Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Condoriri (August 5th - 8th, 2013)

We planned this hike as a potential acclimatization trip for Huyana Potosi. It was our second hike in the Cordillera Real.

As usually, we started our trip at Adolfo's office. We were quite happy that we met him through our Illimani trek, because in contrast to all other agencies we visited, he was the only one capable and willing to give us information for independent trekking. He told us that he may have a group that we could share transportation with the next day, so we booked a car with him. The group did not show up, so the next day we got a private "taxi". Already from the road we had gorgeous views of the Cordillera Real.

Almost the whole Cordillera Real far in the background

Approaching Condoriri

Our driver smoothly delivered us to a small settlement that was one hour away from the Condoriri base camp. We ate our lunch, which we bought from a stand at El Alto that our driver had recommended, but it was quite bad, so we gave half of it to a local dog. From this settlement it was an easy hike to the base camp. There, we set up our tent and went for a short acclimatization hike.

Laura getting ready

From base camp it was an easy 40 minutes walk to the beginning of the glacier on Pequeño Alpamayo. We hiked there and back, cooked, observed some viscachas, and then it was already time to go to sleep.

From here on you need crampons!

Glacier on Pequeño Alpamayo

The next morning we took it easy, as our only plan was a five hour hike to the top of Pico Austria. We departed at around 10 a.m., as the majority of the morning we had to spent on boiling water: our SteriPEN batteries had just ran out without giving us the warning specified in the manual.

Morning at the base camp

In the beginning it took us a while to find the path. Laura was not feeling very well and without the path she was unable to find a good walking and breathing rhythm. We knew that a path should exist and which direction it should go, but it still took us a while to find it. After finding the path, Laura immediately got happier and we continued at a speed appropriate for that altitude. With a couple of short breaks on the way, we made it to a pass. We had our lunch there and enjoyed the amazing views.

The small lake we discovered behind the pass

One of the many amazing views

From the pass it was just straight up. I also started feeling the altitude and was very happy with Laura's pace. At 1 a.m. we made it to the top of Pico Austria, setting our new altitude record. Unfortunately, various sources can not agree on the exact altitude. I have seen numbers from 5270m to 5400m, but we decided to call it 5350m, which is the value from OpenStreetMap and matched the data from our GPS quite well. On the top, it was even possible to see the Lake Titicaca, but we did not manage to make any good pictures of it.

The summit photo

Our base camp is down there

The way down was easy and straightforward, but still filled with gorgeous views. We were at the camp at around 4 p.m., and spent the whole afternoon cooking and boiling water for the following day.

In the morning, we packed and dried our tents, and once again departed at around 10 a.m.

Packing in the morning

Similarly to the previous day, finding the path was not easy. Eventually we made it to the place marked on our GPS, but there was still no path. We continued and after some more hiking the path started to be recognizable. Unfortunately Laura was not feeling well: her stomach was gave her some trouble, and she was short on breath. Taking as much as possible out of her bag helped a bit, but we were still quite slow.

Tired pile of unhappiness (direct translation from both Estonian and Czech)

Around noon we made it to the first pass and Laura started feeling bit better on the way down. We also had a small lunch, but did not want to waste too much time: the weather was getting suspicious, with some not-so-distant thunder. We lost our path and had to find it again, which delayed us a bit, but eventually, we made it to the start of the second ascent. As I was carrying the majority of the weight, my speed slowed down considerably as well, but eventually we made it to the top. From there we knew that we would only need to go down.

Suspicious weather

The descent was long but nice. We moved our rain jackets to the top of the backpacks to have them ready, but luckily, we did not need to use them. On the way we also met some llamas and made a stop at a dam.


This dam powers a hydroelectric power plant way down below

At around 6 p.m. we made it down to Chaca Pampa. As chances of getting transportation back to La Paz at that hour were nonexistent, we talked to the power plant workers about possibilities of spending the night in the town. One of them was able to get us a place to stay in the building next to the church, free of charge. We were very happy about that, because just then, the storm caught up with us.

Our last camping spot

The next day we went to the local bus stop, and got a ride to El Alto. The ride went around Huyana Potosi and provided us with many wonderful views. Unfortunately, as Laura was feeling bad during this hike, she decided that there is no way she would even try to climb it.

Huyana Potosi next morning

As usually, we contributed to OpenStreetMap and have more pictures.

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