The latest high altitude mountain objective: Bolivia’s Cordillera Real.
As usual, I wanted to balance a full mountain expedition with a city/cultural immersion, so allocated a full two weeks to encompass both climbing and some La Paz exploration.
Having visited quite a few South American cities in recent months, I expected La Paz to be similar. I had no idea how much the geography there would end up surprising me. As my plane flew over Lake Titicaca and then past Illimani (one of our objectives) on my way into La Paz airport, I was quickly blown away by the terrain and sheer scale of the mountains. Hands down my new favorite South American city. Let’s dive in:
Where to Stay:
Atix is your upscale option in the area, albeit still very affordable. I’d highly recommend it for when you’ve first arrived or are getting off of the mountain and want a really nice shower, meal and cocktails.
Loki can best be described as a hostel that doesn’t really feel like a hostel. They are very accommodating, have ample storage space, and a delicious, local and plentiful menu - and bonus: they’ll even deliver your food to your room. My only complaint is that they’re a bit slow with the check in and check out process, so plan on an extra few minutes - but no big deal.
Where to Eat: Ali Pacha, Gustu, Popular Cocina Boliviana, Antigua Miami
Where to Eat, Easy: Higher Ground, Cafe del Mundo, Namaste, Cafe Typica, Epico Cafe
Where to Drink: Hay Pan wine bar, Adventure Brew Hostel, Hallwright’s, Higher Ground, ONA
Must See Attractions / Viewpoints:
Take the Teleferico
Spend some time exploring Valle de la Luna (aka valley of the moon)
Visit Valley of the Animales
Go to look out point, Mirador Killi Killi
Visit Witches Market
Eat a saltena at Pacena Saltena (a saltena is like a juicy, semi-sweet empanada, or an on-the-go chicken pot pie)
Visit 16 de Julio Market
Muela del Diablo: get a taxi or Uber to drop you off at the Cementerio el Pedregal and from there you need to start hiking up the mountain road. If you want to see the muela and views but aren’t looking for a half day hike, ask the taxi to drive you all or part of the way up the mountain to cut down on walking time
Walk down Calle Jaen
CORDILLERA REAL CLIMBING:
Condoriri Lake / Pico Austria
I should first explain how we found our guide and picked our itinerary for this region. I usually have go-to guiding services for some of the more common peaks in the Himalayas and North America, but was a bit out of my comfort zone for Bolivia. Fortunately, I had recently learned about a company called Explore Share, which connects adventure enthusiasts of all kinds around the globe to a local guide in the region.
These aren’t just guides who have walked or climbed the mountain a few times. They are some of the absolute best in the region and have been well vetted and qualified by Explore Share.
To say that they did an excellent job with finding our guide, Jose, would be an understatement. He was an extremely well-traveled, worldly, and just all around very enjoyable person to be around - not to mention, an extremely proficient guide (one of the first and only guides in Bolivia to have obtained his full IFMGA guiding certification). I felt extremely safe and confident around him, and similarly, greatly appreciated his advice in helping us cater an itinerary based on our skill levels.
As it happens, not everything went according to plan, so we ended up bagging Pico Austria and Huayna Potosi but had to leave Illimani for another time. We had zero regrets, as the climbing we did do was in excellent conditions and an experience I’ll remember for a lifetime. Thank you immensely to Jose Callisaya and Explore Share for a perfectly executed, flawless experience in Bolivia.
Jose put together the following itinerary for us:
DAY ONE: La Paz to Rinconada; we are going to Laguna Charcota base camp of the mountains in Condoriri
DAY TWO: Ascend to Peak Austria
DAY THREE: Laguna Charcota back to Rinconada, where our car will take us back to La Paz
DAY FOUR: La Paz to Base Camp of Huayna Potosi and then hiking 3 hours onto Huayna High Camp
DAY FIVE: We start around 1am to ascend to Huayna Potosi summit. After summiting, we return to base camp and drive back to La Paz
DAY SIX: Rest Day in La Paz
DAY SEVEN: Drive to Pinaya and hike to the base camp of Illimani
DAY EIGHT: Ascend to Illimani high camp (Nido de Cóndores)
DAY NINE: Ascend to Illimani summit and return to base camp
DAY TEN: From Illimani base camp we return to Pinaya and head back to La Paz
Condoriri Base Camp / Pico Austria: Day 1 - 3
Huayna Potosi: Day 4 - 5
Guiding Service: https://www.explore-share.com/