Hiking Illampu


We were invited on this hike by a Swiss and German couple who were also volunteering at the Centro De Miembros Artificales. Mathais and Kristen had much more experiencing having hiked in Ecuador; it was good to have someone show me the ropes ūüôā

This hike gave me a look at rural life in Bolivia. The hike started in Sorata which was at a welcome altitude of 2674m after being at 4000m in La Paz. The first thing I noticed in Sorata was that we were the only other foreigners, it was once a popular destination for tourists but over the last 10 years it’s popularity has waned. The hikes around around the mountains of Sorata were well trodden; local guides made a good living from the steady flow of tourists. Now the guide books recommend that you bring a machete with you to hack back the undergrowth on the underused trails.

The four hour bus journey from Cemetario in La Paz took us higher across the Altiplano past lake Titicaca up in to the mountains to the east then finally down in to the valley to the town of the Sorata; all for princely sum of 15 bolivianos (£1.50)

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It was a Sunday many people were spending their time relaxing in the town square, which; considering the statue, looks like it could have been funded by the third Reich:


Ever present in the background of the town is the mountain Illampu:


It was easy to see why locals would consider the mountain a deity, always hovering above them.


We stayed in hotel Panchita, it cost £3.50 for a private room with a shared bathroom, or £7 for a private bathroom.

In the morning we were approached by several people offering their services as a guide, we decided to save money and risk it on our own.

The walk up to the first lagoon was took us past the rural communities, many of the fields and farms clinging to the sides of the mountains.





This might have been a strenuous uphill hike for us; but for the locals it was a daily commute.


There were two routes up the lagoon, one shorter but with less scenery and the other the opposite. We decided to take the scenic route:


After six and a half hours of walking we arrived at the first Lagoon:


The night was cold I must have reached close to freezing, unfortunately my sleeping bag was not good enough for this so I had a pretty bad nights sleep


On the next morning when the cloud had moved to the bottom of the valley the view from the tent was amazing, the next stage was to get the the glacier lagoon between the two snow capped peaks


This part of the climb was much more steep than the last so we left out tents and heavier items at camp with the idea of getting there and back in a day.



The local government had a project to bring more of the fresh glacial water back to the town below. Men were working at this attitude!



Each of the pipes was about 20kg each, and after Mathias had a chat with a local they were all brought up the mountain by hand!






As we got closer to the mountain it be came steeper, and the path became more difficult and slippery. The biggest problem was getting up the dried up waterfalls where the rock was very smooth:


At this point we were 200m from the Glacier Lagoon, due to some errors in navigation and stopping to take in the scenery it had been hours. The cloud started to roll back in and it became hard to see:


We decided to head back as we did not want to risk having to navigate back in the dark under the cloud.

When we got back to base camp I found my tent like this, we had been warned about thieves… but it was…

P1000797 COWS!!!!!!!!!!!

The tent pole had been snapped, fortunately Mathias had some duct tape which was a quick fix.

We was another hiking group when we arrived too, with horses and a kitchen tent, posh gits…


After another night in my cow savaged tent we headed back to town, it took just over 5 hours.


Although we did not make it to the final destination it was still a great few days in the mountains.

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