Hiking the Cordrillera Real (day 1-4)

DJI_0308_thumb Hiking the Cordrillera Real (day 1-4)

Get the full GPS track and typographic map here over the 158,3 km here: “The Cordrillera Real”.

Check out our overview of the hike here and to download the GPX tracks: “Cordrillera Real and Choro Trek (Overview)”.

How to prepare for 2 weeks of hiking? Check out this post: “Food, gear and maps for the Cordrillera Real and Choro Trek”.

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Day 1, Cordrillera Real: 9.7 km (4 hours and 10 minutes) Ascent 500 meters and descent 500 meters

Start/finish elevation 3900/3900 meters

Highest elevation 4000 meter

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We got a really late start on our first day. We left La Paz in a mini-bus towards Sorata, but got caught in traffic due to the big market in El Alto (Thursday and Sunday). We finally got dropped off by the trail at 2 pm. We were hungry, and decided to eat lunch before starting the hike at 2.30 pm.

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It was time to head out in the Cordrillera Real

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In the beginning we could follow a trail, but after the small village, Millipaya we lost it…

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After loosing the trail we walked between small fields, but after checking the map we decided to walk uphill, and finally found the gravel road (it was a good choice), which we would have to follow until crossing the river in the valley. The clouds were rolling in on us.

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Due to the late start we didn’t make it across the river, where we could have found a place to camp on the other side. It was getting dark, and we decided to “emergency” camp next to a irrigation canal, so we would have easy access to water. We always try to camp, where we have access to water, it makes cooking and refilling our water bladders so much easier. Also it got below freeze every night during the hike, which made it impossible to use our MSR Guardian water purifier in the morning, simply because it was frozen.

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Day 2, Cordrillera Real: 14.5 km (8 hours and 50 minutes) Ascent 980 meters and descent 440 meters

Start/finish elevation 3900/4500 meters

Highest elevation 4870 meter

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On our way to our first pass on the hike in the Cordrillera Real

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With heavy backpacks Esben was pushed to the limit on our second day – we climbed almost 1000 meters in elevation

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You always feel better after a Snickers! View of the valley in the left picture, and in the right picture you have views of lake Titicaca

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This day we just walked after the GPS points we have on the map, there was absolutely no trail or road to follow, so we spend a lot of time on navigation today. We quickly learned, that it was important to check the map often. When we got too much out off course, we would loose time nd use even more energy, it was better to check the map very often, and enjoy the small brakes. We also had the nature to ourselves, it was amazing.

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We made it over the pass, and found a trail leading towards Laguna San Francisco, where we had planned to camp. Looking downhill towards Laguna San Francisco, where a river delta is prominent in the valley.

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Following a trail, that maybe once had been a road. Passing a partly frozen waterfall as we descended towards the valley floor

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Finally at the bottom of the valley, we walked further up to find a place to camp. After this day Esben was not sure, that he could continue on the hike… it was just really hard to walk in this altitude, and what made this day really hard was the decent from 3900 meter to 4870 meters, which was almost 1000 meters in elevation, that we had to climb.
I (Esben) just did not feel I was getting enough oxygen no matter how fast or deeply I breathed. Anyways, it was already the first day really worn out and even if the view was amazing I did not enjoy the hike all.
But luckily over the next days I felt a little better and we also decided to skip some of the high passes to conserve energy.

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Amazing camp spot, just next to the river delta, which made it easy for us to get water

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Day 3, Cordrillera Real: 11,9 km (6 hours and 25 minutes) Ascent 540 meters and descent 300 meters

Start/finish elevation 4500/4750 meters

Highest elevation 4960 meter

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The next morning Esben was standing again. We walked further up river to find a more dry and narrow place to cross the river and the wetland/river delta. The good thing about crossing the wetland in the morning is that everything is frozen, this makes the ground more solid and thereby easier to cross without sinking in to deep, and keeping your feet dry.

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After crossing the valley we found a trail heading uphill in the right direction. It makes it so much easier to walk, when there is a trail to follow. Still keep an eye on the map, so you know, that you are going in the right direction.

