The “Cholitas Escaladoras” (Climbing ‘Cholitas’) are going for Everest
It was there, in the freezing cold, on the high peak charged with the noise of silence and the brave winds. It was there, where they, tired, arrived. There were five of them and two arrived at five o’clock in the morning, on a summer morning, at the summit of the highest mountain in the Southern Cone. Five women, Bolivian, cholitas, advanced in the heavy and solid snow under the moon.
Lidia Huayllas, Dora Mangueño, Ana Lía (Lita) Gonzales, Cecilia Llusco Alaña and Elena Quispe climbed the Aconcagua and the news, at the beginning of this year, toured the world’s newspapers. For them, it’s a pride, but not enough: they want more.
It’s three in the afternoon and Lita is about to submit her thesis of the Tourism career. She is 34 years old and is the first of her family to attend university, to leave the confines of the town and live in the city. She is from the Zongo Valley, a small community 83 km from La Paz, in the eastern buttresses of the Andes Mountain Range. The area, full of vegetation and mountains, was the place where I observed the hills from the window, every morning.
A group of Bolivian “Cholitas” – (Aymara indigenous) women to climb the Aconcagua, the Highest Peak of the Americas (6,962 m/22,840 feet). Aconcagua is located in the province of Mendoza, in Argentina and towers the other mountains of the Andes by more than 1,000 meters.
These ‘Cholitas’ have been working cooking for tourist expeditions in the mountains of Bolivia. They got caught with curiosity on why people were coming back, year after year, and started climbing themselves. The feeling of freedom got them hooked and they’ve started doing it more and more.
Aconcagua is a magnet for all climbers. Being the highest peak of the Americas, where the treeline is low, makes it a very tough mountain. It has three climbing routes – the normal route, the Polish Glacier and Traverse route and the third route known as the Direct Route or the Polish Glacier Route. You can read a good article on these routes here.
Aconcagua is also known as the world’s highest ‘trekking peak’ and thousands of hikers attempt to climb it each year. However, it is one of the most underestimated mountains in the world and has one of the lowest summit success rates. Extreme altitude and temperatures going up to -30C, plus having a low treeline, that makes you feel the lack of oxygen sooner, makes Aconcagua a difficult mountain to climb.
These ‘Cholitas’ have left La Paz in Bolivia to get to Mendoza and start their ascent. They are between 24 and 50 years old.