Mountain climbing in the Cordillera Apolobamba

The Cordillera Apolobamba lies in the easterly border regions of Peru and Bolivia and stretches in East-West direction over 50 km and in North-South direction over 30 km in the Departamentos Puno (Peru) and La Paz (Bolivia).

Bolivia – many travel guides describe Bolivia wrongly as an attachment of Peru. But this Andes country has to offer a sheer unbelievable diversity of landscapes and culture, and is considered as one of the most secure countries in Latin America, contrary to possibly other how sounding reports. We find here breathtaking ice tops, partly over 6.500 meters high, diverse jungle regions on various altitudes, bizarre salt deserts, lively and colorful markets and mystical Inca monuments.

Our tour directs us first to the legendary Titicaca Lake with his deep blue surface. We drive per boat to the famous Sun Island, reportedly the origin of the Inca realm. There we stay overnight, to cross the island per foot on the next day.

From Copacabana we drive directly to Pelechuco, the starting point for our next crossing of the Cordillera Apolobamba. For this tour, we schedule 10 days, despite of the original 7, because we want to take three sensational summits as destinations. As a highlight we plan to climb the 5.655 meters high Cuchillo, one of the most majestic ice mountains in the Cordillera. As a grand finale, the generally most favored of all Andes Mountains stands on the program, the 6.088 meters high Huayna Potosi.

Highlights

  • Titicaca Lake
  • Sun Island
  • La Paz
  • Cordilliera Apolobamba
  • Cuchillo
  • Pequenio Akhamani
  • Huayna Potosi
  • Curva
  • Pelechuco

Dates and prices

  • Travel time: 16 days
  • Price:  1.495 Euro
  • Dates: 4th to 19th of june 2009

Our services

  • Transfer from the airport
  • Journeys through the country with busses and taxis
  • Accommodation in simple hotels or tents
  • Mountain tours inclusive organization, tour guide and leased equipment
  • Entrance fee national park
  • Travel guide on location
  • Guided mountain tours
  • Food during the guided tours
  • Mountain guide for the high mountains

Not included services

  • Accident and health insurance
  • Tourist floater and travel cancellation insurance
  • Not advertised meals and drinks
  • Tips
  • Cost for personal requirements

Number of participants

  • Minimum: 3
  • High: 6

Tour overview

1 Day of travel: Arrival in La Paz

Because the most guests will arrive before midday, we undertake a first small beginner’s tour just today.

We drive with the minibus a small way out of La Paz southward. There waits a fascinating shape of a rock with two sharp edges at the upper side. From these results the name Muela de Diablo for this location. The tour is here short, but directs through splendid green fields and interestingly formed rock formations. From the top, even though "only" 3.852 meters high, we have a fantastic view over the city and the surrounding high summits, the ice armored Illimani as most high point.

2 Day of travel: Titicaca Lake

How many legends surround the deep blue Titicaca Lake, how much we can read in books about him? But all this fades away, when we stand actually in front of him. Furthermore, we make a boat trip to the famous Sun Island across the lake, reportedly the origin of the Inca Empire. But first lie three hours of a bus tour from La Paz to Copacabana ahead of us. Everything else than boring, we first drive through the migrant city of El Alto, later we drive past at all famous mountain giants of the country, like the Huayna Potosi or the Condoriri.

At the beach of Copacabana we will surely have time for a trout, before heading to the island. There we move about barely 200 meters in altitude up on steep Inca Steps, before we reach our rather simple hotel. Before dinner, we make a small exploration tour on the ridge of the island.

3 Day of travel: Sun Island

The island has some more attractions to offer yet. Therefore we stride over the entire area today. We follow the ridge’s course with some up and down, where we take already the first two small 4.000 meter mountains, without bigger difficulties clearly. Also some small archaeological sites we can find on the way. But this is more to attract tourists. There seems to be visible no important sense of the buildings. Please do not expect too much, here is not Machu Picchu.

On the way back to the harbor we will manage the compulsory trout, before our boat brings us back to Copacabana.

Who wants to, might try the Calvarien Mountain yet in the evening. He offers a fantastic sight over the lake and usually breathtaking sunsets. For this we must climb only about 150 meters in altitude.

We stay overnight in Copacabana.

4 Day of travel: Pelechuco

In the beginning we take the first bus to Huarina from Copacabana. Here we meet our driver for the Apolobambatrek. Our vehicle is already here too. Now we are able to start at once to Pelechuco. Because the not tarred roadways are usually in a more than desolate condition here, we need also the rest of the day for the journey to. But this is everything else than boring, we drive here through breathtaking and at the same time evenly unknown Andes regions. Snow covered 5.000 m mountains, wild rock ridges, green meadow lands and sparkling waterfalls line our way. Also Pelechuco self is completely without tourism yet and hardly mentioned in any tour guide. We stay overnight in a simple hotel, a dinner awaits us there.

