Bolivia’s Indigenous Women Climbers: Threatened by Melting Andean Glaciers

December 4, 2023 | by b1og.net


Imagine standing on the majestic Andes peaks, surrounded by the awe-inspiring beauty of snow-capped mountains and pristine glaciers. Now picture a group of 20 Indigenous Bolivian women, known as the Cholita climbers, working as tourist guides in this enchanting landscape. For the past eight years, they have donned colorful, multilayered skirts as they led visitors through the mountains. However, their future is now threatened by the effects of climate change. As the Andean glaciers melt, disappearing beneath their feet, the Cholita climbers fear for the survival of their jobs. Once covered in a white blanket of snow, the glaciers now reveal nothing but rocks, a stark reminder of the thaw caused by rising temperatures. As the ice retreats to higher altitudes, the number of tourists seeking their services has diminished, leaving these resilient women searching for other means to make a living. Will they continue to defy the odds, or will their way of life be forever changed by the vanishing glaciers?

Bolivias Indigenous Women Climbers: Threatened by Melting Andean Glaciers

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In Bolivia, a group of Indigenous women known as the Cholita climbers have been working as guides for tourists, climbing the Andes peaks for the past eight years. However, the threat of climate change and the melting Andean glaciers is putting their livelihoods at risk. As the glaciers retreat, the Cholita climbers worry about the future of their jobs and the impact it will have on their communities. This article will explore the impact of climate change on Bolivia’s Indigenous women climbers and the steps they are taking to adapt to the changing environment.


The Cholita climbers

The Cholita climbers, a group of 20 Indigenous Bolivian women, have become iconic figures in the region. Dressed in colorful, multilayered skirts, they have been guiding tourists up the Andes mountains for years. They are known for their skill, resilience, and deep knowledge of the mountains. However, as the glaciers melt, their way of life is being threatened. These women have dedicated their lives to climbing, and the changing climate is putting their expertise and livelihoods in jeopardy.

Impact of climate change

Climate change has had a profound impact on the Andean region, and the Cholita climbers are feeling its effects firsthand. The retreating glaciers are not only changing the landscape, but also the entire ecosystem of the mountains. The disappearance of snow and ice has led to a loss of habitat for various plant and animal species, disrupting the delicate balance of the environment. The Cholita climbers are witnessing this ecological imbalance and fear for the future of their beloved mountains.

Loss of glaciers

One of the most visible effects of climate change in the Andean region is the loss of glaciers. Edson Ramírez, a glaciologist from France, estimates that Bolivian glaciers have lost 40% of their thickness in the last 30 years. The once snow-covered peaks are now marked by rocks and melting water. The Cholita climbers have seen their beloved mountains transform before their eyes, and they are deeply concerned about the implications for their livelihoods.

Reduced tourism

The melting glaciers have also led to a decline in tourism in the region. The Cholita climbers rely on tourists to hire them as guides, but with the changing landscape, there are fewer visitors seeking their services. As the lower parts of the mountains no longer have ice, the climbers have to go further up to find it, which makes it less accessible for tourists. This reduction in tourist demand has resulted in fewer opportunities for the Cholita climbers to earn a living.

Financial impact

The decline in tourism has had a significant financial impact on the Cholita climbers. In the past, they could make around $50 per tour, but now they earn only about $30 per tour. This decrease in income makes it difficult for them to support themselves and their families. As the glaciers continue to melt and tourist demand decreases, the financial stability of the Cholita climbers is becoming increasingly uncertain.

Alternative sources of income

To cope with the challenges presented by climate change, the Cholita climbers have started exploring alternative sources of income. Some of them have begun making and selling blankets and coats using alpaca wool from the Andes. This allows them to diversify their income and provide for their families in a changing economy. While this transition is not easy, the Cholita climbers are determined to adapt and find new ways to support themselves.


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Hope for the future

Despite the challenges they face, the Cholita climbers remain hopeful for the future. They are committed to preserving their cultural and environmental heritage, and they believe that their work as guides is essential for both their communities and the tourists who visit the region. They hope that through awareness and advocacy, they can inspire action to mitigate the effects of climate change and protect their beloved mountains for future generations.


The Cholita climbers of Bolivia’s Andean region are facing a unique challenge. As the glaciers melt due to climate change, their livelihoods as mountain guides are being threatened. The loss of glaciers, reduced tourism, and financial impact have forced them to seek alternative sources of income to support themselves and their families. However, despite the difficulties, these resilient women remain hopeful for the future. They are determined to adapt to the changing environment and continue their important work as guides, preserving their cultural heritage and the beauty of the Andes for generations to come.

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