June 14, 2003 -“Grand and Powerful” Beginning to
BAI Bolivia Climb and Trek

Hotel Europa, La Paz

At 6:00 am this morning, Leila and some of our Bolivian staff met the American Airlines flight from Miami as it landed at J.F. Kennedy Airport at El Alto, above the city of La Paz, at over 13,000 ft. On board this flight were 11 members of this month’s BAI Bolivia adventure. The only member of the team missing was Jack Maxwell, who was scheduled to arrive from Cusco, Peru at 11:30 AM. Jack arrived on time and was met at the airport by BAI guide Dave Scott.

Arriving at El Alto on the six hour flight from Miami has to be one of the most amazing transitions that can be experienced in our world of international jet travel. Our group stepped out of the airport into the clear, cold morning air of the high altitude Bolivian “Altiplano”, or “high plains’ Charles Martin and some to the other members immediately recognized he striking profile of Huayna Potosi, the highest peak we will attempt on this expedition, rising across the Altiplano in the dawn light.

Leila and the group then drove down from El Alto into the city of La Paz. Dave and I were waiting at the hotel and we all shared a buffet breakfast together and talked about our plans for travel trekking and climbing together in Bolivia in the next two weeks.

We had not mentioned to the group before they arrived the treat they were going to have of arriving in La Paz on the day of the biggest party of the year in the city: “Gran Ponder”, or the “Great Power” festival. This colorful and wild day in La Paz is probably best described as the Bolivian Mardi Gras or Carnival. The entire town takes off for a day to participate in and enjoy a giant parade that lasts from 9:00 am until far into the night. The festival is a uniquely Bolivan combination of Christianity and Native American traditions.

These photographs will best show some of what we experienced during the groups first hours in Bolivia. In the midst of all the gaiety and color, I will never forget some of the scenes, such as when Dave and Jack, who were already good friends from a BAI Alpine Mountaineering Course last summer and from Heli-skiing this winter, quickly found the cans of Pacena Beer for sale on the street and began to enjoy the show. Another memorable scene was Becky’s friendship with one of the dancers who stepped out of the procession and spent some time with us at our seats on the side of the street.

Tonight we had pizza for dinner at the Hotel Europa and made plans for our departure for Copocabana and Lake Titicaca in the morning. After months of training and dreaming, it is great to be together and underway on our adventure. We will miss Donna Moll, whose ACL injury to her knee just before we left kept her from joining us. She is already working hard at her rehab so that she can come to Nepal this autumn and Antarctica next December. Good luck Donna!

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