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Friday, October 12, 2012
Updated: October 13, 12:51 PM ET
Sherpas film in Bolivia

By Molly Baker
ESPN.com

Sherpas Cinema filming in the Andean sub-range, the Condoriri.

This September, while skiers across the Northern Hemisphere enjoyed the final stages of summer, Kye Petersen, Callum Pettit, Kris Erickson, and Sherpas Cinema headed to Bolivia on a two-week trip to ski the high altitude peaks of the Andes. Filming for Sherpas' newest film, set to debut in the fall of 2013, the crew set out to climb and ski Bolivia's second highest peak, 21,122-foot Illimani.

"It hadn't snowed for a long time near Illimani when we arrived in early September," said Petersen recently from his home in Whistler, where he is now, climbing and biking in preparation for the upcoming winter. "We didn't know what conditions were like, but it is a relatively dry place, so we expected it to be low snow."

Bolivian peaks tend to have more reliable snow conditions in May and June, but Erickson, the trip guide and photographer, was on Everest in May, so Sherpas and the rest of the crew postponed until September. Petersen, invited on the trip just two weeks before their departure, was excited to get back to South America after only one previous trip to Las Leņas several years ago.

Kris Erickson on the French Face of Bolivia's Huayna Potosi.

When they arrived, Illimani's four main peaks presented unavoidable challenges. The highest, glaciated, round summit, Nevado Illimani, wasn't aesthetic enough for filming and the others were blue ice. It would have taken the entire two weeks to produce a few shots on Illimani. With other mountains on their hit list, Petersen and the crew went north from La Paz toward another objective, 19,974-foot Huayna Potosi.

Opting for the French face, a route to the south summit of Huayna Potosi, the group stayed one night at the Camp 1 hut, only a five-hour 4x4 drive from La Paz. Potosi, Bolivia's most popular peak because of its proximity to the city, throws climbers and skiers onto a 6,000-meter peak right off the plane. With only two weeks to train in BC's Coast Mountains before the expedition, Petersen says he felt the elevation immediately.

"The first night at camp, I got severe headaches," he said. "Looking back at the trip, the mountains were steep and technical and mostly blue ice, but the main difficulty was dealing with the altitude."

The mountains were steep and technical and mostly blue ice, but the main difficulty was dealing with the altitude. I was pushing through headaches the whole time.

-- Kye Petersen

The second night they rested at snowline on the edge of the glacier at Camp 2 and used the next day to acclimatize and practice glacier rescue. By the fourth day, they'd succeeded at what they'd come to Bolivia to do: summit, ski, and film.

"I was pushing through headaches the whole time," Petersen said. "Even with more time to train, it may have been the same, but now at least I know what to expect when dealing with altitude. At one point or another, all of us felt sick."

En route to Camp 2 on Potosi, Bolivia's most popular peak for climbers.

After four days on Potosi they headed back to La Paz where they had only one day to recover before heading to another Andean sub-range, the Condoriri, a picturesque range known for its alpinist-style peaks. The group spent three days camping on glaciers, made a few summits, and then returned to La Paz. Although more conducive to skiing and filming, conditions in the Condoriri varied between blue ice and corn.

Back home in Whistler, Petersen claims that he isn't going to be chasing after any 8,000-meter peaks anytime soon, even after his first successful high altitude expedition. Instead he plans to ski powder in BC this winter and head to Chamonix in the spring. And, maybe someday, venture back to the Andes.

"I just jumped into this one without much time or thought," he said. "Next time I go back, I've got my sights set on some 6,000-meter peaks in the Cordillera Blanca in Peru, with hopefully a bit more time to acclimatize."