Breathtaking landscapes, four vegetation zones and friendly people. A forgotten land in the heart of the Andes.
get re s a u ng reets o am e st ar m y s n fa th . T h r o ld o r ret s wor es. O oto. e h t y â€™ e e tl s p h e n n e E v ir m o V W b in th i th e o f o ld e s a s fu ll to r b ik mo
The capital La Paz lies between 3500 and 4000 m above sea level. Crowded in together up the steep slopes, the raw brick houses are extremely exposed. In this fascinating city, the golden rule is â€œThe lower down the slopes, the better the area and the cooler it is at night!â€?.
But actually weâ€™ve come for the mountains. On the programme is a four-day trekking tour in the impressive world of the Andes. The main problems are acclimatising to the altitude and the remoteness of many regions. The locals recommend chewing coca leaves to help us get accustomed to the thin air.
l a s t
we’re on our way t o
t h e
CORDILLERA R E A L
A minibus takes us into the Cordillera Real. When the mighty glaciers of the Condoriri come into view, we stop to take photos. This mountain will be watching over us for the next few days and will hopefully look upon us kindly – it’s no fun walking in this desolate landscape unless the weather is good. A storm doesn’t just spoil the wonderful view but can quickly lead to losing one’s way too, as our group was later to experience firsthand.
We arrive at our starting point, the trekking rucksacks are packed, water bottles filled and sun cream applied once more.
We have to keep forcing ourselves not to go too fast. Even long conversations while on the move are difficult to maintain at this altitude. But itâ€™s not just us who are getting slower and quieter, the whole mountain world seems to be in a deep sleep. The only living creatures up here are llamas and alpacas. Otherwise, total stillness and untouched nature as far as the eye can see.
We pitch our tents by the shores of Lake and get ready for our first night. As soon as the sun disappears behind the mountains, it gets very cold and we are glad of every single layer of clothing that weâ€™ve got on. But up here in the Cordillera the spectacular sunset light and colours quickly take our mind off the cold. As soon as the last of the daylight has disappeared, a canopy of stars appears such as no-one in our group has ever seen before. The clean, dry air gives them even more intensity as they shine down on our two tents.
The temperature outside might be
well below zero but weâ€™re snug and warm
IN OUR SLEEPING BAGS.
With the MIGHTY GLACIERS TOWERING ABOVE US, we carry on ...
Often the paths are just tracks made by the llamas but sometimes there are really good hiking trails. For example here along a water channel which provides drinking water to lower-lying areas.
We stop for a break on the Huayna PotosĂ glacier. We have now been trekking for two days and are still under the spell of these mountains. We have not seen many other walkers, just a shepherd now and again. The mountain folks here are quiet-natured with a shy smile lighting up their round faces. Thatâ€™s as far as things go because the locals do not speak Spanish. But you can always get by if you smile a lot and use your hands.
From Zongo Pass we follow an irrigation channel that has been hewn through a rockface with awesome results. The precipice seems to go down and down for ever so we have to be extra careful. But the mood in the team is relaxed. We have successfully acclimatised ourselves to the altitude and can look forward to the highest point of our tour: a 5100-metre-high unnamed pass.
During the ascent clouds roll up from the low-lying, humid region of the Yungas. In our long TEXAPORE jackets we are perfectly equipped to cope with the weather and a little mist does nothing to dampen our spirits. As the saying goes, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.”
A test of cou rage:w ho is dar ing
enough to walk across
the viadu ct?
We reach our campsite just before darkness falls. The tunnel tents are quickly pitched, the night camp sorted and there is still time for us to enjoy the brilliant view.
C l o u d s
e n v e l o p
t h e
imposing east face OF THE HUAYNA POTOSÍ.
The next day brings snow showers but that doesnâ€™t stop us from continuing our trek. The steep ascent focuses our minds in a mountain world that is almost mystical in the middle of nowhere.
We’ve made it! We’ve reached our final goal. The Laguna Canada is supposed to be really bright turquoise when the sun shines. In these weather conditions, it is difficult to see the intense colour but we are overjoyed that we have managed the whole stretch. From now on it’s down all the way and we soon reach the pass road where a minibus is waiting to take us back to the capital city.
On the way back we meet llamas for the last time. We stop again to say goodbye to our new pets. Sadly, we rarely got close enough to them to test out whether these animals actually spit.
To b e c o n t i n u e d …
ESCALADE MID TEXAPORE MEN/WOMEN This trekking shoe offers extra stability: a plastic cross piece stabilises the foot at the ankle â€“ a useful detail particularly for the high mountains. The waterproof, exceptionally breathable TEXAPORE O3 membrane additionally guarantees both weather protection and excellent wear climate.
TRIED AND TESTED EQUIPMENT G R E AT E S C A P E JACKET WOMEN
ESCALADE JACKET MEN
The lightest JACK WOLFSKIN trekking jacket for women weighs only 640 g in size M. It is made of lightweight yet robust weatherproof material and is equipped with venting pit zips and high-set pockets.
Lightweight (810 g/size L) and weatherproof finish in one: this jacket has an extremely high hydrostatic head (50 0000 mm), the main seams are sealed inside and out, and it features a storm hood. No matter how heavy the rucksack or how long it rains for: this jacket keeps you dry.
SANCTUARY RT III
There is room for three people in this stormproof tunnel tent with its giant vestibule â€“ and it only weighs 3750 g! The light, rip-proof nylon material is coated with silicone on both sides, which makes it waterproof. The ingenious convex pole design and vertical poles in the vestibule corners allow full use of the internal space right into the last corner.
ESCALADE PACK 80 MEN/70 WOMEN
There is nothing to beat the heat/weight ratio of down! The expedition sleeping bag proves this fact even during snow falls in the high mountains. Available in three sizes.
With these huge high-load rucksacks, the main part of the weight is transmitted directly to the waist belt via V-shaped rods â€“ providing comfortable distribution. Practical details: the carry system cover (particularly useful for the flight) and removable front pocket which can be used as a daypack on short trips.
Photos: Moritz Attenberger 路 Text: Tobias Attenberger
Published on Feb 10, 2011