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Trekking Condoriri to Huayna Potosí - Hiking - Bolivia



Starting about an hour outside of La Paz, the Condoriri to Huayna Potosí trek packs a remote, world class trek into three days and two nights. This short interval has it all: views of the Cordillera Real llama herdsman and their flocks, glaciers, 18,000 foot passes, sand pits, fantastic fauna and flora, mining ruins, crystalline waters and a close up look at Huayna Potosí from multiple lookouts. 



The drop-off point is a two and half hour walk from the Mt. Condoriri base camp. The relatively short walk is somewhat dull compared to the landscape yet to come. Drop your bags, set up your tent, and take a hike to the edge of the receding Condoriri glacier, named for its condor-like appearance.



Poking around the vicinity is interesting in its own right. Base camp is next to an enclosure for llamas and pack animals. A small settlement nearby supports the base camp: the herdsmen, guides and cooks live there.



The cholitas, local women sporting traditional skirts, petticoats and hats, will be glad to take you vizcacha hunting with their traditional sling shots, though you’re best to turn down any invitations: they’re an endangered species, despite being an important part of the local diet. Technically a rodent, the vizcacha looks like a cross between a rabbit and squirrel. The cracks and crevices in the rocky outcroppings surrounding the camp provide a communal burrowing area, rather like a vizcacha condo complex. At dusk, dozens of the critters scurry in and out. The unfortunate ones become dinner.



After an overnight at camp, you’re ready to hike. The next day’s trek traverses rolling ridges and valleys and a series of lakes. The first lakes and ponds are shallow, silty, and greenish-white in color, and fed by glacier melt. Around these ponds are spongy bogs with tiny flowering plants. The lakes that you will pass later in the day are fed by an elaborate, rock-hewn irrigation system. Some of these lakes are now trout farms. Toward the end of the day, the trail passes through an old mining community. The region’s hills and valleys are riddled with abandoned mines, which in their day constituted the economic mainstay of the area.



The second night’s sleep-over spot is only partially sheltered from the howling winds. The gusts, along with the temperature drop, discourage most from leaving their tents after bedtime. The condensation from the breath of two trekkers was enough to cover the inside of the tent and the sleeping bags with a crusty frost by dawn. Dawn is wake up time both because it so hard to sleep at 15,000 feet and because there is a hard hike ahead.


The last day’s trek provides close–ups of the dramatic recession of the glaciers in this area. The schlep over the highest point at a little more than 18,000 feet is across a scree slope that was completely covered by a glacier just twenty years ago. After passing to the other side, there is a relatively easy 90-minute ramble on dusty roads and well beaten paths through rolling hills and pristine lakes. The trek ends at the base of Huayna Potosí. There are magnificent views of the mountain from the trail and your efforts are rewarded at the refugio café with a terrific view of the glaciers.


Here are other activities in and around Bolivia that may be of interest: Mapiri Trail, Quebrada de Palmira and The Valle de Los Machos, Hiking Around Tupiza, Cañon de Torotoro and El Vergel , The pre-Inca Trail, Chaunaca to Maragua Crater, Quebrada de Palala and El Sillar , El Camino del Oro , Rock Paintings (Trek) and Gruta de Umajalanta.

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