Thirdeyemom

Climbing Jaillaico

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rising up from the Pacific coast, the Andes mountain range is the longest and the youngest mountain range on the planet. After the Himalayas, it is the second highest range and is still growing. The Condoriri Valley lies within the 100 kilometer-long Cordillera Real mountain range northeast of La Paz, that separates the lowlands of the Amazon River basin to the east from the high plateaus of the Altiplano (highlands) to the west. The Cordillera Real is the most accessible and spectacular mountain range in the entire country and I could hardly wait to experience it on foot.

Our first big climb in Condoriri Valley was to Mount Jaillaico at 16,899 feet (5,152 m). Known as the “Mirador”, our trekking guide called it a relatively “easy” trekking peak that can be reached through grassy hills, glacial moraines and rocky slopes with no technical ability. Basically it is a warm-up climb for those serious mountaineers who are hoping to climb some of the bigger beasts in the area like the mighty Huayna Potosí (at 19,974 feet/6,088 m) or Illimani the highest mountain in the Cordillera Real at 21,122 feet/6,438 meters.

I wasn’t sure what Javier meant by “easy”  but starting out from our base camp at 15,500 feet on only a few hours of restless sleep did not make this a walk in the park. In fact, the first hour into our trek I wasn’t exactly sure that I would be able to make it, I felt so light-headed and fatigued. Every step was an effort and I felt out of breath. But thankfully, as I focused more and more on my breathing I felt better.

Condoriri Vally, Bolivia

We passed Chiar Kota, the black lake, which is known for its delicious trout. In the summertime it is a popular place to fish and the colors of the lake were amazing as the day passed turning from black, to gray, to aquamarine and blue.

Chiar Kota Bolivia

Javier was a chatty guide telling us a lot about the history and culture of Bolivia. I didn’t have my notebook with me but took mental notes of all the fascinating facts he told us. Like most developing nations, Bolivia has experienced a huge migration of people from the countryside to the cities. Fifty years ago most people lived in rural areas yet today almost 70% of the population lives in urban areas, causing a lot of problems with unemployment, crime, and over-crowding. It is hard for rural farmers and shepherds to keep their children in the countryside as many leave in search for a better life in the city. Sadly, this is not always the case.

Condoriri Valley

Me and my dad

Life is a song – sing it. Life is a game – play it. Life is a challenge – meet it. Life is a dream – realize it. Life is a sacrifice – offer it. Life is love – enjoy it.” – Sai Baba

We were so thankful for the beautiful blue sky. The clouds and rain from the night before had miraculously cleared affording breathtaking views the entire way.

Condoriri Vally, BoliviaAfter leaving the lake, we begin our ascent up. The terrain was slippery and we had to dig the toes of our boots into the moraine in order to not slide back down. It wasn’t particularly hard yet the air was thinning with each and every step.
Condoriri Vally, BoliviaCondoriri Vally, Bolivia

Condoriri Vally, Bolivia

Up close view of the slippery terrain.

Since we were above the tree line, the terrain was relatively sparse. Given the altitude each step was up was at a snail’s pace. Step, dig, breathe. Stop. Step, dig, breathe. I dug my toes into the ground as hard as I could as one wrong move would send me spiraling down.

Condoriri Vally, Bolivia

The higher we climbed, the more incredible the views became. Sometimes I find it hard to believe that places as magical as this exist.

Condoriri Vally, Bolivia

Condoriri Vally, Bolivia

Condoriri Vally, Bolivia

We could see Lake Titicaca off in the horizon. We wouldn’t have time to visit it on this trip but it gives me a reason to come back. It is supposedly incredible. Obviously I couldn’t stop taking pictures along the way nor could I leave many of the photos out of the post. The views were too beautiful to ignore.

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open”.– Jawaharlal Nehru

Condoriri Vally, Bolivia

 Condoriri Vally, Bolivia

Condoriri Vally, Bolivia

After a few hours, it was finally time to get up to the top. All we had to do was climb up over a little group of rocks and we were there. I got up first with the help of Javier below. Next came my dad and I caught it all on film to my mother’s dismay. (It really wasn’t as insane as it looks!).

Condoriri Vally, Bolivia

Easy does it.

Condoriri Vally, Bolivia

Condoriri Vally, Bolivia

(Sorry Dad, but I couldn’t resist all these shots!)

By eleven o’clock we reached 16,899 feet. We made it. There was no better place for a picnic lunch than this spot.

 Condoriri Vally, Bolivia

Condoriri Vally, Bolivia

Condoriri Vally, Bolivia

Believe it or not, getting down was harder. The slippery terrain meant you had to sink your feet into the rock, slide and then sit on your bottom to stop yourself. It was of course easier to breathe but it was hard on the knees and quads.

Condoriri Vally, Bolivia

Example of the terrain – no fun

But once again, the views of our surroundings were surreal. What a place!

Condoriri Vally, Bolivia

Condoriri Vally, Bolivia

Condoriri Vally, Bolivia

Sliding down the terrain…

Condoriri Vally, Bolivia

And we made it!

Condoriri Vally, Bolivia

The black lake was now green.

Condoriri Vally, Bolivia

I was going to sleep like a baby that night.

Stay tuned…

Author’s note: This is a continuation of my post The Drive to Condoriri Valley. To read post click on link. 

37 comments

  1. Beautiful photos! Down is always harder to me, I love winter butt sliding in New England. Looks like sledding down Jaillaico would be a little too dangerous:)
    roarloud.net

    • He He…my mom was not too pleased! But it was really only one minute that was dangerous, getting over that ledge. But the rest was incredibly serene!

  2. Looks like a great adventure! I always think I’m going to be so relieved going back down, but then the knee- and quad-burning begin, as you said! Which do you like better most of the time? I’ve always been in the minority up to now because I preferred going down. As I get older, I’m pretty sure I’ll be happy to pant on the way up if I can just not pound the knees going down! (I also think going up is less frightening on a steep or slippery slope, don’t you?) Anyway, congrats on the peak to you and your dad!

    • I prefer to go up too as it hurts my knees so much as well. But breathing is easier. I am heading to AZ next week for a family break and look forward to getting some warmer weather and some hikes in!

  3. annathrax

    Amazing! Again! Did you use a company for this trek? Any recommendations? This is the stuff of my dreams!

  4. Some of the photos are almost otherworldly, Nicole! If I ever got up there I really don’t know how I’d get down. Good job I’ve got you to do it for me. 🙂 Love that first photo of you and Dad. So wonderful to be able to do this together after all you’ve been through.

    • Thanks Jo! The photos did turn out well but the place was way more beautiful than my ability to capture it! Wow. Thanks so much. It was really a special trip! 🙂

  5. I know I couldn’t handle this because of the elevation so thank you for taking me along with you. So glad you got to experience this with your dad. 🙂

  6. Hi,
    if you do not mind, I would like to ask how did you organize the guide for this hike/climb? We plan to go to Condoriri area and would like to hike Jaillaico and Austria. It would be good to have a guide.
    Thank you very much
    Helena

    • Hi there! We went with Andean Summits. Just google them and their website will pop up. They are excellent and very good mountaineers. There are other companies but I really liked this one. Good luck!

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