Less than two weeks to go, our Andean Exped team are still going strong – thanks for the update guys!
We came back from the Salt Flats relaxed and photoed-out (nearly) and prepared for the Condoriri trek and Pequeno Alpamayo ice climb. We were all quite nervous about the trek having suffered during Colca but we knew it would all be worthwhile. The night before we left we were shocked to be confronted by tourist size portions rather than the enormous sized portions we had become accustomed to, always including a soup!
First day of the trek began with an inhumanely early start to catch our bus into the mountains from La Paz. We met our guide and our mules and were on our way. It was a successful day with us all reaching camp in plenty of time despite Misha’s tummy bug. Having set up camp by a gloriously picturesque lake, we feasted on sausage casserole, smash and hot chocolate.
For the second day we scaled to a height of 4600 meters, not before Helena was chased by a cow and we all had our first go at scree running.
Our third day was not as strenuous or as far as dinner the night before had not agreed with everybody and our original route was deemed unsafe due to snow and ice. After lunch we sunbathed and recuperated for our forthcoming ice climbing adventures.
The next day we met our ice climbing guides Jose and Pedro and our cook Nelly, who made our world a happier place (no disregard to cook team Nat and Steph) regardless of her inability to understand no meat in vegetarian cuisine. Our first taste of ice climbing was good fun as we all staggered in an ungainly fashion at the bottom of the glacier. An early night was in order due to our extremely early (2 am!) wake up call.
We ate our porridge sleepily, shuffled into our not-so-waterproofs, gaiters, harnesses and helmets, donned our headtorches and headed off for our hour long warm up walk to the glacier. At 4:45 we split up into our respective teams and started our accent of the glacier. It was a long, grueling climb but as the sun began to rise the peak seemed imminent… it was not! According to Emily white has a way of playing with the eyes and perspective. By 9 am we had all reached the Pico Tarija summit at a dizzying 5300m!! Those who were strongest and fancied a challenge scaled Pequeno Alpamayo peak with its vertical scrambles and stunning views at 5410m! It was an exhausting and exhilarating day that none of us will ever forget.
Our sixth day of the trek and also our sixth day without a shower was a breeze compared to the previous week. Our private bus scooped us up and safely delivered us back to La Paz for a swanky dinner and a fun night out with Brazilians.
In a slight state of disarray we met our new compadres for our final two weeks in South America. Everyone got on like a house on fire and we were pleased to have fresh meat to bully as Matty has borne the brunt of our emotions for the past four weeks. Our morning cycling was a fantastic ice breaker – five hours and 64km of winding bends, sheer drops and babies’ heads (rocks) later, we all survived the Death Road. A cold beer and a 1.5 km zipline awaited us. Having spent so long at altitude, being near sea level was a pleasant change; apart from the mosquitoes which savaged us. We all took refuge in our hotel with stunning views of the valley below and a sauna to help soothe the saddle sores from Death Road. The small rural town of Coroico was not prepared for a night of Quest style salsa…