After finishing the hike of Yunga Cruz, Guillaume and I went to Sorata which has a lot of great hiking and is only a couple hours north of La Paz. To get there we again caught a mini-bus and it cost 10 bolivianos. Once visiting the trekking guide office we decided to do one day hike and then a 3-day hike. Part of this was contributed to the fact that there was a charming camping spot called Altai Oasis right outside of town that was along the river and we wanted to stay more than just a night at this charming location.
For the day hike, we used a private transport to go to the small town of Lackathiya. The cost was 300 bolivianos and it enabled us to hike up to Llampu pass (4700m) and back to town in one day. Unfortunately, there were a ton of clouds this day so we couldn’t see the mountains that well but it was great acclimatization to prepare for the 6000m mountain we were planning on hiking in a few days time.
It was also nice because we were the only ones on the trail and it was very tranquil but cold at the pass (aka it started hailing while we were up there so we quickly made our way back down). That evening we enjoyed our second night at Altai Oasis and then packed up the next morning to head to Laguna Chillata.
The hike to Laguna Chillata was only a half day hike and we enjoyed taking our time packing up in the morning and we finally set off around 11am. After hiking for a couple of hours on the road we took a break for lunch and then continued on.
While the hike was only a half day it was only uphill and we gained around 2000m in altitude. The trail was very easy to follow to Laguna Chillata and we were rewarded with amazing views of Illampu and the surrounding mountains upon our arrival. We were the only ones at the campsite that night and it was so peaceful.
The next morning we set off with just a day pack to Laguna Glacier. We again had great sunny weather and the trail was pretty easy to follow as we left camp. After around an hour of hiking we arrived to a small pass and dropped down the other side to the hike back up to the glacier lake.
The first part of the hike wasn’t too bad but then we reached a very steep section with a ton of loose rock. I wasn’t feeling great in the altitude so I was hiking a little slower than normal but eventually we found a small lake and the glacier around 1pm. (We later found out that this was only the tip of the glacier lake and the actual lake was actually higher up the mountain…)
Upon heading back, Guillaume said he was going to walk a little faster and we could just meet back at camp. While I knew this wasn’t ideal I said that was fine. As I started walking back I started having a lot of trouble breathing and was feeling very disoriented. I knew it was probably due to the altitude (I was at 5100m) and I knew the best thing was to keep moving downhill. While it was one of the scariest moments I’ve had while hiking, I made it down safely and luckily I started feeling better after around an hour.
Around 6pm a lot of clouds descended on the mountains and it became a lot harder to find the trail. Luckily, I had me phone and a map and while I lost the trail a little bit I made it back to camp at 6:30pm. However, when I arrived back to camp, Guillaume wasn’t there. I knew he had walked faster than me and should’ve arrived back first so I was immediately concerned.
Luckily, there was another couple in the campsite and so I told them my friend was missing. We went to the highest point outside of the camp and called his name but because it was nighttime and there were tons of clouds we knew it wasn’t smart to go looking for him and we must wait until morning. The next morning at 5:30am, the couple started out towards the laguna to look for him and I went into town to get help from the police.
I wasn’t sure how helpful the police would be but they were extremely helpful and two policeman came with me to help look for Guillaume and they were going to call in a specialty team from La Paz if needed. Around noon, the police and I were walking back to the campsite and we just happened to cross paths with Guillaume. I have never been so glad to see someone! While he was exhausted and hungry he was fine. He had gotten lost in the clouds that evening and hadn’t been able to find the laguna. He had also had trouble finding it that morning and was still searching for it when we found him.
I have never been in that kind of situation before but it was absolutely terrifying to know my friend was lost in the mountains all night without warm clothes and no food. I also wan’t sure if he had fallen when climbing down the loose rocks and something even worse than being lost had happened. Needless to say, we were both relieved and happy that there wasn’t a worse outcome. Sorata will always be stuck in my memory not only as a beautiful hiking spot but also as the place where I spent one of the most scary nights my life.