Hiking the Cordrillera Real (day 5-8)

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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”.

Day 5, Cordrillera Real: 11,2 km (6 hours and 40 minutes) Ascent 560 meters and descent 220 meters

Start/finish elevation 4520/4840 meters

Highest elevation 4850 meter

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After a hard and difficult hike the day before, we had decided to follow the valley west of Cordrillera Real instead of the downloaded trail from Peter Albringer “Cordrillera Real, day 5”. Our hope was not to hike in the snow, and our plan worked. We also passed through a small village, where a woman sold me a pair of alpaca gloves.

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Making our own trail avoiding the snow

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With no snow and less meters to climb in elevation we started to hike towards the next pass. We chose to follow several different lama trails on our way up making the ascent less steep, which worked really well for us, and we were less exhausted at the end of the day.

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As we climbed towards the next pass we got closer and closer to the snow. The pass would be in 5325 meters, and we could see, that we could not avoid the snow. The snow really slowed us down, and made every step harder. With the amount of snow ahead of us we would not make it over the pass and down during daylight.

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We decided to camp in 4840 meters

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Panoramic view from our tent wlEmoticon-camera_3 Hiking the Cordrillera Real (day 5-8)

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Watching the sunset

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There was a downside of camping in 4840 meter, which was, that we had a hard time breathing while sleeping. This meant, that we would suddenly wake up trying to catch our breath, and our quality of sleep this night was poor. The good thing was, that we had less meters to climb in elevation the following day.

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Day 6, Cordrillera Real: 11.6 km (8 hours and 35 minutes) Ascent 490 meters and descent 850 meters

Start/finish elevation 4840/4530 meters

Highest elevation 5325 meter

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It all started with a really cold morning wlEmoticon-freezing_3 Hiking the Cordrillera Real (day 5-8)

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As we left our camp spot, and started the ascent to the pass (5325 meters), we also left the green and yellow scenery. Up here only the bare rocks had survived. This day we started following a trail, but as soon as we hit the snow, there was no trail to follow, and we checked the map very often to make sure, that we were walking in the right direction. No trail for the rest of the day.

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Today was going to be our highest pass on the hike (5325 meter), which we didn’t know at that point. We walked uphill, ate snacks, walked uphill and ate snacks, it seemed like the ascent was endless. Maybe you have already noticed, I am carrying the tent now. So after eating 4 days of food we switched around a few things, to lighten Esbens backpack and add some weight to mine. I was doing far better than Esben while walking uphill, so this was our tactic to equal our physique. Just have in mind, that the per person carrying most of the food, will quicker get a lighter backpack. Walking in high altitude is very demanding, so repacking is an option, depending on how your each feel, and how you are doing in high altitude.

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Esben thought he had reached the pass

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But no it was just a another edge on the mountain, revealing that we still had some meters left to climb

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We finally reached the top. We spend one extra hour trying to walk west around the top because it looked shorter a doable on the typographic map, but it was not possible due to a steep slope covered in snow, so we recommend walking east of the top. If you follow our GPS track, it will take you east of the top.

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When ascending to 5325 meters the amount of oxygen left in the air is less than half of what it is at sea level. It is impossible to walk fast, and our pace was no more than 1,5 km/h. It was absolutely amazing reaching the top of the pass, and we were looking forwards to walking downhill. BUT… the descent was extremely steep with loose rocks, which made the descent slow going as well.

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We have never walked so slow during a hike before, and it was tiering to stay focused all the way down to the valley floor. Looking up the valley, which we would follow the river up stream before turning right to go for the pass between the first two tops in the right side of the picture.

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Just saying, that not all made it out alive, at least not this lama, but we made it down safely

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We camped by the river after spotting a good place to set up the tent. This is also the valley, where the basecamp for Chachacomani (6076 meter) is located

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Today we had started our hike in 4840 meters climbing 500 meters to the top of the pass, and then descending for 850 meters into the valley. All day had been uphill or downhill, it had been a demanding and difficult day, and we covered less distance, than we first had planned in the morning.

Day 7, Cordrillera Real: 14.4 km (8 hours and 45 minutes) Ascent 575 meters and descent 550 meters

Start/finish elevation 4530/4520 meters

Highest elevation 5025 meter

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First thing in the morning was to find a place to cross the river. Since other people are doing this hike, our tactic is to follow the river until we find an easy place to cross the river. On this hike it worked really good, and we didn’t have to take our boots of once. Esben even had energy to take some pictures of the fauna and flora.

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Fauna and flora wlEmoticon-camera_3 Hiking the Cordrillera Real (day 5-8)

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It was pretty much straight uphill, when we left the river and turned right towards the mountain pass. We found out that walking in a zigzag pattern made the ascent easier for us. So we tried to zigzag our way, but on this ascent is was difficult, because it was steep and rocky.

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Meeting the local animals – they are really fast over the rocks! This the northern viscacha (Lagidium peruanum), a rodent in the family Chinchillidae. It is known from Peru and Chile, where it lives at elevations from 300-5000 meters, and we also found it present here in Bolivia’s Cordrillera Real. The northern viscacha grows to a body lenght of 30-45 cm with a bushy tail nearly as long. It makes its homes in crevices between the rocks, so this places seems like the perfect one.

