you get to ride on a fresh new road. Otherwise you are on a bumpy diversion. I picked up a few punctures. Bit of a pain as my pump is not working very well. The scenery is fantastic. Especially the last 20km coming in to Tupiza with dramatic red sandstone formations.
I like Tupiza. As did Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Although, the Bolivian Army killed them near here.

In Tupiza, I installed myself in a hostel for 2 pounds a night and got an enormous pizza for a pound. Then I fixed a few inner tubes I have lying about and got an early night.

In the morning I set out to climb one of the great looking red mountains behind the town. I'm not sure what it was called (maybe Torre Wayhko). I am not sure how high it was (but I'd guess at least 4000m, the town is at 3160m) and I didn't take a map because it is impossible to find one.
So this was sort of visual-flight-rules type hill-walking. The first obstacle was getting out of town. After scurrying past an army base on a track, I headed up a small but steep ridge barring me from the bigger ridge behind with my hill on it. This was a helpful vantage point for figuring out the topography, which was a complex series of ridges.

I had to decend a steeper slope the other side which brought me out in a canyon. From here I took a gentle slope up to another ridge, avoiding the odd cactus as I went. The ridge at the top became at times rather exposed and narrow. It was made up of a combination of loose sand, red sandstone gravel and soil like stuff. Teetering along that I ended up at a big sandstone vertical wall. From my point of veiw unclimbable. I scuffled around a bit and found a way around the side and followed up a slot like gully. From there I was on another ridge, reasonably wide but very loose and with precipitous drops on both sides. And to make matters worse, thorn bushes and cacti in the way.
As I progressed, the ridge widened out, but as I looked up things did not look good. There were a whole series of huge vertical sandstone fins. Each one streching about 200m long and with infinite drops between them. I couldn't see these from the town as they were in profile, but now they presented a real bar to any progress to the summit. Nevertheless, I continued along my ridge untill I reached the start of the "ridge of fins". Luckily, there was an easier way up round the back.

That is, up to about 150m from the summit when my pleasant ridge walk turned into an engaging scramble. Then with the summit 20m above me, the engaging scramble became a desperate rock climb on loose sandstone. In fact the summit was formed of a series of these sandstone fins which have slots between them dropping hundreds of metres and present vertical faces with no disernable hand- or foot-holds. Much to my disappointment, without climbing gear and a partner, it just wasn't a goer. It is often the case with hill walking or mountaineering. You keep going while it is viable but when it is not you have to make the sage decision. I down climbed the scramble and found a flattish place to sit and eat some biscuits and, desponantly, guzzle down water.
rock formations
To make things interesting, I decided to take a different way down. It was a good choice. This time there was a broad ridge to follow before I had to head down the bottom of one of those slots. The scenery on this side of the hill was amazing. Creeping down on loose lumps of sandstone, I eventually came down to the flat bottom of a narrow canyon. This opened out into a larger canyon with great views of the sandstone fins and pinicles on both sides. The canyon opened wider and eventually I found myself on a huge wide dried up river bed. I followed this back to civilization.
pointy rocks
Just as I came in this internet café a huge thunderstorm began. Phew, just in the nick of time. Apparently, those slot canyons are prone to flash floods.

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