AWS installation: La Paz, Bolivia

In June 2023, as part of our Deplete and Retreat project, Jeremy Ely, Tom Matthews, Wouter Buytaert and Jose Cuadros-Adriazola travelled to La Paz, Bolivia, to scope the installation of hydrological loggers and our automatic weather station at Zongo Glacier and Ancohoma, Bolivia.

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Location of La Paz, Zongo Glacier and Ancohuma, in the Kaka hydrological catchment.

We met with, and were greatly supported by, the team led by Marcos Andrade at the Laboratorio de Fisica de la Atmosfera, at Universidad Mayor de San Andres. We are very grateful to him, Juan Marcos Calle, Laura Ticona, Fernando Velarde and Fabricio Avila for their support before, during and after this trip. 

Dinner in La Paz: Lefthand side: (front to back) Marcos Andrade, Tom Matthews, Jose Cuadros- Adriazola, Fernando Velarde. Righthand side: (front to back) Wouter Buyteart, Jeremy Ely, Juan Marcos Calle, Fabricio Avila.

Jeremy’s excitement at the amount of glacial till and other sedimentary structures exposed in La Paz was not shared by others commuting during rush hour

A gondola in the air over a rocky mountain

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Cable car through La Paz.

Zongo Glacier

With our equipment (automatic weather station, glacier monitoring stake) stuck in customs, we diverted our attention to scoping sites for installing hydrological monitors, and studying the glacial geomorphology. The first scoping expeditions of these took us to Zongo glacier, which sits above the city of La Paz. Here we identified a perfect spot for installation by a weir, which we later confirmed with the local hydroelectricity authority.

A llama standing in a rocky area

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The front of Zongo glacier. There is also an alpaca somewhere on this photo…

For studying the glacial geomorphology, we teamed up with CordilleraIce (, Emma, Maud, Gaston and Domitille. They kindly camped for three nights in the mountains of Janq’u Uyu valley, spending their days measuring lichens at 5500 m. These organisms grow at a known rate, so their size can be used to infer the age of glacially deposited rocks.

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The CordilleraIce Team prior to camping: Left to right, Jose, Domitille, Emma, Gaston and Maud. 
Because lichens grow at a specific rate, lichen size can be used to calculate age of exposure for surfaces.
Walking on some moraines

Weather station recce: Ancohuma

Having scoped some sites for hydrological monitoring near La Paz and Sorata, Tom and Jeremy said their farewells to Jose and Wouter. Tom and Jeremy’s remaining mission was to scope the site for the installation of an automatic weather station near Laguna Glaciar and the mountain of Ancohuma. Supported by a local team, led by Pedro and Senobia Choque, Tom and Jeremy began the trek to the proposed site at around 5500 m, taking in a few sites on the way. They were also privileged to spend the Winter Equinox with the local team, witnessing the sunset over the end of the Aymara year.

Location of the Ancohoma weather station
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View from Jeremys tent, at Laguna Chilata. 
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Terminus of Laguna Glacier
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Glacial striations, caused by stones carried by ice scratching the rock beneath the glacier
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Sunset over high-camp

Temperature sensors at the summit

Once the site had been identified, and the necessary hole dug, Tom was not content at staying as low as 5500 m. Instead, he, Pedro and Paulino (the chief porter) climbed to the summit of Ancohuma, to install a temperature senor. By our reckoning, this is the highest temperature sensor in Bolivia.

Pedro and Tom installing a temperature sensor on the summit of Ancohuma.

Requiring oxygen and a good shower, the team then made their way back down the mountain. Having been strongly encouraged to do so, Tom and Jeremy were eventually gave into the demands to dance with Senobia.

Delirium induced by a sudden increase in oxygen at lower altitudes…

Successful installation

Despite our equipment being stuck in customs, the trip was overall a success. Subsequent to our trip, we are extremely grateful that Juan Marcos Calle, Laura Ticona, Wara Carvajal and Marcelo Peñaloza made the trek back to high camp to install the weather station. Hopefully, this station will collect data for many years to come, giving us new insights into mountain climatology in these understudied regions. 

Installation of the weather station on Ancohuma. Credit to Wara Eliana Carvajal. 

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