Abra Ritipata

Paras to Licapa

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One pass. That is all it takes to transform scenery of big valleys and canyons into a colorful mining country that remind me of Agua Negra pass between Chile and Argentina. But don't be mistaken -- while the climb isn't as long as then, the 1600m climb to Abra Ritipata (4950m) takes a serious effort.

August 17

My plan to tackle Abra Ritipata is a two-day stunt -- with 1600m of climbing it isn't exactly doable in one day (and even if I could get to the top, there wouldn't be time for descent). As there is reportedly no water on the climb (apart from a dirty water hole) I load my bike with two days worth of water. All preparations done I finally leave Paras and immediatelly start the climb.

In the morning I say goodbye to Paras and this lady at the main square
Paras is a decent-sized village

The road from Paras is in quite good condition. In fact, I am meeting a bunch of crews working on it. Apart from people there is a lot of heavy machinery involved -- trucks full of earth/dirt, road roller and a watering cistern. Needless to say I did not like the last one. Apart from a few muddy sections the road surface is quite smooth and rolls very well. It is therefore no surprise that I am making bigger speed than I originally expected.

Other side of the valley
As I climb more the valley bottom gets deeper ...
... yet the views stay similar
Somewhere around this hill should be some archeological ruins. They probably aren't easily accessible though

I take a lunch break at 4100m slightly overviewing the road works. With Sun up and shiking and no wind, this place is quite warm. As I continue further this changes though. I slowly leave the big canyon of the past few days behind. Instead there are more and more views of mountains around. With more open landscape a wind arrives. And with each meter of elevation it is getting stronger and also colder (mainly because the Sun is now covered with high clouds).

I can already see some spikey mountains
Mountains are starting to get some rusty tint ...
... but old-fashioned rocks are present as well
The ascent has a lot of switchbacks
A bit more and I see this bizzarely-colored landscape

As the cold wind is quite annoying I decide to call it a day a bit above 4600m. There is no point in getting further as it would only mean more wind and even more colder night. And tomorrow I should be able to reach Licapa without big problems. Given that as soon as the shadows hit my tent the temperature plummets down this was a good decision.

Colors are to stay. I wonder whether Peruvians have a name for this red-purple-violet mix
The more left (north) you go the more colors are there
A prime spot for camping.
A demo of what comes tomorrow
Looking back the way I come

The night is real cold. In fact, despite my two sleeping bags setup tested in Bolivia I start shivering a bit. It dawns on me before the dawn that this seems to be a bit suspicious, especially that I also have a mild headache and my stomach is complaining as well. Sure enough, quick check with a thermometer reveals whopping 38° which explains a lot about my state. A bit of Paralen and I try to catch up with the sleep.

August 18

With the previous night's sleep deficit it takes me ages to start the day. And unsurprisingly I feel feeble and the progress is rather slow. On the other hand, the scenery keeps me busy. I watch a few rabbits and vicuñas. If wildlife isn't you thing the road also overviews a nice lagoon. All of this makes up for the hard effort of last meters to the pass.

I say goodbye to yesterday's views ...
... and look forward to a new day
The mountains start to have an orange makeup
I like these micro-bridges as they replace my bike stand
Hmm, what's interesting down there?
This super-steep mountain somehow doesn't fit the scenery around

When I finally get to Abra Ritipata a surprise awaits me -- this is probably the first Peruvian pass that actually has a sign at the top. Also, apparently the mountains here must be raising at pretty fast speeds -- the sign lists pass about 50 meters lower than it is in the reality :-)

The road passes around a beautiful lagoon
Orange feel cannot be mistaken by now
I am slowly transferred back to Bolivia and Chile
There are vicuñas everywhere
Finally there. Except that my GPS shows ~4950m.

With Abra Ritipata down I can now enjoy 600m of descent. And what a descent it is -- the scenery changes like with a magic wand and where yesterday were canyons today I can see bare mountains playing with probably all the colors from the rainbow.

The other side of the pass reveals a completely different scenery
Descent is quick and amazingly beautiful
Upper part of the pass is just completely bare
Sceneries like this turn me completely speechless
A bit lower and bare orange mountains are combined with green grass

The dominant orange color is strongly contrasting with lagoons and any grass the descent has. Zooming past some scared vicuña hers there is only one problem with the descent and that is an intense cold. I do frequent photographic stops just to warm up my hands.

There are even sheep and alpacas here
I get a better view over the "misplaced" mountain I saw earlier
Another nice lagoon
The descent goes on and on
First small village on this side of the pass
Grass is getting more fresh look by now
Water comes out with an iron taste

When I finally join a paved road it is time for lunch although I have to force it to my stomach. Unfortunately, the pavement doesn't bring a quick ride as there is another pass before me. With about 400m the ascent to Abra Apacheta isn't extremely long. Yet it isn't a piece of cake as I am slowly building a headache and there is the everpresent nasty cold wind against me.

Finally on a pavement
Views are still colorful
There is no wonder that there are many mines in this area
If it was on me, I would name these "Cappucino hills"

Abra Apacheta is another pass which must be gaining rapidly some elevation as my GPS shows it a few dozens of meters higher. Or maybe Peruvian's just don't know how to measure elevation, who knows? I take a mandatory picture and resume going, this time at way higher speeds. It does take some time but finally I frozen arrive to Licapa, a small village on the highway. It is actually a bit miserable place. I am getting a room in hospedaje municipal, which in reality is this little separated place below a roof of some building. To go to the toilet I have to get out of the building and go to a nearby public bathroom which isn't very clean. And food-wise, this isn't heaven either -- I find a restaurant but the only meal is caldo (broth soup).

With a bit of headache I arrive to Abra Apacheta
A long descent awaits me
Look back is incredible
The road to Licapa leads through a wide valley

Route

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Download simplified GPX of a route here

Stats by activity:

Activity Distance
(km)
Ascent
(km)
Pedal rotations
(thousands)
bike 81 2.1 30
Stats by day:
Date Distance
(km)
Ascent
(km)
Avg. temp
(moving, C)
Aug. 17, 2017 26.2 1.29 20.5
Aug. 18, 2017 55.0 0.80 13.4

Elevation data

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The next table is only for cycling activity.

Grade(%)Ascent (km)Descent(km)
< 2 9.1
< 4 3.8 7.0
< 6 14.6 5.5
< 8 4.8 3.0
< 10 1.2 0.8
≥ 10 1.1 1.0

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