In preparation for our attempt to climb a 20,000′ Bolivian peak, we had acclimatized for six days at elevations around 12,000 feet. The next step was a two-day trek in the Condoriri, a mountain range located not far from La Paz. The name comes from the resemblance of the central peaks to the head and shoulders of a condor—a likeness you have to squint quite a bit to see in the photo above.
We would camp at Lake Chiarkota, elev. 15,252′, and climb over a pass at around 16,000′ beside a peak called the Mirador. The trek was organized by La Paz-based guide Hugo Berrios. Tents and gear were carried by donkeys that would ferry these items back out the second morning, while Hugo continued on with us.
We started at Lago Tuni, a lake at 13,775′. The area seemed bleak and monochromatic, but snowy peaks beckoned on the horizon. Steve, Bob, and I kept a close eye on our altimeters, looking out for the point at which we would climb higher than our previous lifetime high point, the summit of Mt. Whitney (14,505′). We passed this momentous point at an inconspicuous stretch along the valley. The llamas and alpacas watched us curiously.
We arrived at Lake Chiarkota in the late afternoon. Already a chill had touched the air, and we were glad to have plenty of warm layers for this July trek. The lake was a beautiful glacier-tinted shade of blue.
The next morning we climbed a steep grassy slope above the lake.
I was pleased to find that the altitude wasn’t bothering me. We crossed some steep scree fields.
Hugo was a great guy to have with us, very friendly and helpful. He’s done a lot of technical climbing in the Condoriri.
The scenery was almost beyond description.
As we returned toward Lago Tuni, we encountered some small farms. Life in this cold, severe world of the Altiplano can’t be easy.
Coming soon: Posts about the 20,000-footer we failed to climb and about the famous “Death Road” to Coroico.