Day 7: Volcán Ascotán
One of our missions in Bolivia was to climb some high-altitude volcanoes! Our first chance is Volcán Ascotán, location directly behind the lodge here in Ramaditas. Volcán Ascotán lies on the border of Chile and Bolivia and its peak is almost 18,000 feet high. Explora labeled this hike “expert level” due to the total elevation, elevation gain and terrain. But were game to try it, and Oscar approved of our enthusiasm.
We started at the lodge — 13,370 feet — and made an offering of cocoa leaves to Pachamama (Mother Earth) which is a traditional way to start and end hikes in Bolivia. The first section was somewhat rocky, but mostly full of desert plants and holes in the gravel from a burrowing animal. We had to stay vigilant so a foot didn’t end up in a hole.
The next section of the mountain had a road that was used in the past to transport Yareta, a tough green plant that grows in the high desert that can be used as a fuel source. However, we did not take the road, instead traversing the switchbacks and climbing up directly towards the summit (probably because the road would have been 3x as long).
Once we passed the roads the terrain steepened drastically and became a crazy scree with loose rocks and loose gravel. Without any trails, it was very difficult to make headway. Every step slid backwards. We finally came to a point near the final rise to the summit that was impossible for us to pass and we hit the wall — literally!
Instead of retracing our path down the mountain, Oscar decided we could take advantage of the scree and slide our down in a direct line back to our destination. After a little explanation of the “safest” way to do this, we “carefully” slid all the way down the volcano.
Eventually, we made it down the rock scree section and back to the more manageable downhills. With our new as-the-crow flies route, we ended up passing thru a small ravine. Oscar reassured us by noting that “I’ve never actually gone this way before!”
We slowly approached the lodge that looked closer than it was and finally made it back.
Tomorrow we head to Chituca with a few scenic stops along the way. We are grateful to
have a rest day.