Sorata was a pleasant change from the austere Bolivian Altiplano. If it were a butter spread it would be called Jungle-Lite. Green, warm and dank like the rain forest, but with half the calories and no malaria!
We went on a hike. For the first time in my life, I paid a guide for a hiking or climbing trip and it proved to be an excellent investment in several ways. Bolivian maps are notably deficient and hard to come by. For example, it was only a decade ago that someone realized that Ancohuma wasn't 7000 meters (it's 6400). A rather notable oversight, since it would have been the only 7000+ meter peak outside of the Himalaya and the tallest in the Americas. Nevermind that. Even if you have a topographic quad, it's not going to have the roads and trails marked on it. And maybe most importantly, if you don't speak Aymara, you are going to have a hard time asking for directions in this part of the countryside.
The Bolivian weather office had lied and it was raining a cántaros when we left the hostel.
We had teamed up with a French and German who proved to be good company as we trudged up the valley to Laguna Chillata, the first night's camp. We rapidly found the next advantage of going guided, which was the horse that our guide Frederico brought with him that carried all our food. Erin had neglected to say her Guata's prayer was making use of many bushes during the 1500 meter climb, but fortunately had a light pack on.
After a few hours, we entered the clouds and the visibility quit for good. Fredi gamely lead us through the soup with calls of "más arriba, más arriba". With an hour of daylight to spare, we settled into camp next to what we had to take on faith was a lake.
The fog had been beaten into submission the next morning and we elatedly skipped up towards Laguna Glacial. We crossed a rocky pass and third classed it into the next drainage. After contouring around and climbing a slabby headwall, we confronted the obvious former presence of glaciers that reached at least 500 meters lower than they do now.
Remi basking in the sun
Fredi pointing the way up some wet slabs
The going got tougher above 4600 meters and we all slowed down as the altitude hit us. By the time we had made it to Laguna Glacial at 5000 meters, we were socked in.
Hole in the clouds before they closed for good at Laguna Glacial.
Fredi proved to be invaluable as he lead us down in the whiteout, weaving our way on nondescript talus fields with cliff bands lurking below us in the soup. By myself and without a GPS I would have been boned.
Fredi was also an excellent cook. The combination of a good camp cook and a horse laden with all type of provisions insured that we ate better than I can ever remember on a backpacking trip. After learning an excellent new card game from Guido and Remi, we turned in and slept like stones.
The next day dawned the fairest of them all. Unfortunately, we were descending back to town, but the views were still exceptional.
Laguna Chillata at sunrise with the fog below
Hardly able to touch each other after two months
As we rapidly lost altitude, the rain, fog, and dampness were forgotten. We walked into Sorata and found ourselves in the midst of a raging party.