You will be met and transferred from La Paz Airport to the group hotel. El Alto airport is the highest international airport in the world at an altitude of 4058m, and it is with relief that we descend into the great bowl of La Paz to the group hotel. We will need to take it easy for the first few days of this trip, in order for the group to acclimatise to the altitude. Most people will want to rest for a few hours on arrival. In the evening there is no need to venture further than a nearby restaurant, although those who are feeling more energetic can always wander around the fascinating surrounding area. La Paz is a remarkable city, with its steep, narrow streets radiating upwards from the main thoroughfare of the Prado. There are lots of plazas and markets, and a number of museums and grand cathedrals. In the afternoon we will organize a meeting for a full briefing for the expedition; please check at hotel reception for meeting details.
This morning we will undertake a city tour of La Paz. We will concentrate our attention in those places that are more interesting. Beginning our tour at 8:30am we head to the street Calle Los Andes, where we will meet the most renowned artisans who specialise in carnival costumes, which reflect Bolivia’s ancestral folklore. The artisans even allow you to dress in one of these costumes for a nice photo. We will then venture by the Indian market to look at the great variety of fresh goods from thel different regions in La Paz. Next to the Mercado de Hechicería or the Witches Market, where various potions and mesas, amulets and even dried llama ftuses are dispensed for you. Other highlights include Jaen street (nice example of the remaining colonial architecture in La Paz); Mirador de Killikilli (panoramic city view); and a visit to a local museum. Finally we will assist our acclimatisation process with a short hike along the route of the eagles, or Ruta del Aguila. En route, we will stop for a picnic (box lunch) with a splendid view over the mountains and sandy spires in the famous Moon Valley. Return to the hotel for overnight accommodation.
Our journey will take approx 4hrs by road to Copacabana via Tiquina Straits. Along the way we will visit the museum of Paulino Esteban, the Bolivian Indian that built for Heyerdal the boat RA II, which successfully crossed the Atlantic ocean. We will enjoy this fascinating history, and also learn how these kind of reed boats are made using the totora reed, which is endemic to the Andes. We will arrive in Copacabana (3825m), located on the shores of Lake Titicaca, around midday. This is a beautiful town, and a popular resort and pilgrimage area. At the beach of Copacabana, our motor boat will be waiting to take us (approx 1 hour) to the extreme southern side of the Sun Island (Isla del Sol), where we will land near an Inca temple called Pilkokaina. We will go to a local restaurant with superb views over the lake and enjoy a late lunch (typical Andean menu). Afterwards we will visit the Pilkokaina temple, followed by an hour's walk to the ecolodge. After we check in to our accommodation, we will have a traditional tea/chat time at 17:00 followed by a walk up to the highest point of the island (4070m) to experience a magnificent sunset over the lake. Return to the ecolodge for dinner and overnight accommodation.
An important region for Aymaran and Incan history is on the Bolivian shores of Lake Titicaca. The Copacabana peninsula and nearby islands were once the ceremonial and administrative centres during the Incan and pre-Incan periods. Stunningly beautiful, the Island of the Sun, where legend tells that it was here the Sun was born, became a sanctuary for pilgrims who flocked there via Copacabana. Copacabana is of significance also to locals of both past and present - since the late 16th Century miracles and healings have been performed at the church set by the lake. The azure blue waters and rugged coastline of Isla del Sol make a beautiful natural setting to explore for a couple of days without hordes of tourists. It is a wonderful opportunity to interact with people typical of the area as they go about their daily chores.
This morning, from the hotel, we will walk 3 hours along the backbone of the island to its extreme north end, and visit the Labyrinth of Chincana. We will stop for lunch in the village of Challapampa. Before taking our boat back to Copacabana, we can visit a local archaeological museum, and at the shore of Yumani we can visit the idyllic Garden of the Incas, with an Inca spring considered by the locals as the fountain of youth. Overnight hotel in Copacabana.
Early morning visit to the Indian market and the church that houses the Virgen de Candelaria - the religious Madonna of Copacabana. Then we will commence our trip to the mountains with a 4 hour drive crossing the rolling plains of the Altiplano, with tremendous views of the Cordillera Real, mainly the Illampu and Ancohuma massifs. In the last hour of the drive we will enter the high mountain valley of Condoriri, with wonderful views over soaring snow capped spires in a glacially eroded valley beneath the Wings and the Head of the Condor. Finally we will reach Wañakota lagoon (4450m). After a picnic lunch, we will take a leisurely walk (approx 2 hours) up to our camp by the banks of Chiarkota lake (4650m).
Today we will go to the nearby glaciers to undertake a review of basic alpine fundamentals, familiarise ourselves with the equipment, and learn suitable further alpine skills in ice climbing. After a full morning's practice in cramponing, ice-axing, top-rope climb and rappel; we will return to base camp for lunch. Rest of the afternoon at leisure.
