Trekking in Bolivia. Laguna Chillata and Laguna Glaciar, Sorata

General information. How long, how hard, where to camp?

2 days, 1 night. About 50 km trek. Difficulty – hard (due to the altitude and unclear trek to glacier). Hike only to Laguna Chillata – medium.

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1 day. Sorata (2800m) – Laguna Chillata (4200m), 14 km, 6-7 hours, 1500 m elevation. It’s possible to get to Jumuco by taxi or order a transfer by 4*4 (it was’t expensive). From Jumuco to Laguna Chillata is 10 km, 1280 m elevation.

It is recommended to spend night at Laguna Chillata – it is warmer here and altitude not that high. Usually groups that hike from Sorata, spend a night here.

In our case, we hiked to 4500m and spent the night at the beginning of a very steep climb to Pequeno Glaciar, right after crossing three big streams. There is a water source, a sandy place to put a tent and wind is not strong.

Other options: you can stop at the campsite along the way, in the valley, before crossing those three rivers that you will see on the map. Campsite not marked anywhere. Actually it is just a good place for wild camping, nothing more. It looks like unfinished village in the valley.
Extreme-option – spend the night at Pequeno Glaciar, there are places to put a tent and seems like people were camping there. But keep in mind that altitude here is more than 5000m, sleeping here is not recommended. Sun is very strong but because of the fresh wind and low temperatures you don’t notice it – it can be quite dangerous.

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2 day. We hiked up to the glaciers about 4 km, with  an elevation 600 m. We started the day at 8 am and at 3 p.m. we have already returned to Laguna Chillata. At the same day we went back to Sorata 25 km, all the way downhill.
If you are not in rush and weather is lovely, you can spend second on the Chillata lake. We expected to catch a bus or taxi from Jumuco but we didn’t find any transport except melancholic cows and one dirty donkey.

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How was it?

Owner of our hostel gave us a lift to the last point accessible on 4*4 – a bit up from the village of Jumuco, which saved us an hour of walk and about 400 meters of elevation. It was a second hike in my life, so I aprecciated this little help. Jumuco also can be reached by shared taxi (collectivo).

We walked 10 km, 1200 m up (mostly at the end of the trail to reach the lake). It took us about 3 hours. Pretty soon we reached Chillata lake with its magical emerald color and muffled mystic fog. Silence…

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It was windy and rather chilly. Our initial plan was to spend the night near this lake and to hike to the glacier next morning. Until the last moment we were not sure if we will go to the glacier – this trail is recommended to do only with a guide, because of possibility of altitude sickness (over 5000m) and not marked trail. 

It was still very early, only noon. The lake, of course, was stunning , but in such cold weather there was absolutely nothing to do around. We decided to continue to walk. 

And this is where adventures began.

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If you know well which trail to follow, trek to the glacier should take 3.5 – 4 hours, 11 km, (with elevation 1000 m). It is recommended to sleep both nights at Chillata lake, and hike one day from there to the glacier and back. It would be long and harsh day.

We did not know direction. The only advice we got is to look for stone pyramids on the way. Of course, we got lost soon.

We looked around and have found a trail to the tiny lake with a strange white water. Because of the fog visibility varied from a couple of meters to “where is Pawel?”. Every 5 minutes we had to stop to look around and find a trail again. Slowly we were moving on.

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!Attention! Our mistake was that following a trail from the white lake, on the first ‘crossroad’ we took a most visible and wide path on the right while in reality we had to turn on the left, to the blue sign telling you something about importance of water and that we shouldn’t leave garbage in the park. This trail was completely invisible due to the fog at that moment. When you are on this path, try to find white little arrows on the stones, it can help you with direction.
We were absulutely sure that this small lake was a “Little Hidden Lake” on the map. It WASN’T.  

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Our path became less and less visible. The passages between the stones on one hand looked like a trail, on the other hand – everything there looked similar. We turned on gps and started follow direction of glacier. Road became more complicated, the fog more and more dense, and the temperature dropped.

Stones, only rocks and stones around. We obviously lost the path.

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At one point we reached to the edge of the cliff. According to the map, the glacier was somewhere on the other side of the valley. Common sense suggested that descend of 1500 m, simply sliding on the stones on our butts in the milky fog, and then again climb all the way up – quite a stupid idea, although for a moment we thought about its realization.

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We had to return to the first lake. We lost 3 hours of time. On that crossroad we stopped for a lunch. We were dissapoited and sad – one always expect a happy end of adventures.

Suddenly on the left side of that crossroad appered a blue sign about the importance of taking care of the inviroment. We decided to explore a new path.

Following white arrows, we easily reached an observation point with a view on the fog. Near this view point path begin descending into the valley, where we found a great place for camping with some abandoned walls of small houses. 

However, we decided to use the light of the day fully and continue this crazy hike. According to the map, we had to cross 3 rivers, and after hike up 400 m.

Sun went down, it was cold and very silent, only sound of hidden streams murmured somewhere around.We were walking above the clouds, following this misterious path and trying to don’t look down – it was pretty scary.

We came to a stony valley next to the huge, seemed inaccessible hill on our left. We had to camp there – lucky, we found a sandy bottom of an old dry puddle. Dinner was cooked inside our “home” to make it a bit warmer. It wasn’t a smart idea – in the morning we found our tent covered by ice.

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It was about 4500m. Every now and then we woke up at night with the feeling that air is finished in this world. It was cold. Very cold. I felt like in a mental hospital in a straitjacket.

In the morning we woke up in an ice-covered tent. We hid our backpacks under the stone and began the ascent to the glacier. One section above the clouds, on a steep rock, was  frightening. If you do not look down, it’s all right. I looked … and got stuck there for 15 minutes, crying that “it is the end, i would never see this wonderful world again”. My boyfriend ignored this drama and went ahead.

I had to stop being afraid – it is boring to do it alone.

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We reached Pequeno Glaciar in a zombie mood. Because of the altitude I felt as if I had a bottle of vodka for the breakfast- my head was spinning, I wanted to lie down, each step was extremely difficult.

We continued. It was too late to turn back. Step, another step, the invasion of the zombies on the glaciers. We reached a large lake and fell without any energy on the shore. The lake did not blow my mind. It was quite an ordinary lake with a large piece of snow on the other shore. It was ok. 

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Such harsh trekkings people usually do not only for the pleasure of stunning views, but mostly to challenge themself. Lake Chillata was much more picturesque, but the experience of hiking Laguna Glaciar was unforgettable.

I realized that I can do much more. There are unexplored opportunities hidden after this “I can’t do it any more”. There, after these words, lies a huge abyss of “I can” – from “I can, if I want,” “I still can do a little bit more” to some “I can” outside the mind. Just “I still can do it”.

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The same day we came back to the city, all the 25 km down. Reaching the village where we expected to catch a taxi, we found only sleepy empty street. Donkeys melancholically chewed straw and stared at us. We got lost in someone’s garden, trying to find a way to Sorata. Total we passed more than 30 km per day. I make my personal records every day.

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