Stage 3

12 May 2011 -
3 July 2011

Cordoba - Lima

Hot Rock South America 2011
Heart of the Andes





Roadside cragging at Tuzgle

Leaving Cordoba northwards we drive 2 days to San Pedro de Atacama, just across the border in Chile.

On the way we'll stop off at the highly rated roadside cragging of Tuzgle for 4 days, where just 30 routes have so far been put up, alongside 100+ boulder problems.

San Pedro is famous for its geysers, salt flats, and the weird rock formations of the Valle de la Luna. But mostly for the Atacama desert itself - by some measures the world's driest.

And it will be cameras at the ready here as this area, sandwiched between the snowcapped Andes, the great salt flats and the Atacama desert is famed for its sunsets.

'ello geezer

Socaire gorge, in the middle of the Atacama


It's an extraordinary place, well worth a visit even if there's no climbing... but there is...

We'll spend 5 days climbing at Socaire, near San Pedro, and exploring the area before heading off on one of the greatest of all overland journeys: the Uyunyi Salt Flats.

The Uyunyi salt flats are the world's largest. They cover a huge area of the border between chile and bolivia... a place where there are many vehicle tracks and no international border posts.

We'll simply "sign out" of chile at the final town, drive the flats, and sign in to Bolivia at Uyunyi, 16 hours later. It is an epic crossing, not possible in winter (as the flats get wet and turn into briny bog) - certain to be a travelling highlight of the trip.

Crossing the immense salt flats to Bolivia

Weird formations in the enormous valle de las rocas

Once in Bolivia, we have 8 days climbing split between Oruro and Valle de las Rocas.

At nearly 4000m, the cragging here will literally leave us breathless, but we better acclimatise quick as there is 20km of mostly undeveloped crags along the Valle de las Rocas for us to have a go at.

The rock is volcanic, and forms pockets, huecos and cracks... should be interesting!

A short drive north will take us to La Paz, administrative centre (though not the capital) of Bolivia.

Situated high on the altiplano at above 4000m, La Paz is the setting for climbing and trekking in the Cordillera Real; 6x 6000m mountains surround the city including Illampu, Ancohuma, Huayna Potosi, Illimani and more, not to mention endless lower peaks.

The trekking is top draw, and as we'll be well acclimatised already, altitude issues will be well reduced.

We have a week scheduled in La Paz but alpinists can easily increase this by leaving a few days early from Oruro.


The Cordillera Real, near La Paz

La Paz, overlooked by Illimani and 6 other easy 6000'ers

Climbers, on the other hand, will enjoy the cragging at Aranjuez.

Situated on the outskirts of the city, the conglomerate rock has a wide range of single pitch bolted routes from f4a to f7a+ - and just in case that sounds easy, remember you're at 4500m here!

La Paz is not a city to fly into from low altitudes - this is why it is not a changeover point. But of course, you can leave from here very easily.

Leaving La Paz, we travel via Lake Titicaca to Cuzco.

We'll stop off to see the floating reed islands of the Uros indians on the lake, and then head to a newly discovered climbing area: Suykutambo (3 canyons) pictured below.

For those that want, the inca trail is a possibility though it requires advance reservation (through me.)

But it is easy to avoid the millions of people slogging along the inca trail simply by picking a different walk. You can still finish at Macchu Picchu, and no advance reservation is necessary.

Macchu Picchu

Suykutambo (3 Canyons); a recent climbing discovery

We don't know what to expect at Suykutambo. There is little info available online but the photos look great; it'll be a case of turning up and seeing what there is to go at.

I'll have been in touch with local climbers too, to get all the beta of course.

We've got 5 days slated here, split between suykutambo and macchu picchu; if it is really good we can draw on a couple of extra days too.

Leaving Cuzco, we head to the coast, to Ariquipa via the immense Colca Canyon.

This canyon is twice as deep as the grand canyon and contains some excellent rafting.

It also provide the best opportunity on the trip to spot condors, the largest flying land bird in the world with a wingspan of over 3 metres. (In case this sounds contrived, it basically means they're bigger than anything apart from albatrosses and ostriches.)

Rafting Colca Canyon, twice as deep as the Grand

bouldering in Arequipa

Ariquipa is a beach bouldering destination on pink granite. It was only discovered in 2008 but is rapidly gaining popularity; we'll spend some chilled out time checking it out.

Lima is in sight now, but first we stop off at Nazca for a day or so.

The weird Nazca lines - some of which are 200m across - have never been explained by scholars. They might indicate the flow of water or be connected to rituals to summon water. The spiders, birds, and plants could be fertility symbols. Other possible explanations include: irrigation schemes, giant astronomical calendars, or landing for spaceships... you can draw your own conclusions.

Here, we can also sandboard Cerro Blanco, at 2600m the highest sand dune in the world, on our way to Lima - and the end of stage 3!

Of the 53 days on this stage, up to 38 will have been in climbing destinations.

Sandboarding Cerro Blanco

South America 2011:


expedition overview

Ushuaia to Santiago

Santiago to Cordoba via Rio

Cordoba to Lima
Lima to Quito

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