La Paz, Bolivia is the highest capital city in the world, and only a few hours from town are peaks reaching to over 17,000 feet. Following the journals and long-ago journeys of his father, a young skier and a group of friends return to the country in search of big lines and even taller tales. Ice, steeps and high exposure in Bolivia.

Words: Sam Smoothy.

“He came dancing across the water, with his galleons and guns, looking for the New World and the palace in the sun” – Neil Young, “Cortez the Killer,” Zuma, 1975.

It is 6 a.m. on May 13th, and my eyes have ceased to function.

I have come to the Cordillera Real Mountains of 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, vague stories told and retold in the night, I endeavour to discover how my father’s previous life of travel, skiing and climbing has influenced my own. And perhaps come to understand him—a man of few words but many adventures—a little better.

Johnny Collinson, myself and the four other members of our group are on a hazy cab ride through the dead streets of a sleeping La Paz to our hostel bunk beds. From there we will spend our first few days shuffling around La Paz, acclimatizing to the 12,000-foot altitude and picking up fuel and food…

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