We came to Bolivia for many reasons – spectacular mountains, natural wonders like Salar de Uyuni and Atacama, incredibly interesting local culture to name a few of them. Before our trip we decided that climbing a 6k peak would one of our main goals. Obviously, you can’t just come to Bolivia from Europe, where we live virtually at the sea level, and go to this altitude. You need to acclimatise and the more time you put into it, the less will you suffer. To increase our chances of climbing Illimani, we decided to do a trekking in one of the mountain ranges in proximity of La Paz. We though it would be also a good way to enjoy breathtaking Andean landscapes and nature. And it was! Here is a short report from our Condoriri trekking.
There are numerous agencies offering trekkings in Bolivia. “Can’t we just organise a trekking on our own?” – we asked ourselves. We did many trekkings on our own in the Alps and other mountains and we felt experienced enough to be able to plan a hike in this remote corner of the world. Plus, Bolivian agencies have ridiculously high prices, as they target western tourists who are used to western prices.
Before chosing our itinerary we did a thorough research to figure out the most interesting treks and also to understand its feasability. Many agencies advertise May-October as the best period, so we were a bit worried if rain won’t flush us from the trail. We found a couple of blog posts and reports which increased our hopes, as those guys were able to accomplish their hikes wihout major obstacles. According to our initial agenda we could devote 4 days and this is why the 4-day Condoriri seemed to be the perfect choice. On top of that, we managed to find a detailed description of that trekking in Spanish, which featured a priceless GPS track. Now I think the track was drawn by hand, but anyway it was super precious given the quality of Bolivian maps.
Apart from the extensive research on the Internet, we decided to prepare our breakfasts at home. If you don’t want to carry bread with you, there are not too many breakfast choices – you either take porridge for kids or oatmeals. We went for the latter. We didn’t know in advance if we’d get milk powder (cause, clearly, you don’t want to carry real milk with you) or oat flakes in La Paz. To avoid an unpleasant surprise, we bought those in Paris and made a mixture of milk powder and oat flakes repartitioned into string bags. Every bag contained 80g of oat flakes, 25g of milk powder and some nuts. With this in hand, preparing a meal was as easy as adding some water and stirring.
Breakfasts are ready – now it’s time to think about the dinners. Theoretically we could buy those in La Paz in one of the sport shops. Thoeretically – cause there was too much risk at stake and we didn’t feel like verifing this in practice. We wanted to make sure that every day’s struggle will be awarded with a delicious meal. We took 8 freeze-dried meals (1 per person per day, 400kCal on average) and 4 freeze-dried soups. Because of altitude sickness, which drastically diminuted our hunger to minimum, this was more than enough.
Preparations in La Paz
Before setting off, we had to buy gas bottles and maps in La Paz. While a gas bottle can be bought in almost every shop at Sagarnaga or Illampu in La Paz, buying a proper map is less obvious. We managed to buy two maps (Condoriri and Huayna Potosi) from Institut Geografica Militar in a trekking agency at the Sagarnaga street – we found it on the right hand side of the street when going uphill, halfway between San Francisco and Illampu. These are not the best maps we’ve ever seen, buy you won’t get better ones in Bolivia.
We also went to Mercado de las Brujas to buy some coca leaves. The locals say it is a natural pain killer and decreases altitude’s impact. Well, I was kind of unlucky to vomit after chewing some leaves and drinking coca tea. Since then, their taste had special
PRO TIP: In every grocery shop in Bolivia you can buy really great soup powders: sopa de arroz or sopa de quinoa. They are very tasty and contain some freeze-dried vegetables. I think it really makes sense to take them with you.
Getting to the trailhead
Our valuable description in Spanish mentioned a car as the best way of getting to the start of the trek. Without a doubt it’s the fastest and easiest way, but not the cheapest one. We managed to find a French blog, where a French couple did a similar trek, but they got there by bus and a mountain taxi. We did what they did: took a collectivo to San Francisco, then another one from San Francisco to Cementario. From there we found the first bus which was going to Copacabana. We had to take this bus to Servicio de taxi de Patamanta, which is not really a standard stop. We negotiated the price and managed to pay half of the full price to Copacabana. Since the bus passes through El Alto and stops virtually everywhere to collect passengers, it took us around 1.5h to get on the spot.
To my surprise, when we arrived to servicio de taxi, there were a few white cabs waiting next to the road. You can even see them on street view. I asked a taxi driver to bring us to Laguna Tuni. I showed him on the map where we would like to get and he brought us as close as possible. The road was still ok, but for some reason he didn’t want to continue. Anyway, we were already very close to our desired get off place. We paid 110 bolivianos for an hour ride.
Servicio de taxi de Patamanta
- Trekking Tuni – Condoriri as described by a french couple (in French)
- Description of ascent of Pico Austria from Condoriri base camp
- Description of a slightly smaller trek as offered by one of the agencies
- Detailed description of the trekking in Spanish
Our ultimate packing list
Protip 1: You won’t find any sources of electricity along your way. Things like phone or battery charges are useless. There is no mobile phone network in the area. You can safely turn off your phone for four days.
Protip 2: Night in November can be quite cold. Our sleeping bags provide comfort down to -16ºC. Given high altitude and constant fatigue, we were very happy to have these beefed up sleeping bags with us.
Protip 3: Take a package of cigarettes or bags of coca leaves. Give some to the locals you meet on your way. They will appreciate it.
- Waterproof jacket
- Trekking pullover
- Trekking pants
- Underwear top
- Underwear bottoms
- Mountaineering gloves
- Wool beanie
- Down jacket
- Trekking boots
- 2x Trekking socks
Cosmetics + drugs
- Coca leaves
- Shower gel + shampoo
- Tooth brush
- Activated carbon
- Lipstick with UV filter
- Knife/Swiss army knife
- Gas bottle (to buy in La Paz)
- 2x mug
- Ultralight tent
- Down sleeping bag
- Sleeping mat
- Headlamp with extra batteries
- Tea bags
- Space blanket
- Mini dishwashing liquid + mini sponge
- Plastic cutlery
- Power tape
- Sewing kit
- GPS device + extra batteries
- Trekking poles
- 8x freeze-dried meals
- Snacks – at least one per day per person
- 8x breakfast portion
- Coca tea bags