Condoriri Approach & Basecamp
The hike and the start of the Ordeal
It is not that far from La Paz to Condoriri so there was no need to get up at 0 dark 30 . . . we got to sleep in a and catch some breakfast at Alexander's before a mid morning departure. G had his usual breakfast sandwich and I had to go for the fries and a chocolate shake. We were not straying from the norm, with regard to both food and choosing stuff that had never resulted in getting sick in the past. Stick with the program, that was our program.
Hugo arrived on time with the pick-up and we lugged our gear to the curb and hefted it into the bed. With gear on board, we were off to the Berrios home to drop off some of the extraneous stuff and pick up the food for the next week that Sra. Berrios had purchased the previous day. We soon had the food on board and were headed for Dr. Berrios supply depot about half way up the hill to El Alto. We met up with Volberto, the bigger Toyota land cruiser and hefted our gear onto the roof rack. We also picked up the cook tent, stove, propane tank, and other group gear and then climbed in for the ride on up to El Alto and beyond. Just over the crest, we stopped at a market and picked up Mario, the same fellow who cooked for us the previous year. We loaded up Mario and his personal gear and headed on our way through the back streets of his neighborhood and eventually onto the main drag out of town. El Alto was unchanged from the previous year but for the appearance and, no doubt, the reality of having expanded further and further out onto the high Alto Plano. The buildings are all made of the same extruded red clay block, filling in the structural frame work created by the ubiquitous reinforced concrete structure and ubiquitous array of #4 rebar sticking out of the top of each column. I always wonder if an engineer has ever given thought to any structure in the entirety of Bolivia as it seems that the size of the columns in every building is the same, regardless of its height.
We made our way past the police checkpoint/toll booth/law enforcement benevolent society fund raising station and on to the Condoriri. It is about 20 minutes to the little town where the dirt track cuts eastward to Tuni and we assumed that the parades were behind us. You have to understand there is always a parade in El Alto but this time the tiny village where ewe cut off the main road was having a parade. We pulled to the side of the road and waited for the townsfolk, mostly school groups and a band or two to pass. Actually, we hopped out and took a spot along the side of the road to watch the marchers pass. The band was playing a familiar tune . . . "The Halls of Montezuma" using reed flutes and drums. There is just something different about standing on the side of a road in the heart of the Bolivian Alto Plano and watching a 30 person band march by playing that tune.
The parade passed and we were again on our way, now trundling along the 20 mile course to Tuni. The road immediately becomes a high end gravel track, crossing a creek here and there and passing an occasional home surrounded by potato fields and grazing llamas. We arrived at Tuni and emptied the gear from the roof rack onto the ground while the local arriero went to the corral to retrieve the four burros that would haul our gear to the Condoriri base camp. The burros were loaded, following the inevitable rearrangement of gear, and we were on our way along the road leading the to lake and dam above. Then it started . . .
We'd climbed the hill and were traversing along the shore of the lake when I felt that first shit coming on. I excused myself to climb over the short hill next to the road and found a good spot to start what would soon become a daily tradition. Business done, I rejoined G and Mario and we were off again, for about a half mile . . . yes, are you getting the idea? We walked onward along the lake and then dropped down across the base of the dam and then up along the canal that feeds the lake from the higher lakes above. The walk into the base camp should take about three hours at the most but as we got to the half way point, I started falling behind, now more slowly trudging along. G and I have climbed for many years now and when one of us is having a bad day, the other is free to move along at his own pace, looking back here and there to keep an eye on the one behind. The gap was widening.
We met up at the near side of Lago Chiar Kota and I told G and Mario I would survive but I had stop #4 on my mind. We made our way around the lake and I caught up with the others after they had picked a camp spot and were getting the cook tent erected. heck, even the burros passed me with ease. G gave me a hand getting my tent up, which was no easy task in the blustery winds that can be part of this season in the Bolivian high country. We got the tent up and I laid out the inflatable mattress and sleeping bag. I was done for the day but for a small dinner and a couple more trips to the can.
Over dinner, we discussed the game plan for climbing and I figured what I had would pass in a day so we decided the next day would be rest day. We only needed to let this minor inconvenience pass before we primed our climbing pump with a repeat of Pequeno Alpamayo and then moved onto an ascent of the magnificent Cabeza de Condor.