Cordillera Real Trek Day 7: Rest Day in The Upper Chachakumani Valley

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Rest Day At Chachakumani Base Camp

a wet rest day at Chachakumani

my tent on a wet “rest” day at Chachakumani

After six straight days of sunshine and clear skies, it snowed and rained on our rest day!  As the images will show, however, the light cover of snow did not stay for long, and by late afternoon, it was mostly all gone.

I got restless and spent a couple of hours walking up the valley, where I met some horses belonging to the Chachakumani community about eight kilometers away at the bottom end of the valley. There is a road which comes up to the small communidad of Chachacomani.

Quebrada Chachakumani – from the end of the road to the mountain

As for some views of the mountains, we would have to wait until the next morning for things to clear up a bit.  If nothing else, the daily clouds coming over the Cordillera from the east were a reminder that there is a warmer and much more humid world within a few kilometers east of the stark and fairly desolate alpine terrain we were traversing.

The Chachakumani campsite is a well-used spot since it also serves as a mountaineer’s base camp for summit attempts on Nevado Chachakumani.  The local community has even installed a deep pit toilet on the upper perimeter of the site. This contrasts with the banditry that the area was known for in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

As it did at each of our campsites,  our trek crew also set up a toilet tent nearby. It was a roofless chest-high four-sided screen with a two-foot-deep hole in the middle.

looking up the Chachakumani Valley on a wet day

looking up the Chachakumani Valley on a wet day

horses running down the Chachakumani Valley

horses running down the Chachakumani Valley

Chachakumani Camp - Rest Day afternoon

Chachakumani Camp – Rest Day afternoon

Chachakumani Reading Club in session

Chachakumani Reading Club in session

rest day afternoon in the Chachakumani Valley

rest day afternoon in the Chachakumani Valley


Climbing Chachakumani – The Serious Options

Here is a brief description of the various grades of difficulty using the French alpine system:

  • F: Facile/easy. Rock scrambling or easy snow slopes; some glacier travel; often climbed ropeless except on glaciers.
  • PD: Peu Difficile/a little difficult. Some technical climbing and complicated glaciers.
  • AD: Assez Difficile/fairly hard. Steep climbing or long snow/ice slopes above 50º; for experienced alpine climbers only.
  • D: Difficile/difficult. Sustained hard rock and/or ice or snow; fairly serious stuff.
  • TD: Très Difficile/very difficult. Long, serious, remote, and highly technical.
  • ED: Extremement Difficile/extremely difficult. The most serious climbs with the most continuous difficulties. Increasing levels of difficulty indicated by ED1, ED2, etc.

Source of info – Alpinist Magazine web page – see it here

The Chachakumani Valley - our campsite and Nevado Chachakumani

The Chachakumani Valley – our campsite and Nevado Chachakumani (6074 m)

[See here for a Google satellite view that you can zoom in or out on for more detail and different perspectives.]

An excellent WordPress site dedicated to various mountaineering objectives in Bolivia, Bolivian Climbing Info, has an image of Chachakumani on which various routes up to the top are indicated.  The routes all focus on the South Face or the Southeast Ridge and are graded from  AD (Assez Difficile) to D (difficile).

Chachakumani routes to the summit

image from Bolivian Climbing Info – see here for the web page

I’ve only done climbs rated a lower grade of P.D.  and one A.D. climb in the Bugaboos, a magical climbing area in British Columbia, Canada, where I felt pushed to the limit of my comfort zone.

“Assez Difficile”: Climbing The Granite Spire of the Bugaboos

 I’ll leave the above routes to those with a skill set and fitness level beyond mine! The Facile Route described below is more to my liking!


The Facile Route To Chachakumani Summit:

Update:  On my return home, I visited the Mountain Kingdoms website and an interesting new offering for 2016 popped up. [Note: it is no longer offered in 2023.]

Mountain Kingdoms Chachakumani web page

What was on offer was the first six days of the Cordillera Real Trek that this series of posts describes, plus an ascent of Nevado Chachakumani.  (See here for the details.) It is billed as a trekking peak and is described this way –

From our base camp on the Chachacomani River we have four days to make the ascent of Chachacomani Peak, traversing glaciers and climbing ice and snow slopes.

The Mountain Kingdoms itinerary (again, handled by Andean Summits in La Paz) uses using the “Facile route” not included in the A.D./D routes illustrated in the Chachakumani route map. As noted above, Facile is described in this way –

  • F: Facile/easy. Rock scrambling or easy snow slopes; some glacier travel; often climbed ropeless except on glaciers.

I’ve indicated the approximate route of the Mountain Kingdom route on the satellite image of the Chachakumani area below.  It is a ten-kilometer walk from the base camp to the summit.

    • On Day 1, the team would likely climb to a high camp at the edge of the glacier;
    • Day 2 would see an early wake-up and walk across the glacier to the top and then a mid-morning descent back to the high camp and on down to base camp.

the Facile Route from Base Camp To Chachakumani summit

When I plotted out the approximate route from the base camp on the banks of the river, the altitude-gain profile looked like this –

from base camp to top of Chachakumani

See this Wikipedia entry for more basic info on this 6000-meter-plus mountain peak. At its official height of 6074 m, it ranks about 80th. highest in the Andes!  It is higher than anything in North America or Europe!

The Summit Post website has an entry on climbing Chachakumani. It also includes this advice, which may date to the early 2000s.

Red Tape

Gringos and nonlocal Bolivians have had innumerable problems (assaults and road blockings) with peasants from the west of this area who had a bad reputation since pre-Inca times.

When To Climb

The climbing season is in the Cordillera Real from May to September, but the best time for climbing the Chachacomani is August to September (depending of snow/ice condition).

Please send me a comment if you have more info on the Facile ( easy) route that would add some detail to my description or correct any wrong assumptions I’ve made!


Next Post: Day 8 – Chachakumani Valley To Rio Jayllahuaya Valley

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