Skip to content

Bolivian indigenous girls break limitations by way of mountaineering

Huayna Potosí (Bolivia) (AFP) – A sudden gale drowns out the crunching sound of footsteps on the ice and makes skirts billow within the freezing night time.

Ten indigenous Aymara girls slowly trek up a Bolivian mountainside of their conventional costume as an announcement of their emancipation.

The Climbing Cholitas of Bolivia Warmis is a gaggle devoted to campaigning for the rights of Indigenous girls by way of mountaineering.

Cecilia Llusco, 36, is the daughter of a mountain information and dreamt since she was younger of climbing the snow-capped Huayna Potosi that rises over 6,000 meters above sea stage.

Nevertheless, for a few years she restricted herself to cooking for different mountaineers and packing their backpacks.

That was till she and several other different rural girls, together with a few of her sisters, determined to vary their future.

“Why cannot we climb mountains?” she stated they requested themselves, whereas drawing dismissive reactions from some males.

“What are these girls doing right here, on the mountain?” Llusco remembers them saying.

Seven years after their preliminary expedition, and after climbing almost a dozen peaks in Bolivia, Peru and Argentina, the Cholita Climbers, named after indigenous Bolivian girls referred to as “cholas” or “cholitas,” are tackling Huayna Potosi once more on this austral winter night time.

And they didn’t compromise on their model.

“We needed to indicate that ladies are sturdy and courageous, that we are able to do it with our clothes,” stated LLusco, who wears her hair in lengthy braids adorned with brown wool.

‘Quite a lot of discrimination’

At any time when they’ll, and infrequently helped by funding from NGOs and personal companies, they rent a minivan to drive two hours from their houses in El Alto — the satellite tv for pc overlooking La Paz, to the wall of ice they plan to scale.

There are 14 members and each time they climb they share an ‘aptapi’ — a banquet during which each individual brings some meals to share.


After resting for a few hours in a refuge, the Cholitas rise up at 11:00 pm and begin dressing of their conventional coloured pleated skirts, referred to as polleras.

A ragbag of home-makers, carriers and vacationer guides, they begin climbing the glacier at midnight in order to succeed in the summit at dawn.

Over their woollen clothes they carry typical mountaineering gear: helmets, crampons, ice axes, boots and leggings.

However as a substitute of a backpack, they carry their gear in a standard material sack slung over their shoulders and tied across the neck.

“There was numerous discrimination in opposition to the pollera girl,” stated Llusco, pointing to the femicide fee in Bolivia being the best in South America, in keeping with worldwide organizations.

Indigenous individuals, who make up virtually half of Bolivia’s inhabitants, have lengthy been marginalized.

‘Flying between clouds’

At nighttime of night time, all that’s seen is an ant-like line of lanterns lighting up the ice on both aspect.

One after the other the Cholitas cling to a security harness and thoroughly dig their crampons into the ice to keep away from tumbling 30 meters into an abyss.


The oxygen ranges drop and temperatures plunge to minus 10 levels Celsius.

Within the distance, 30 kilometers method, the lights of El Alto are seen.

With the primary gentle of the day, the coppery faces of those girls — aged between 18 and 42 — change into seen.

As a few snowy peaks poke by way of the low-lying cloud, a number of Cholitas cease to take pictures of the daybreak solar poking out from spectacular landscapes with their cellphones.

The intense altitude brings on head and abdomen aches which the Cholitas attempt to alleviate by chewing coca and chocolate leaves.

Near the summit, two exhausted climbers determine they’ve had sufficient and abandon.

The ultimate path is steep and slender. Clinging to a rope they push on slowly.

On the prime it’s all smiles, hugs and dancing.

“Once we attain the mountain peak it’s as if we had been flying between clouds,” stated Llusco.

Her daughter Camila Tarqui, a brand new recruit, says she likes “how the pollera flutters” at this altitude.

“You are virtually capable of contact a star once you come up right here at night time,” she stated.

On a plain a couple of meters under the summit, the Cholitas play a soccer match.

Excessive altitude soccer is nothing new in Bolivia, whose nationwide group performs its matches in La Paz on the best pitch on the earth used for worldwide matches.


Having already scaled South America’s highest peak in 2019 — the Aconcagua in Argentina — the Cholitas now dream of tackling Mount Everest.

“We ladies have damaged down a number of limitations … and we need to go additional, all the time carrying excessive the Aymara tradition,” stated Llusco.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *