When you travel around La Paz, you will have the chance to see a very beautiful mountain formation, the Condoriri Range. One of its main mountains is "La Cabeza de Condor", (literally, the Condor's Head), and next to it, on each side the Ala Izquierda and the Ala Derecha (or right and left wing). This very interesting group is a place where the alpinist can practice a variety of techniques in mountaineering, from classic rock to alpine ice, and from simple expedition to the summits to alpine style climbs via several gullies, faces and slopes. Moreover, there are several other mountains to be climbed in the area, making it a Chamonix or a Zermat in South America and making worth a visit.: Pequeño Alpamayo, Ilusion, Ilusionsita, Tarija, etc. Indeed, given the right weather and physical condition, one can climb one mountain each day and rest another for 10 days or more.
The Cabeza de Condor is, on its normal route, a grade III climb, AD/AD+, 55 degrees if hard snow in the gully or a 5.0-5.4 rock. via the full ridge. The ridge, sharp as a knife, is very exposed. The route is not technically hard, but the length and altitude of the final ridge make it a serious endeavor for the alpinist.
The picture below shows the central pilar or peak and the two wings. The central section is the "Cabeza de Condor", while you can see the right and the left wing. The approach to the route I am describing (Normal) with the south west ridge clearly visible and this is also the approach to the south east face. The approach and climb will go somewhere on the red line I added to the pictures provided by Mathias Zehring
You can arrange several types of transportation, first from La Paz to the Tuni Area, and later to the base camp next to the lake of Chiar Khota.
a) Hire private van or 4x4 in La Paz, and get to an aqueduct system and lakes called Tuni, in about 2-3 hours, and about $80.oo (2000) depending on how good are you to bargain and what can of deal you can get. I made friends with the drivers and local guides, and often got several persons to fill a van son I got kind of cheap deals for me. Go and try!
b) Ask and see if you can share the transportation of a guided trip. It never hurts to ask around (it worked for me)
If you will you may want to share your expenses with other climbers. You will find them everywhere, but you can also hang out in the Hostal Torino, downtown La Paz, and try to find other climbers aiming to go to the Condoriri Massif. Notes can be placed on billboards in the hotels. Another good place to hang out and meet climbers used to be the Restaurant MONGOS. Check your guidebook.
You can hire mules from different places around. The small town of Tuni and the place call Plaza de Mulas (Mule Square) are just some of them. Farmers, arrieros (mule caretakers) and peasants will be glad to carry your gear for a modest fee.
After you get to the Aqueduct and reservoir systems, you have to walk like for 3 hrs, on a dirt road and an straight forward hike. You will reach the Chiar Khota (4600 mts) Lake and finally the base camp. Here water, stone toilets and guards are available to you, but is not a resort, is the wild, so bring your garbage bags to pick up your trash.
Permits, Maps and Guidebooks, Food
No permits were necessary when I went there (Summer 2000)
Maps? Scale 1:50.000 are the ones you will find. Try Instituto Geografico Militar (IGM) sheets , four of them, to cover the whole massif: 5945 I (Zongo), 5945II (Milluni), 5945 III (Peñas), and the 5945 VI (Khara Khota). Be careful with this IGM sheet since there are reports that they have errors.....There are other maps especially German maps. You will have to research about them, but many climbing stores and guiding services sell the maps in La Paz. However, in my experience, 1:50.000 helps but is not a very detail scale….
Guidebooks: Bolivia, a Climbing Guide, from Yossi Brain (The Mountaineers) is very good. You can buy it online or in Bolivia.
La Cordillera Real de los Andes-Bolivia, by Alain Mesili (www.andes-mesili.com), comes in English under he title "Andes of Bolivia"
Food: I hire food from the locals, so I did not mind, but I have a South American stomach and I can eat a garbage truck and not likely get sick. Anyway, the way to go is on the markets in La Paz, where you can buy a bunch of things from milk to spaghetti, cookies and chocolates. You will likely stay downtown La Paz while you acclimatize, and plenty of “mercados” are there for you.
You can also buy Propane-Butane mix and white gas. You can re-sell these unused cylinders before you leave (and indeed all of your gear)
When To Climb
The season in the Central-Tropical Andes is mostly from June to August, when the dry winter (yes Bolivia is south of the Equator Line and is in the Tropics still) makes the condition best. August is packed with climbers, prices are higher so maybe you want to get there early in the season.
Some resources for non-mountaineering friendly weather:
More Information about Bolivia:
The CIA World Fact Book
The US Library of Congress
- Bolivia Adventure Planet Expeditions
A travel agency that works in Bolivian's moutain ranges, Patagonia and Aconcagua. It provides the best guides and offers logistic support for all the expeditions.
- Bolivian Journeys
Bolivia climbing specialists based in La Paz, expeditions and logistics throughout the bolivian Andes.