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Cordillera Quimsa Cruz

The Cordillera Quimsa Cruz is a largely undocumented mountain range not far from La Paz.  This is not to suggest that there isn’t much there. Indeed, once you start to explore this mountain range, you will be shocked by how undeveloped it really is.  The range is not only close to a major metropolitan area, it is also easy to access. Tin mining once formed an economic base for the northern end of the range.  Today plastic has taken over from tin, effectively stripping this area of a large economic support. Although there is still some tin mining that is organized cooperatively in the area – especially in the western valleys of the range.

However, the roads to the mines remain, and this means that these mountains are easy to explore.  Although you will need a four wheel drive, as most of the roads are not maintained, you can easily get to within a half hour walk to the base of one of the many glaciers to be found in this area.

While these are not the highest peaks in Bolivia, they are fairly abundant.  It is a small range – only 50 kilometers from north to south.  However, it appears to have over 80 peaks that rise above 4,900 meters – where the snow line begins.  Despite, or perhaps because of, this abundance, there is considerable confusion as to which mountain is which.

Despite the fact that the area is not well explored by modern travelers, there have been people in this area for a long time.  In 1999 a Spanish explorer, Javier Sánchez, discovered the remains of an 800 year old burial site in the area.  However, any extensive settlement did not happen until more modern times – and even that remains rather sparse.

This is a climber’s paradise.  Although there are (apparently) no more unclimbed peaks in this range – there are still plenty of untried routes.  On most routes, you are unlikely to encounter many people, if anyone at all. If you are not experienced, especially given the lack of surveying done in the area, you should consider getting a guide. Most La Paz based guiding companies offer trips to this region, but be sure to ask lots of questions.  There are plenty of unscrupulous companies willing to send you along with a guide who does not know the region very well.

Of course, if you are not interested in climbing up the mountains, you always have the option of hiking and trekking.  One of the best is the trek between Vilacolo and Mina Caracoles.  This trek will bring you past a working tin mine, which you might be able to get a tour of.   The highlight of the trek is Laguna Chatamarca – a rarely visited alpine lake. There are also a few small populated towns along the way where you can probably stock up on perishable items; however, it is advisable to bring enough food to keep you going for the duration of your trek.

Most guide companies provide their own transportation.  However, if you should wish to explore on your own, bus service from La Paz is provided by Flota Trans-Inquisivi and runs to most of the towns on the eastern side of the range, including Quime, Frutillani, Yacopampa, Mina Caracoles, Suri, Circuato, Cajuata and Inquisivi.  You can also take any bus to Khonani and wait for a bus or truck heading towards the Cordillera.  There is also often bus service to the west side of the range, but it is erratic at best. Ask around if you want to go to Araca, Mina Viloco or Cairoma.


Other places nearby Cordillera Quimsa Cruz: Mapiri, Cordillera Apolobamba, Charazani, Around Chulumani, Around Coroico, Caranavi, Cordillera Real, Santa Rosa, Guanay and Chulumani.

12 Jan 2010

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