Sajama 6542m -The highest mountain in Bolivia

We were invited by Club Andino Boliviano to go to Sajama  and play the highest soccer game in the world on the summit. But everything did not take place as planned...

On the road to Sajama (6542m).
5th of July
Mike was still sick so he couldn't go to Sajama. Olof had to take the stove and the tent himself and head towards Sajama. There he met Mario Miranda (from Club Andino Boliviano) and his climbing partner Sven in who's jeep we went to Sajama in. We arrived to the village Sajama where we had to fill out some forms. We left the jeep a couple of kilometres beyond the village; and John, Sven and Mario hired mules. Olof kept to his policy of climbing unsupported and did not use porters or mules.
We were supposed to reach Campo Alto (5600m) the same day and then go to the summit the next day and prepare the soccer field. It was though too late and as usual in Bolivia it was yet another time plan that did not hold up. We stayed in Campo Base (4800m) and instead of going to the summit twice we planned to only go there once.

Walk in to Sajama.

6th of July
According to the new time plan we were only supposed to get to Campo Alto today. This was achieved without any problems in 4.5-5h and we chopped out platforms in the ice and pitched our tent. We had brought extra food but Club Andino had chefs and kitchen tents that was supposed to supply us with food. But the kitchen tents never arrived to Campo Alto. Throughout the night we could hear the guides shouting "Donde esta la cocina!?" (where is the kitchen) in there com radios and running around in desperation. Apparently there were some porters that had not followed the plan. We managed to get by anyway since Olof brought the stove because he suspected from the beginning that Bolivian efficiency would cause problems. Normally there is only room for 15 people in Campo Alto. Now 30 people were there.

Campo Alto (5600m).

7th of July
John and Olof slept in the tent Olof had brought to Campo Alto and the deal with Sven and Mario was that 03:30 was the departure time for the summit. John and Olof got up at 02:00 to melt snow and make breakfast. They were ready to leave at 03:30 but Mario and Sven were not. Bolivians have chronicle problems with being punctual, which is a very bad thing if you are into high altitude mountaineering.
At 04:00 Sven, John and Olof left for the summit and Mario followed after 20 min. John and Olof got ahead and arrived up to the exposed ridge where the guides had fixed ropes. There they waited for Sven and then John and Olof ascended the ridge to the summit face. They continued up the summit face and about 2/3 up the face they where bypassed by porters. Olof reached the summit first in fierce storm winds so he dug a wind pit. A couple of porters were sitting on the summit and shivering.
Then also John arrived.

The north west ridge.

Olof and John in storm winds on the summit.

We stayed for a short while and then we started walking down in the storm. John discovered that Olof''s nose was all white so they took a break to warm it up. Except for the porters and us only another four people and eventually Mario reached the summit. 20-25 people turned around. The soccer game could not take place on the summit. 
The down climb was uneventful but was coloured by the inexperience of all the people that could not climb but was invited to participate in the game. There was a waiting line at the fixed ropes because people did not know how to abseil. Olof got tired of waiting and soloed past the fixed ropes down to Campo Alto. John did the same thing after a while.
We got down to Campo Base, and in darkness we arrived to the road where Sven waited with the jeep. He had turned and went down ahead of the others.
We went back to La Paz.

"Even if the weather had been perfect I think the game could never take place. There was to many inexperienced people on the mountain and everything was too slow. The planning was Bolivian style and it was unreasonable to think that it would work from the beginning."

Congratulations To The Bolivians!
In the beginning of August they made a second and successful attempt  arranged by the IPPA. More info in the BBC article below.


Photos & Text Copyright © Swedish Apolobamba Expedition 2001

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  BBC article