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It was time for a break…

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Enjoying the view every second! You have the peak of Chachacomani (6076 meters) in the upper and lower picture – AMAZING wlEmoticon-hotsmile Hiking the Cordrillera Real (day 5-8)

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Today we reached 5025 meter in elevation, when climbing over the mountain pass

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As we looked down the other side of the mountain pass, it was completely covered in snow. We realized, that this slope was turning south, which meant, that the slope mainly was in the shade all day preserving the snow. The snow was really deep, and in the beginning we didn’t dare to sled downhill in our rain pants, because we were worried about catching too much speed. After struggling downhill in the snow we passed the first edge, and we could see rocks in the snow, giving us a change to break while sledding downhill. You can see the very steep part on the elevation curve, at the beginning of the description of today.

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When we ran out of snow we had to empty boots and pants for snow. The descent continued over loose rocks. Big and small the rocks were still loose, and we had to watch every step making the decent slow.

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Again today we had to climb 500 meters in elevation to reach the top of the pass, and had a difficult and slow descent to the valley floor. The valley was wetland (as you see in the upper right picture), and we partly had to walk on the rock cliffside to avoid getting our feet wet. I poked our trekking pole into some of the mud, and there was no bottom, so stay on solid ground.

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As we walked downhill through the valley we found a trail probably used by the locals and lamas. It was time to set up the tent after almost 9 hours of hiking. The hiking time includes all smaller breaks and time of checking the map, the only thing that is not included is our lunch time (30-60 min).

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Day 8, Cordrillera Real: 20.3 km (7 hours and 45 minutes) Ascent 400 meters and descent 500 meters

Start/finish elevation 4520/4420 meters

Highest elevation 4605 meter

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Every morning was a cold morning, and every night we had ice on the inside of the tent. Is morning everything was frozen inside the tent, and ice was forming in the pot as soon as I poured water in it. On our travel we only have a four season tent with us. The tent is heavy compared to other lightweight tents, but due to snow and low temperatures, we were extremely happy for our tent on this hike, it is a NEMO MOKI 3p. BUT we can definitely safe weight, if we buy a lightweight tent for hiking next time.

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After a hard and difficult day yesterday, we decided not to hike towards Lago Warawarani (it is beautiful and it reflects the surrounding mountains in the water, check out this post from Peter Albringer: “Cordrillera Real, day 9”, but to follow the valley southeast. This meant, that we would climb the two mountain ridges in a lower elevation, hopefully making it an easier day. At the same time we knew we had to cover more distance.

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Getting ready to head out on the trail, that we found yesterday

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Early in the day we had to go through a fence, and was worried about trespassing (upper left picture), but further down the trail we only met friendly locals waving at us. During our research for this hike in the Cordrillera Real, we had read some old write reports, having trouble with safety issues. We felt safe all the way during the hike, and had no problems with the locals. We also carry a SPOT with search and rescue subscription. During our hike we also met other people doing parts of the Cordrillera Real with a guide and supported by mules, everybody was friendly and in a good mood.

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The local graves are built in concrete and stones

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As we left the village, we also left the trail that we had been following all morning

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Passing by a lonely donkey

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We climbed the two mountain ridges, and as we reached the top of the second ridge next next valley came into view with Laguna Q’ara Khota. Once again we found a trail leading towards the lake, but we had to leave the trail and head downhill to get around the lake to the south.

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So we headed downhill to cross the wetland on the established roads to the south of the lake. On the other side of the lake we could follow the gravel road along the shore of the lake. The left picture was taken at the southern end of Laguna Q’ara Khota. The GPS points from Peter Albringer lead from Lago Warawarani and north of Laguna Q’ara Khota/south of laguna Khota Thiya.

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As we walked on the gravel road looking for a place to camp by the lake shore we passed the 20 km mark on my Garmin Fenix 3 watch. Sometimes it is easier to walk more kilometers and climb less meters in elevation, than to walk fewer kilometers and climb more meters in elevation.

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We loved this camp spot, and you can even reach it by car. The gravel road leads south out of the mountains towards the small villages Peñas, so this place can be used as an entry or exit point to the Cordrillera Real.

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Finishing the day by making water

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We had now made it so far, that Esben was not gonna quit. Esben also felt better and better during the hike, probably due to adaptations and a lighter backpack as we went through more and more food. Check out our food and gear in this post: “Food, gear and maps for the Cordrillera Real and Choro Trek”. At this moment we had not taken the decision, if we would continue on the Choro Trek after finishing the trek in the Cordrillera Real, but during the next couple of day t was time to start thinking about it. On day 5 and day 8 we choose to walk a different route, than the one Peter Albringer took, due to weather conditions (snow) and our physical fitness. For us it was the right choice, and when you go on the hike, you will now have two different options depending on weather conditions and your physical fitness. Check out the next post, to find out how we finished the Cordrillera Real trek, and if we decided to do the Choro Trek.

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