5 Day of travel: At the Illo Illo River

On very old Inca paths we wander to Pelechuco (3.500 m) across a 4.000 meter high pass and through amazingly green high plateaus. Even a small stream lines our way, so that we have enough fresh water. We camp then at the River Illo Illo, situated close by, on just only 3.800 meters. Altogether we need about 5 hours for this trekking tour. About 600 meters of altitude we must cross here. After we have built up the tents, relaxation might start as required. You might wander about a little or try to catch one of the countless fishes in the Illo Illo River. Other than that, we have dinner from the stove.

6 Day of travel: Sunchuli Pass

We start early today, because we want to climb high up. The Sunchuli Pass with his 5.100 meters of height forms, in the truest sense of the word, the high point of this trek and offers a splendid Andes panorama. Gigantic mountain massifs dominate the direct surroundings, partly hardly ever stepped on. Up to there we must manage first some 1.300 meters of altitude difference altogether. A considerable march thus, but the grand sights and the original landscape reward us for our efforts. After about 6 hours, we reach our second camp. The tents are built up fast. We camp in the Sunchuli Valley, near the famous gold mines, which were operated already by the Incas. Who is interested in this, might take a short look at.

7 Day of travel: Unknown summits

From our camp today, several interesting tops offer beginners tours, to start with. They all exceed significantly a height of 5.000 meters, but have not very much alpine difficulty. One of them we will choose according to convenience and constitution of the participants for today. Our destination is hardly ever climbed and offers grand sights at the neighboring ice giants. No one will be disturbed here by the fact, that the mountains there have no famous names, respectively, that many of them have not yet any name. For accommodation we climb down into our camp from yesterday.

8 Day of travel: Cuchillo

We stay another day in this camp, because from here we will be able to climb one of the most interesting mountain shapes in the Cordillera Apolobamba, the 5.655 meters high Cuchillo (knife). Therefore a long climbing uphill is clearly necessary, not without alpine difficulties. The slope here rises in some places to 40 and also to 45 degrees. Additionally we must cross a smaller glacier. So much the better is the impression then high up at the mountain ridge, respectively the spacious summit panorama with a view over the entire Cordillera to the North of La Paz.

After this highlight we climb down to the camp again, where we stay overnight once more.

9 Day of travel: Inka Kancha

The ruins of Inka Kancha are our next destination. But first we have to get over a steep and windy pass. Again we are rewarded for the efforts with grand and distant sights. Inka Kancha self is located at 4.200 meters of height. Thus, the night might get very cold, but we and our equipment are prepared suitable. Additionally, the ruins are more than worth seeing, so that also the afternoon is secured. Today we need again about 6 hours to wander to our destination. The camp self is situated directly beside a picturesque waterfall with the option to shower. Outdoor, in blank nature naturally, accordingly cold is the water, just correct after a strenuous day of walking. In the evening we sit yet long at the campfire in front of our tents.

10 Day of travel: Akhamani

Again we try a 5.000 meters high pass. Also here is the sight excellent, first of all the 5.800 meters high Akhamani, one of the many holy mountains in Bolivia, is an eye catcher. In nearest proximity stands an ice covered summit directly in front of us, but yet many further Andes giants we will sight. From the pass we move onward to take another 5.000 meters Andes mountain, very probably the small Akhamani with 3.350 meters of height. Now, the difficulties result more from the rock than from the ice, but the view from here is again finest. If we have yet some time, maybe we advance to another neighboring mountain. From the pass we climb then to our camping place.

11 Day: Jatun Pampa

On the next day we move further through thick mountain forest, surrounded from snow covered summits, to the next camp at 4.300 meters height. Today, the way distance is not entirely so long. In five hours we will have finished. Also this night we experience the Andes again in their whole magnificence, but with a refreshing night’s coldness too. Unbelievable clear we sight the stars above, a combination of the height here and location in the South make this possible. Jatun Pampa is the name of our camp ground apropos.

12 Day of travel: Curva

Some small houses are located at our present camping place, first signs of civilization. So live thus the Bolivian farmers. Stony paths and thick natural mountain forests line our way down to Curva, the first hamlets for a long time. However Curca is located on about 3.700 meters of height. Here is located a simple shop and a warm bed for accommodation, at the side of a small lagoon. After four to five hours we should arrive there, so that we have yet enough time to study the village life a little and have a closer look at the place. Alternatively we have the option to relax simply. But this would be a pity, because here we can find interesting archaeological evidences of the Kalawaya culture. For the evening is planned to dinner together, to celebrate the return into the civilization.

