After climbing Pequeño Alpamayo a day earlier than expected, our sights turned towards the Condoriri formation. It looms above camp at Laguna Chiar Khota as well as the entire drive into the area and the Cabeza de Condor is especially beautiful. During our rest day, Dale checked out the approach as we had only brought the beta for Pequeño Alpamayo and were both nervous about the glacier that appeared to be our only access to the upper plateau. Thankfully, Dale discovered the faint trail heading up from the moraine to the left of the glacier and explored all the way up to the plateau, so we knew we could access the climb.
Since our taxi pickup was scheduled for noon the next day, we used my satellite phone to ask Erica to reach our driver via whatsapp and push our pickup back to 4pm, which we figured would give us enough time to climb, descend, pack up camp, and get back to the trailhead. We woke up at 4:15am and were moving after a hot breakfast by 5am. We made it most of the way through the scree before the sun came up and bathed Huayna Potosi in alpenglow. From there, we went up and over the two small saddles to then drop down to the glacier. My breakfast wasn't sitting very well, likely due to the altitude, and I unfortunately let it go with some fury around daybreak. I tried to put down some food soon thereafter and my stomach wasn't having any of it, so I resolved myself to it being "that kind of day."
We reached the base of the Cabeza de Condor at 9am and found the couloir to the climber's right of the main ridge in great condition. After saying hello to a party of 2 guides on their way down, we soloed up to the end of the couloir and then put on the rope for the last 15m, which were really fun alpine ice where the couloir necked down enough to allow chimney moves. From there, we coiled a bunch of the rope and set off on the summit knife-edged ridge. It was quite exposed and steep on both sides, but never too tough and there was a good boot pack in it, so we moved quickly. The ridge undulated from low-enough angle to walk upright to steep and needing to high-dagger both tools. It was great fun and really gorgeous, with views of Huayna Potosi to the South and Illampu and Ancohuma to the North. We passed a party of 2 from Canada on the ridge who were pitching out the climb on our way.
We reached the top at 10:15am. What a spot, with the mountain falling away sharply in all directions and views like you dream about. We hung out for a bit, crossed back past the Canadians, and down-climbed the ridge. We did a short rappel with our 30m glacier rope, which was a perfect length to get past the ice, before plunge-stepping down the couloir. It had been baking in the morning sun and was pretty wet and sloppy by that point at 11:30am, but not worrisome. Our saunter down the glacier and back to camp went without incident and gave me enough time to take a half-hour nap in the sub-baked tent to feel a bit better. We hiked out starting a little after 3pm and made it to the taxi at 4 on the nose. Our driver, Don Victor, was happy to see us and took our sleepy selves back to our apartment in La Paz where we went to town on Argentinian food.
It's always gratifying to accomplish something (in this case a climb) that, at first, one isn't sure is possible. Between the lack of beta, concerns about the approach, and timing, it seemed improbable to do this climb, but it worked out swimmingly.