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.