Parinacota [an error occurred while processing this directive]
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Of course, of course we wanted to see the flatness of the Altiplano, life in the little villages, the lamas, the women with the catapults to keep the herds together. And of course, of course we wanted to cross the National Parks in Chile, Isluga, Las Vicuņas, Surire, Lauca, lie in thermal pools and photograph Vicuņas and Vizcachas until we had enough of them. But the main reason for coming here are the twin volcanoes of Payachata. 

On the road to the twin volcanoes of Payachata Iris' former colleagues at Philips CDS gave her the best farewell present there is for a trip like this: dollars. And the Optical group added even more, but with the condition that the Aconcagua had to be climbed. However, at the time that we were near the foot of the highest mountain in South-America, the climbing season was way behind us. So no Aconcagua ascent for us. The search on the map started, what else can we climb, what is more or less on the route, which mountain can compete. And then we found it, in the far north of Chile, just on the border with Bolivia the twin volcanoes of Payachata are located. The northern volcano Pomerape is nice to walk around, the southern volcano Parinacota is nice to climb. So that's what it was going to be. Parinacota, 6342 meters high. Not a bad alternative at all.

We did some shopping in Putre (light weight stuff) and rode our bikes through the impressive scenery of Lago Chungara to the village Sajama (4281m) in Bolivia on the east side of the volcanoes. With an uncertain mind we started looking for crampons. Will they have Tore´s size? The man at the restaurant, where we had our supper, recommended to go to his brother. "He will have crampons". And indeed, it turned out that he had crampons and ice-axes suitable for Tore. What could stop us now.

The same day we went through all our equipment, stuffed our backpacks and repacked the bikes. We left them in the hostel, and started walking in the afternoon. Walking, how heavy that is, and how different from cycling, you feel that muscle and that one. Using the feet for transport is not really our thing. After only 2 hours we already stopped, but it was a good place to stop, a thermal bath. We hadn't had a bath in the last 5 days, so we needed one.. The woman living near the thermal told us that the water had medical powers. Once, a paralyzed man had taken a bath every day, and after 2 weeks he could walk again. We bikers don't walk very well either, so after dinner we took a bath under the southern night sky, increasing our chances of reaching the top. What could stop us now.

The highest tree sort in the world, Kenua trees We walked through a valley filled with Kenuas. Those are small remarkable trees that grow in an altitude of as high as 5100 meters. In the green bofedal, birds and lamas seemed to go very well together. At the end of the valley the path climbed up steeply, after which it suddenly disappeared. Our map didn't give much away as to where to go, but we had the general idea, lets go up. So we climbed further and further and after 8 hours we finally reached Lago Chiar Kota, our very high camping spot, 4998 meters. We ate spaghetti with mustard. Bikers are no hikers, so light weight meals this week.

A crossing between a rabit and a kangaroo, the vizcachas Descent to Pomerape and the lakes We climbed a little further up to a pass of 5022 meter and then saw the volcano Pomerape in its full glory. Two lakes at the bottom and glaciers at the top. We descended to the lakes and were frightened by something going on to the left of us. Rolling stones, but no, they were dozens of Vizcachas (rabbit likes with a long tail) running for shelter. Sometimes it also looked like we were attacked by birds, to defend their young. They flew very low at us with a lot of sound. We continued along the foot of the volcano to the west side, where another lake is situated, Lago Casiri Hembra, 4820 meters. We put up the tent, very early, away from a rolling down boulder field and close to the lake for water. Time enough to take some rest, drink liters of tea and hot chocolate in the remainder of the afternoon. What could stop us now.

Through the pampa to avoid the lava ribsWe more or less had to go around the northern volcano, Pomerape, to reach the pass between the two volcanoes from where we wanted to do our 'summit attempt'. It is not a good idea to take a shortcut by staying close to Pomerape, because in that way you have to climb and descent all the lava ribs. The booklet about the route helped us: "head generally west" and so we did, following a rib of lava that has streamed out of Pomerape a long time ago. "And then go generally south-west," says the book. Because we were at the end of the ribs, almost in the valley (4600m), we were able to walk relative horizontally along them. "Now choose to the right ribs to ascent, as soon as you see the pass between the volcanoes". We have no idea which were the right ribs but just took a wild guess, a real good guess as it turned out. The climb went over soft lava fields; very impressive. Black lava, yellow sand at the sides, a wide view back and two volcanoes in the front. The idea was to reach the pass in the afternoon, but we'd forgotten that we are bikers. Beside that, it started to thunder which doesn't feel good when you are walking with a couple of ice-axes pointing into the air. As soon as we found some snow (for water) we pitched up the tent. After the daily spaghetti, decorated with cream this time, we fell in a deep sleep. Bikers are no hikers.

Tea from coca leafs It was only 2 hours more to the pass of 5301 meters, our base camp. The pass was wide, with here and there some patches of snow. Fortunately, there was some water running from the snow, so we didn't have to melt it first. Iris cut a hole in the ground so Tore could put a backpack rain cover full of water in the front of the tent, our own water put. We went through our equipment, checked our crampons, checked our pickles, packed one backpack, sorted out food and clothes and drank, drank, drank. Especially coca tea. At this altitude you should drink about 6 liters of water each day and that is not easy. We walked the first part of the climb and then after spaghetti with mayonnaise we went to bed. This night it was going to happen. Are bikers hikers, can something stop us now? We didn't sleep very well.

At 0.15 the alarm went off. Tore made some oatmeal and tea. Iris, as ever, found it hard to eat anything, but Tore forced her. And then at 1.30 we started of. It is 3 days after full moon and we could walk without headlamps. The first part went over rocks and through scree. It was cold and very hard, but after 4 hours we reached the snow at 5800 meters. We ate something and tied under our crampons. It was so cold that Iris wanted to quit. Bikers are no hikers! But one hour later the sun came up and a wonderful warmth reached us. The surrounding changed from black to brown to colorful. OK, how much longer to the top, lets do it. What could stop us now. Tore went in front en Iris followed in his footsteps. The snow was soft with some hard parts, which made it unpredictable whether the snow would hold or that Tore would sink into it down to his knees. It was very hard walking. We saw another climber way below us, but after 1 hour he was way above us. Not bad, because now we could follow his footsteps with made everything a lot easier.

Iris through a snow cone field on Parinacota

And at 9.27 on the 24th of October 2002, Irisentoreopreis were at the top op Parinacota, 6342 meters above the sea level. The top is made up of a 1 km wide and 200 meter deep crater, a real volcano. After 15 minutes it had been enough and we started the descent, another 3 hours. At 12.30 we were back in the tent and of course we first drank another pan of tea after which we once more fell in a very deep sleep, 11 hours after we left the tent.

We descended to the village of Sajama and were pointed to a path by a boy on a bike. I want my bike too. It takes us 6.30 too long hours before we can finally sit ourselves down at the table of a restaurant in the village. And after 2 more rest days we had enough energy to pick up our bikes and continue cycling. Yep, we love h.., biking.

And the other climber, it turned out that he is a mountain guide from France. Even if bikers are no hikers, nothing can stop us!

Iris with Sajama in the back Iris en Tore on top of the Parinacota, 6342m high

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This page was last updated on Friday July 29, 2011