Last Sunday was one of the most breathtaking things I´ve had the opportunity to do so far in Bolivia--also the hardest. We made it to top of the mountain, and then to another mountain a thousand feet or so lower so we could see the Valley of Cochabamba.
nearing the top
Another student, Daniel, and I left Cochabamba around 630 in the morning along with our guide, Grover, and drove up onto the altiplano north of Cochabamba. The trip took about 2 hours due to the conditions of a narrow mountain pass that we followed, but the scenery was beautiful and we were able to see many campesino pueblos (some people of which Grover knew personally).
domestic llamas by the road
We reached our point of departure--which was probably around 12,000ft--around 900, packed some coca leaves to help with the altitude which was already apparent, and headed out. It was readily apparent that we were going into some pretty rough weather--snow, ice, and a biting wind made conditions pretty poor. For example, the camelbak hose of my friend Daniel froze about halfway up the mountain. The first step was scaling many feet of loose shale-like rock that surrounded the jagged peak.
on the loose shale and in the clouds
We progressed onto hard rock/snow and into more of the storm.
the final several hundred feet follow the edge of this abyss
After enduring the storm inside the clouds for about 2.5 hours we made it to the top, we things were so bad I couldn´t keep my camera lens clear for more than a few seconds at a time.
on the peak
There are bizarre fossils of what Grover told us were worms and, if I translated correctly, crustaceans, on the peak--remains of an ancient sea that once covered all of Bolivia (see below).
posing below the peak now, the top is far above in the clouds
our guide wouldn´t let me sleep on the ice sheets
A bit lower when we could take decent photos, we posed with a can of Taquiña, the local beer, which bears the peak of Tunari on its label. Also evident is the sheet of ice around my exposed hair.
After about an hour of ski-ing/sliding/controlled falling down the backside of Tunari, we came out below the clouds and spotted this mountain in the distance. It was more or less clear of clouds, and we wanted to see the view of Cochabamba, so we decided to head over.
the most distant peak was our objective
the scenery was like photos I´ve seen of Nepal--they call Bolivia the Nepal of the Andes for good reason
a little bit closer, we followed this ridge over to what we called machito tunari
we encountered a herd of wild llamas on these ridiculously high slopes
she was my favorite, and the most photogenic
We made it to this next peak after about 3 more hours of high-altitude scrambling--by this time the height was started to really sap our energy and it made it hard to keep up the pace we had set earlier (then out of necessity so we didn´t freeze!)
the vast expanse of the cochabamba valley--if you follow the picture, blow it up, and squint, you can barely make out the gigantic cristo towering over downtown--we were high...
and another a bit more to the right
Going back was hard. The detour to the other mountain cross several deep ravine/valleys, so we had to scale the same several hundred feet multiple times along the way.
the wild llamas wondering what the hell we were doing--on the right you can see the ridge leading up to clouds and the invisible peak of tunari
From the slope that would eventually take us to our landrover... Seriously, like Nepal
And we made it back to the truck around 5pm--leaving a tour hour car ride to Cochabamba across the same crazy mountain road, pizza and taquiña, the final of copa america, and an early bed at 9pm.
Hacia harto frio.