Bolivia Cholita Mountain Climbers

AP images spotlight reports:

Bolivia Cholita Mountain Climbers

Photos by Juan Karita

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At first glance, the indigenous Bolivian women don’t look much like mountain climbers, with their colorful, multilayered skirts and fringed shawls.

But their helmets, polarized goggles and crampons attached to their shoes give them away as mountaineers who accompany their husbands, often as cooks and porters, as they guide tourists scaling the local peaks.

Eleven of these Aymara women, ranging in age from 20 to 50 years old, earlier this month made the two-day climb up the 19,974-foot (6,099-meter) high Huayna Potosi, located near La Paz, with Lake Titicaca to the back and surrounded by snowy Andean peaks.

They started their climbing careers working for tourist agencies, carrying food and other equipment for the foreign mountaineers to the base camp, located at 1,116 feet (5,130 meters).

“First, I was a porter, then a cook,” said 41-year-old Domitila Alana Llusco. “But the tourists asked me what it was like up on Huayna Potosi and I had to climb up so I could find out and tell them.”

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In this Dec. 17, 2015 photo, Aymara indigenous women descend the Huayna Potosi mountain with their husbands, who work as professional guides, on the outskirts of El Alto, Bolivia. Eleven women, ranging in age from 20 to 50 years old, made the two-day climb up the mountain. All of the women work as porters and cooks at the base camp, but six of the youngest ones would like to eventually join the ranks of the men and guide tourists to the peak. (AP Photo/Juan Karita).

Alana said she had a hard time finding appropriate gear she could afford when she started 15 years ago.

“My feet are small, there are no boots,” she said. “But nothing stopped me and I have reached the peak of three mountains.”

Though they cling to their traditional clothing, these mountaineers aren’t typical indigenous women.

“Women also have the right to climb mountains,” said Adrian Quispe, one of the mountain guides. “It’s not just men who are allowed. Women of all ages can go.”

And the money is good. While the minimum wage for a housekeeper is around $175 a month, guides can earn $35 a day and the female cooks about $20 a day.

As they climb, the women wear thermal sweat suits under their traditional clothing. Only in the last part of the climb up to the top do the women remove their skirts, to prevent accidents.

They start the last piece of their ascent after midnight to take advantage of the hardness of the snow, hoping to reach the top by dawn.

Some of the youngest in the group now dream of climbing even higher someday, to the top of Aconcagua, which at 22,834 feet (6,960 meters) is not only the highest peak in the Andes, but also the highest mountain outside Asia.

See these photos on APImages.com

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 9.29.14 AMIn this Dec. 16, 2015 photo, Aymara indigenous women, from right, Pacesa Alana Llusco, Dora Magueno Machaca and Bertha Vetia prepare their backpacks as they prepare to hike up the Huayna Potosi mountain on the outskirts of El Alto, Bolivia. Not letting their traditional, long multi-layered skirts get in the way, they put on their mountain gear and climbed one of the highest mountains in the country. (AP Photo/Juan Karita).

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 9.30.24 AMIn this Dec. 17, 2015 photo, Aymara indigenous women and their guides descend the Huayna Potosi mountain on the outskirts of El Alto, Bolivia. Some of the youngest in the group dream of climbing even higher someday, to the top of Aconcagua, which is not only the highest peak in the Andes, but also the highest mountain outside Asia. (AP Photo/Juan Karita).

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 9.32.25 AMIn this Dec. 17, 2015 photo, the sunglasses of Aymara indigenous woman Janet Mamani Callisaya reflect the Huayna Potosi mountain as she pauses during her hike up the snowy peak on the outskirts of El Alto, Bolivia. At first glance, indigenous Bolivian women don’t look much like mountain climbers, with their colorful, multilayered skirts and fringed shawls. But their helmets, polarized goggles and crampons attached to their shoes for climbing give them away. (AP Photo/Juan Karita).

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 9.33.38 AMIn this Dec. 16, 2015 photo, Aymara indigenous woman Cecilia Llusco Alana, right, follows her guide as they hike up the Huayna Potosi mountain on the outskirts of El Alto, Bolivia. They started the last piece of their ascent after midnight to take advantage of the hardness of the snow, hoping to reach the top by dawn. (AP Photo/Juan Karita).

