Uturuncu – Bikepacking a Volcano, Bolivia
39 Mi.(63 KM)
The Andes by Bike
Though it once reached nearly 5900m, nowadays it is ‘only’ rideable to the col between the volcano’s twin summits, at a heady height of 5760m. This is the point at which occasional tourists are dropped off by jeep drivers, to make the short walk to the volcano’s 6000m summit. Cyclists can dump their bikes at the col and head to the summit on foot; on a clear day you get bird’s eye views of the Bolivian Altiplano, which stretches for hundreds of miles in every direction.
Because of the jeeps, the rough track to the col is rideable almost in its entirety. In theory, anyway. To be able to keep pedalling to such a height you need to be extremely well acclimatized, fit, and have the right bike – on a number of sections the surface is loose or sandy, and above 5000m the many steep miles will make your lungs explode…it’s certainly a challenging undertaking!
- The higher you go, the better the views get – those interested in climbing the highest of the two summits should head south from the col.
- Very challenging – steep, bad surface and the col is only 130m lower than the summit of Kilimanjaro!
- The volcano lies in the Sud Lipez of south-west Bolivia, an area popular with bikers following the ‘Lagunas Route’. The way up the peak begins and ends in the little village of Quetena Chico which is the nearest inhabited settlement to the mountain, and a place where basic supplies and accommodation can be found.
- You need to be super-acclimatized to attempt this – the better your lungs work at these altitudes, the more you’ll be able to pedal, less you’ll have to push, and the more enjoyable it’ll all be; not to mention the lower your chances of getting AMS. If you don’t mind camping high on the volcano, the trip can be done in two days. Choosing to go light and make the return journey in a very long day may be a good option, however bear in mind that there is 1750m of climbing to reach the col, and if the weather decides to make one of its sudden changes, you’ll find little in the way of shelter if you don’t have the back up of a tent.
- More info at: http://andesbybike.com/bolivia/routes/uturuncu/
- Basic accommodation is available in Quetena.’
- On the mountain, camping is your only option.
- Take all supplies with you from the village.
- And water too as you’re not guaranteed to find snow on the mountain, and much of the water on the peak is contaminated by sulphur.