13 Day of travel: Return journey to La Paz

Today, we return again back to La Paz. Starting point for this is the village Charazani, located at the Apolobamba’s South border. Here now, we are only 280 kilometers away from La Paz. Because of the better street condition, the travel back is significantly shorter than the initial journey there. Nevertheless, eight hours of travel lie ahead of us, however through an unequaled landscape again. Nearly the entire journey we keep the deep blue Titicaca Lake in sight, with his sheer infinite vastness. Above raise the already known Andes giants and hopefully azure blue sky. In between the one and the other stop is scheduled, so that also today we might make a lot of experiences. In the evening we find ourselves back in the pulsating metropolis, quasi as a contrast program to the loneliness of the Apolobamba trek. Here we will visit a good local restaurant.

14 Day of travel: Chacaltaya

Today we rest from the exhausting last days. Despite this we feel attracted by the height yet. A tour into the highest situated skiing area of the world, the Chacaltaya, waits on the program. First we pass El Alto, were we put one intermediate stop, to shop food. Then we move on a gravel track further and further up. Populated areas we find here few, only sometimes we see some very simple huts. In exchange cross llamas the road. Narrow serpentines direct into the height, impressive views down and into the distance are here clearly not missing. We see even the white cap of the Sajama, in some hundred kilometers of distance naturally, additionally insights into the, much nearer located, Titicaca Lake and rocks in tremendously many colors from green to orange. The high concentration of iron in the ground provides a reddish coloration of many fields of broken rock and even lakes.

In a height of 5100 meters, the air is already quite thin. We find here a shack of the Austrian Alpine Association with accommodation for the night. A little below is a ski lift, a single slope and a drag lift. But despite skiing, we climb onto the Chacaltaya’s 5300 m high top. Here in this extreme height we come forward only slowly. It is certainly not very healthy to move 1500 meters of altitude up with the bus and to do then additionally sports on that altitude. Despite this, there are always some guests on the summit. We go ahead to climb another top nearby.

Finally we visit dal Valle de Luna, the moon valley, situated directly on the outskirts to the lower South of La Paz. Yellowish gray pyramids of earth can be found here. If the landscape would not be full off paths, one could think, that he is indeed on the moon.

Respectively early we go to bed then, because tomorrow we want to move at one of the most interesting Andes Mountains generally.

15 Day of travel: High camp Huayna

Now, our acclimatization should be sufficient for the Huayna Potosie (6088 m), one among the nicest Andes Mountains at all and local mountain of La Paz, whereto we return then. In a tour of two days we get nearer to the ice covered Andes giant, whose climbing is everything else than simple, controversial to other, differing statements. A very steep icy passage we have to cross, before facing on the last 200 - 250 meters of altitude difference a 45 up to 50 degree steep ice field, and this in a height of 5900 meters. Solid alpine experiences and adequately sure skill with ice pick and climbing iron must here in every case be present, an extremely good condition not to mention. ???

We start accordingly early and drive with the all-terrain vehicle to the Zongo Pass. Already the Mont Blanc’s height we are here now nearly up to, but there wait yet 600 steep meters of altitude with heavy backpacks. But the paths are very good visible and also passable, so that we reach our camp place soon, where we can expect a sparse dinner and a cold night. Quasi as compensation we find here an unforgettable Andes panorama too.

16 Day of travel: Huayna Potosi summit

The ‚summit day’: things become serious now. In the middle of the night we will be woken up (if this should be necessary at all) and after breakfast we start immediately. Direct in front of the tents we might equip the climbing irons now. After climbing exhaustingly the glacier, a steep ice passage of 60 to 70 degree ascending slope follows, being very strenuous in this height and reserved exclusively for experienced ice alpinists. However, the terrain is simpler again after about 50 meters and we approach across a slightly sloped ice ridge towards the summit’s ice wall. Additionally, this wall is nearly 250 meters of altitude great and quite steep too (circa 50 degree). Reward of these efforts is a breathtaking panorama with a view onto the Titicaca Lake, La Paz and countless firn summits of the Andes. If we were fast enough, we see all this in the changing sunrise light. But we should not stay too long, because we have to climb downhill again, before the ice gets to soft. After the camp has been broken down and put away, we move down to the pass, where our taxi awaits us.

17 Day of travel: Return flight

Unfortunately, the tour comes to an end today. The only remaining point on the program is the return flight to La Paz. So we fly again over the grand Andes mountain chain, directly past Huyna Potosi and Condoriri. This is the best time to think of new plans to climb mountains.

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