Firstly, let me say this guide is very good indeed, especially on the more popular venues such as Illimani, Huayna Potosi, the Condoriri Group and Ancohuma, peaks that Brain knows well. Mountaineering in Bolivia has been very poorly documented and the author has spent a staggering amount of time and effort in research, both at home and abroad. There are interesting historical notes, detailed information on many practical considerations particularly access by public transport or otherwise, numerous superbly reproduced black and white photodiagrams and a collection of clearly drawn sketch maps. All four main Cordillera; Apolobamba, Real, Quimsa Cruz and Occidental are covered, with selected routes described on a total of 37 peaks. There are climbs at all standards from the TD couloirs on Ala Derecha and Wyoming to the gently-angled yet heavily penetented ‘Facile’ slopes of the southern volcanoes. Finally, there are some useful appendices, particularly one giving a sample work contract for local helpers (muleteers, porters etc) in both Spanish and English.
If the book has any failings they are probably due much less to the author than to the way in which it has been edited to a required format in a little over 200 pages. The result is something practical rather than inspirational. Other than that I have only a few small gripes. To state in the historical notes that Charles Wiener’s ascent in 1877 of the 6,130m Pico de Paris on Illimani was ‘the highest point reached anywhere in the world at the time’. ignores the proven evidence of Atacama Indians reaching the top of 6,700m+ peaks many centuries before. Later in the introductory section the author makes one or two rather bizarre statements concerning medical conditions and omits probably the two most well-known operators in La Paz from a list of mountaineering agencies. Restrictions on space have resulted in certain illogicalities. For instance, no mention of, say, Tiquimani nor even Mururata with its popular normal route, yet the inclusion of half a dozen routes on the West Face of Huayna Potosi with the excuse that most ascensionists claim a variation. There are a number of glowing references throughout the early part of the book to the superb granite rock-climbing in the northern part of the Quimsa Cruz but when you turn to that particular section the only routes offered are on snow and ice. I am also reliably informed that there are several peaks covered in the guide e.g. Chaupi Orco, Jachacunocollo and Pomerata, where the easiest route is not even mentioned. Elsewhere there is some definite overgrading.
Despite this, any mountaineer with a grasp of the English language and planning to visit Bolivia for standard or exploratory mountaineering, would be very well-advised to buy what is still an invaluable guide. If it does sell well then the potential for a more comprehensive yet still commercially viable second edition will be that much greater.
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