Return to the glacier for further alpine instruction, such as moving roped up and belay systems. Return to base camp at lunch time. Rest of the afternoon at leisure. Our mountain guides and assistants will arrive at the campsite for the next day's climb.
Today we will climb Pequeno Alpamayo (5379m) via the west-southwest ridge normal route. Difficulty grade: FR: AD/USA: AI 2/SCOT: III-. Average slope angle: 50º. This is a sequence of climbs in alpine style. “Pequeño” means small and it is certainly a small Alpamayo because of its likeness to Alpamayo in Peru. This peak is impressive, beautiful, and justifiably popular. If you see it from Tarija peak, the view of Pequeño Alpamayo is awesome. This is the second most important summit of the Condoriri group. The climb involves an hour's approach to the glacier, and then a climb (2 hrs) through gentle crevassed glacier up to the summit of Tarija (5300m), which is our outlet to enter the main ridge of Pequeño Alpamayo peak. There will be a short technical climb before the summit. From Tarija it takes approx 3 hours to summit the Pequeño Alpamayo. Overnight base camp.
We climb the normal route, which is a 3 hour climb from the base camp. Return to base camp. Return to base camp for lunch. We pack all our belongings and finally we move walking down for one hour to the road head and return to La Paz Hotel.
After some solid days of climbing, we trek back to Pinaya with our crew and porters, and meet our transport which will take us back to La Paz. After a good hot shower and changing into some clean clothes, we will seek out some of the good bars and restaurants of La Paz.
Today we will climb Illimani (6462m) via the Normal Route. Difficulty grade: FR: AD+/USA: AI 3/SCOT: III. Average slope angle: 45º. Illimani is the highest summit in Cordillera Real. Approx 7 hours climb, including a technical passage called “la bola”. Once we reach the spectacular southern summit of Illimani, we will encounter a magnificent panorama of the Cordillera Real range, its myriad snowy mountains, and cloud pillow over the Amazon rainforest. Descend to the base camp "Puente Roto" for an enjoyable evening to celebrate our summit climbs.
This morning we will hike approx 5 hours along a rocky ridge up to the high camp (5450m) called “Nido de Cóndores” (nests of condors), located at the t of the glacier. It is an impressive high camp spot surrounded by rocky drops, seracs and crevasses. At night you can see the faraway lights of La Paz.
Drive from La Paz (3 and a half hours) to the Pinaya village. This green temperate valley at 3750 m / 2303 ft around Illimani makes an interesting contrast with the imposing huge glaciers of the Illimani Mountain faraway up. Pinaya is an idyllic country side spot with farms and trees growing in an enjoyable temperate climate suitable to walk in short and T-shirts. Hiking 2 hours as far as the grassy plateau of the base camp “Puente Roto” (4450 m high). Some mules help us with our extra trip bag.
We start moving from La Paz in the early afternoon to reach Zongo Pass at 4780m. Accommodation in an alpine style refuge.
Today we will climb Huayna Potosi (6088m) via the normal route. Difficulty grade: FR: AD-/USA: AI 2/SCOT: II. Average slope angle: 40º. This peak is located in the middle of the Cordillera Real range, and is Bolivia’s most straightforward 6000 metre peak.
Pre-dawn start for the 5-6 hour ascent. First 2 hours will be up a steep slope to connect with the summit ridge, just after negotiating safely a short moderate-angled snow slope. There are big crevasses all around the summit ridge. For the last 180 metres we will scramble across ice, snow and rocks in 35º-40º angled slopes. The views from the summit are one of the most superb in the Andes; east, west, north and south, there is something beautiful to see; the Amazon, Altiplano and Lake Titicaca, glacial lakes and the rows of peaks that form the Cordillera Real - for all aspiring climbers it will be a summit long remembered! The descent to Zongo Pass will take around 5 hours. Transfer to La Paz. Overnight hotel.
After a lazy breakfast we pack up to climb 2 hours, across a boulder field up to the t of the glacier (5270 m high). Basic accommodation in an alpine refuge. Porters will help us with our extra trek bag. Rest of the afternoon to relax.
This day is also available as a contingency day on the Illimani mountain in the event of bad weather or snow conditions. If that is the case, we would be arriving in La Paz today from the mountain.
A day of leisure to rest, organise laundry, do some sightseeing and shopping, as well as prepare for our final journey into the mountains. Everything is near to us at our hotel so there is no real need to rush around, it is quite relaxing just wandering the streets and squares nearby to take in the busy activity of the local people. Final preparations are made for our departure the following morning, and a relatively early night is recommended for all.
Transfer to La Paz Airport, where our services conclude.