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 9.34.57 AMIn this Dec. 16, 2015 photo, Aymara indigenous women Lidia Huayllas, right, and Bertha Vetia sit after cooking dinner for their group of 11 female “cholita” climbers inside the Campo de Roca shelter, before sleeping near the Huayna Potosi mountain on the outskirts of El Alto, Bolivia. Along with their traditional “cholita” clothing, they use helmets, polarized goggles and crampons attached to their shoes. When on duty at the base, Aymara women work as porters and cooks, earning 20 US dollars per day. (AP Photo/Juan Karita).

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 9.37.12 AMIn this Dec. 16, 2015 photo, Aymara indigenous women look at the Huayna Potosi mountain before climbing it on the outskirts of El Alto, Bolivia. At first glance, the women known as “cholitas” don’t look much like mountain climbers, with their colorful, multilayered skirts and fringed shawls, but they’ve been climbing for 15 years, cooking and carrying food for tourists who climb to the peak. (AP Photo/Juan Karita).

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 9.38.26 AMIn this Dec. 17, 2015 photo, Aymara indigenous women and their guides sit on the peak of the Huayna Potosi mountain on the outskirts of El Alto, Bolivia. “First, I was a porter, then a cook,” said 41-year-old Domitila Alana Llusco. “But the tourists asked me what it was like up on Huayna Potosi and I had to climb up so I could find out and tell them.” (AP Photo/Juan Karita).

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 9.39.38 AMIn this Dec. 16, 2015 photo, Aymara indigenous women walk through the fog with their guide, up the Huayna Potosi mountain on the outskirts of El Alto, Bolivia. As they climb, the women wear thermal sweat suits under their traditional “cholita” clothing. Only in the last part of the climb up to the top do the women remove their skirts, to prevent accidents. (AP Photo/Juan Karita).

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 9.41.08 AMIn this Dec. 16, 2015 photo, Aymara indigenous women pose for a picture as they reach the peak of the Huayna Potosi mountain on the outskirts of El Alto, Bolivia. From left are Cecilia Llusco, Juana Rufina Llusco Alana, Janet Mamani Callisaya, Domitila Alana Llusco, Marga Alana Llusco, Virginia Quispe Colque, Pacesa Llusco Alana, Lidia Huayllas, Bertha Vetia, Dora Magueno and Ana Gonzales. (AP Photo/Juan Karita).

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 9.42.36 AMIn this Dec. 16, 2015 photo, Aymara indigenous women enter the Campo de Roca shelter for hikers as they climb the Huayna Potosi mountain on the outskirts of El Alto, Bolivia. Domitila Alana Llusco said she had a hard time finding appropriate gear she could afford when she started 15 years ago. “My feet are small, there are no boots,” she said. “But nothing stopped me and I have reached the peak of three mountains.” (AP Photo/Juan Karita).

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 9.43.51 AMIn this Dec. 17, 2015 photo, Aymara indigenous women descend the Huayna Potosi mountain with their guides on the outskirts of El Alto, Bolivia. The women work as porters and cooks at the base camp, but six of the youngest ones would like to eventually join the ranks of the men and guide tourists to the peak. While the minimum wage for a housekeeper is around 175 US dollars a month, guides can earn 35 US dollars per person a day. Currently the women earn 20 US dollars per day as cooks. (AP Photo/Juan Karita).

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 9.45.14 AMIn this Dec. 17, 2015 photo, Aymara indigenous woman Pacesa Alana Llusco stands on the peak of the Huayna Potosi mountain on the outskirts of El Alto, Bolivia. On Thursday, Llusco and 10 other “cholitas” reached the peak at an elevation of just over 6,000 meters (a little less than 20,000 feet). (AP Photo/Juan Karita).

http://blog.apimages.com/2015/12/22/bolivia-cholita-mountain-climbers/

I welcome these adventurous and exceptional women to The Hall of Bolivian Fame!

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