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Looking back towards the valley, with the snow covered mountains in the back ground, the highest peak is Ancohuma, 6427 meters

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We could pretty much follow the trail the rest of the day, and our climb in elevation was ”only” 500 meters making this an easier day compared to yesterday (we climbed almost 1000 meters in elevation yesterday).

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We still had to climb one last steep and sandy part to reach the top of the pass

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For a short time we lost the trail, but after the steep climb in the sand, we quickly found it again

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Panoramic view of the valley, that we just came from

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Enjoying getting to the top, and Esben was still standing… even smiling wlEmoticon-openmouthedsmile Hiking the Cordrillera Real (day 1-4)

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We could follow a trail as we descended towards Laguna Chojna Khota – meeting the first patch of snow

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As we reached Laguna Chojna Khota the darkening clouds got closer and closer. Suddenly it began to snow, but before we even had set up the tent, the small snow storm had retreated wlEmoticon-sun Hiking the Cordrillera Real (day 1-4).

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This gave us time to make water and rest our feet

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BUT during the night another snow storm came… wlEmoticon-camera Hiking the Cordrillera Real (day 1-4) before the snow storm and after the snow storm wlEmoticon-camera Hiking the Cordrillera Real (day 1-4)

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Day 4, Cordrillera Real: 10,2 km (7 hours and 5 minutes) Ascent 470 meters and descent 660 meters

Start/finish elevation 4750/4520 meters

Highest elevation 5175 meter

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As we woke up the next morning everything was covered in 10-15 cm of snow. No problem staying warm as long as we were inside the tent (snow is a good insulator), but we waited for the sun to reach the tent, before packing.

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It was an absolutely magic morning

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The amount of snow also meant, that there was no trails to see or follow, as we started our ascent towards todays peak in 5175 meter

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Enjoying the view of Laguna Chojna Khota and the upper Laguna Carizal

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Todays issues was, that we forgot to put sunscreen on the back of our hands, which caused a sunburn due to the strong sun. We used SPF50 for our faces but didn’t think about the back of our hands. Also used tones of lip balm SPF15 and SFP50, but t was impossible to keep our lip moisturized. The second issue was, that my hiking boots from Asole is not made for hiking in the snow, so my feet was cold and hurting from the cold for 4,5 hour as we walked uphill. Esben has a mountaineering boat from Sportiva, which is insolated, so his feet quickly warmed up while descending. For this hike I would have preferred a boot with insolation.

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Esben with a small glacier in the background

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Finally we reached the top, the first in more than 5000 meters (5175 meter). Looking back at the upper Laguna Carizal with an amazing reflection of the surrounding mountains. Right picture: The snow covered road just left of the laguna is a part of the Illampu circuit leading over a mountain pass and back to Sorata.

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It was very hard getting to the top, and we felt, that the amount of snow made it even harder. With almost no wind we ate lunch on the summit. What do we eat for lunch? Check out the post about preparing for a hike like this: “Food, gear and maps for the Cordrillera Real and Choro Trek”.

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It was time to head down towards the valley. One last view of the lagunas and we started the descent by following the rim to the east

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When we are hiking in the snow we wear our Aclima Woolnet pants underneath our rain pants, this combination keep us warm and dry, even when hiking through deep snow. No, we don’t hike with gaiters, we prefer rain pants instead of carrying both. Rain pants also work in rain, snow and windy weather keeping us warm and dry.

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There was a lot of snow

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As we descended further down the valley we got out of the snow and reached a river, which we could follow to all the way to the valley floor

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At one point the descent got pretty steep, and it was slow going due to the wet and slippery surface. We walked next to the waterfall, and the descent was like a staircase. Today we used a lot of time on navigation. The snow had covered everything, so it was not possible to locate any trails.

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As we reached the valley floor we decided to follow the river leading us more west of the Cordrillera Real

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This also meant, that we would not be following the GPS points on our map the next day (day 5). Instead we would plan our own route a little bit more west in hope of walking in less snow, but this also meant, that we would have to walk further to get back to the planned GPS track at the end of day 5. It was time to camp.

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Did day 5 go as we had planned, without too much snow? Check out the next post to see how we hiked the Cordrillera Real on day 5-8.

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