This is not a complete account of deeds that took place in Bolivia...
Text by: Sam Smoothy
Photos by: Mickey Ross
Full Article in the magazine
This is not a complete account of deeds that took place in Bolivia, but rather a collection of fragmented, shining moments experienced over many hours of thinking in tents. Following in his father’s footsteps, Sam Smoothy and his entourage climbed and skied Pequeño Alpamayo and Huayna Potosí, making potential first ski descents on the west face of Aguja Negra and the southeast face of Ala D. Sur in the Condoriri area of the Cordillera Real mountains.
“He came dancing across the water, with his galleons and guns, looking for the New World and the palace in the sun” – Neil Young.
Geneva. Milan. Madrid. Miami. La Paz. How long the transit actually takes is a mystery, but however long it is, it seems longer. Carting sixty-five-point-eight kilograms of assorted devices for ascending, descending, cooking, sleeping and eating, we’ve come to discover the Bolivian Andes. Currently cosily sandwiched on the plane between two rotund, Taco Bell-loving Yankees en route to visit their daughter, who clearly prefers the missionary position she now so devoutly fills in Bolivia. It is strangely gratifying to encounter people still so committed to converting the natives to God, Capitalism and all things West, regardless of how ancient the culture may be.
Though it is very possible I am dreaming all of this; that potent mix of tiny bottles of red, chased with the Johnny that Walks, guarantees the most lurid dreams. I bid the Yanks farewell with an earnest promise to find Jesus – and in a way, I do, promptly stumbling into a pile of North Face duffel bags that have chased Johnny Collinson south of the border. A hazy cab ride through La Paz’s sleeping streets dumps us into hostel bunk beds. It is 6am, May the 13th in the Age of Oversaturation that is 2015, and my eyes have ceased to function.
I have come to Bolivia to retrace the climbing steps of my father, Ronald M. Smoothy, and hopefully lay fresh ski tracks on the descents. Armed with his notes and vague stories told deep in the night, I‘m on a journey to discover how my father’s life of travel in the mountains has influenced my own path. And perhaps come to understand my father – a man of few words, but many stories – a little better.
I have assembled a crack team, enlisting the prodigal talents of the aforementioned J. Collinson as Head Altitude Gnar Expert, while my hometown adventure buddy and full-time mountain strong man Fraser McDougall joins the team as Senior Aeronautical Advisor. Capturing our escapades are Will Lascelles and Jason Hancox of CoLab Creative production fame, the former a new and the latter a long-time brother of mine, who’ve turned my blurry Bolivian visions into an actual expedition. They have the risky task of creating a moving picture film of our adventures. The final member of our motley unit is ex-Olympian and man of international disrepute Mickey Ross, who’s in charge of herding us into crisp still photos amongst the general disarray.
We spend the first few days in La Paz shuffling around the city, getting used to the 4000m altitude and gathering necessities like fuel and food. Will hands out ritual cigarettes and we challenge our lungs even further, trying to comprehend the whirling mayhem of this city in a ravine. As the six of us stare out over this suitably chaotic city, we notice the reassuring presence of a family sedan wedged deep in a cliff-face crevice a hundred metres below. A perfect holeshot, its shattered headlights light up in the fading sun and the brick shanties flame red before the shadows engulf us.
“That kid sure can take a good kick to the face.”
Strange words and even stranger scenes. Woman on woman. Man on woman on woman. We are watching Cholita wrestling in El Alto, where locals in swirling traditional garb take part in fake poor man’s wrestling in a rusted old ring – the referees may count you out, or just kick you in the ribs. I am well short of the cerveza needed for such a spectacle, but on it rages into the dark night, regardless. A five-year-old clutches the ring, ready to aid and abet his mother with tiny kicks to the torso of a “trapped” opponent. A mistimed kick lands square on his bewildered face, but while his lip quivers, he holds back the tears. What a way to make a buck.
I can’t imagine my father, sitting popcorn in fist, watching two…
Yes that’s a Teaser.
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