Cerro Cunurana

  • Cerro Cunurana
  • 5071 m (map 5056m)
  • Primary factor 1114 m
  • South of Potosi, Bolivia
  • Location: South 19:48.124, West 065:39.180 (GPS on the summit)
  • Difficulty: YDS class 3.
  • Climbed December 30 2010.

Copyright Petter Bjørstad, 2009-2011. Photo also by Rob Woodall.


How to get there:
This mountain is located about 20 kilometer south of the city Potosi. Drive Hwy. 1 as it exits Potosi quite close to the local mountain, Cerro Rico, then continue about 17 kilometer. The trailhead can be accessed from two different directions, from the west or from the south. I have only explored the access from the south, but it may be worth the effort to also check out the access from the west, since this road perhaps is better and avoids a possible problem (see below) that is present with the south access.
West access: Locate the position S19.7856, W65.7416, the place is called Estancia Chaquilla (on the map). A small road runs east from here. After about 8 kilometer, this road runs through an area that has seen mining activity. To what extent this poses problems is hard to know, but worthwhile to check out. If the road can be driven further, then proceed north of, then east of the mountain Cerro Khomer Khocha until reaching a road fork at location S19:47.304 W065:39.354, elevation about 4700 meter. This is a good trailhead unless you feel like driving slightly further (taking the left fork).
South access: For this access, continue south on Hwy 1, descending down a valley, before locating a pretty big road fork at location S19.881, W65.681. Take the left fork and cross a river on a pretty large bridge. Almost immediately after this bridge, locate a small, unsigned (dirt) road that forks off left, initially going up a small hill. Follow this road as it winds its way, generally north, following the left slopes of what becomes a more distinct valley as you proceed north. As this valley narrows, you will arrive at a small mining community. This location is S19:49.777 W065:39.687, elevation about 4150 meter. There is a gate that may be used to close the road here. When we arrived, this gate was open, however, upon our return it had been closed causing a slight delay/problem. Assuming that you get along with understanding from the locals, proceed up the valley to a nice lake. Beyond the end of the lake, there is a road fork. Take the right fork (slightly rough a short stretch, ok for 4 wheel drive), proceed up and arrive at the same road fork as described above, location S19:47.304 W065:39.354, elevation about 4700 meter.
This is a good trailhead. The road continues a short distance towards some old ruins, however, it may be better to park at this fork.

Route description:
From the trailhead described above, continue along the dirt road as it traverses the slope and ends near a substantial ruin from earlier mining activity. A trail continues beyond the ruins and climbs to the wide saddle that divides this area from the valley further east. This is location S19:47.840 W065:39.174, elevation about 4900 meter.
Turn right and climb the beginning of the ridge that extends north from Cerro Cunurana. As you gain the top of the first hill, a quite narrow, but very nice ridge extends in front of you. This route is quite nice and one can walk along the top without difficulties. When the narrow section ends stay left (east) as you arrive at a short, but steepish step. There are cracks and plenty of holds, thus easier than it may first appear. Downclimb here, about 4 vertical meter, this brief section is (YDS) class 3. The ridge is now broader as the route will take you across a second, distinct hump. There are no issues here and the ridge can be followed along its highest line. (We did not know this and went left on our way up.) The short descent on the south side will leave you at a rather broad passage connecting to the final slopes of the mountain.
Proceed directly uphill on pretty good footing. Higher up, the terrain consists of boulders. The easier way is to gain your elevation a bit more on the left side before making a turn right in order to gain the very summit. Proceeding through the boulders is also quite ok, a bit more of easy scrambling among these boulders will also take you to the summit. The summit is quite localized, but not small. There is a trig. point marker and a small cairn.
We left Potosi pretty early in the morning and decided to try the road from the south. This road was ok, we drove slowly through the small mining community half way up the valley. Higher up, we made a photo stop by the nice lake, then continued to the first road fork. Our drivers did not show much enthusiasm for driving further (on the right fork) as it did look a bit rough. Thus, we established this as our trailhead at location S19:47.627 W065:39.568 and elevation about 4587 m.
As it turned out, the road got better almost immediately and it had been no big deal to continue driving to the trailhead recommended above.
We left the cars at 0815 and proceeded along the road uphill towards the ruins and the main saddle. Clearly, people were at different stages of individual acclimatization. Duane and Adam W. had arrived only 2 days ago, while Adam H. and Rob had been around twice as long. The narrow ridge as well as a bit of scrambling was fun. Rob and I arrived at the summit around 0955, the others followed shortly. The views were nice and we stayed until 1030. The return hike followed the same route and got us back to the cars by 1130.
We returned back down the same road, by the time we reached the small mining community, somebody there had closed the gate. I guess they mainly wanted to know who was driving up their valley and what the purpose of our visit was. A bit of conversation between our drivers and a couple of locals seemed to be required, however, for a while no obvious progress could be observed from my point of view. Eventually, I walked over to the gate and just pulled it open. The lock had not been engaged. Our drive continued to the small town of Tupiza where we filled up gasoline including extra tanks carried on our roof racks.
A summary of peaks climbed are available. A full trip report can also be consulted for more pictures and additional details.