T R E K K I N G P E R U
This is Peru’s premier mountain destination, offering endless trekking opportunities amid magnificent scenery and the highest summits in the country. More than two hundred snow-covered peaks over 5000 m stretch in a swath 180 km long and 20 km wide; thirty-two of them reach over 6000 m. Here are over seven hundred glaciers, the highest concentration in the tropics, their levels sadly receding year after year due to climate change. At the base of the glaciers are more than four hundred lakes, turquoise jewels enhancing the superb mountain scenery. Seven life zones above 3000 m are home to 850 plant species, as well as 210 species of birds, from condors to hummingbirds. Many of these natural wonders are protected by Parque Nacional Huascarán, and trekking permits are issued by the national park.
Although the region as a whole has adopted this name, the Cordillera Blanca is but one of several mountain ranges and valleys accessed from Huaraz, capital of the Department of Ancash and hub of the area. The western range is the bare Cordillera Negra; the eastern one is the snow-covered Cordillera Blanca proper. Between the Cordilleras Negra and Blanca is the Río Santa valley, called Callejón de Huaylas while it flows north before turning west to the Pacific. The valleys east of the Cordillera Blanca, their rivers draining to the Río Marañón, a tributary of the Amazon, are called the Zona de Conchucos (or just Conchucos). More mountains, in the Cordillera Oriental, lie farther east beyond the Marañón. To the southeast of the Cordillera Blanca are the snow-capped Cordilleras Huallanca and Huayhuash. The lower valleys of the Callejón de Huaylas and Conchucos are extensively populated and cultivated; and many small towns here provide access to the mountains ...
WILLKAWAIN TO AGUAK COCHA
TRAINING FOR THE CORDILLERA BLANCA
“THE BEST WAY TO train for trekking is by trekking,” goes the motto of one of our long-standing hiking companions. This may be overstating the case but, insofar as it makes a good point, an ideal place to train for trekking in the Cordillera Blanca is along this route. Within easy reach of Huaraz and with minimal navigational challenge, this is a fine workout to build stamina for longer more challenging trails ahead. The route begins at a small archaeological site and climbs to a pretty little lake nestled under glacier-sculpted walls. Along the way are various introductions to the many charms of the Cordillera Blanca: fine views, interesting flora including traditional crops, polylepis trees, and miniature cacti thriving above 4000 m. If you are lucky, you may see nesting Andean gulls on their little rookery islands in the lake.
WARNING In 2017, after Trekking Peru had gone to press, muggings were reported along the trail to Aguak Cocha. Inquire with iPeru in Huaraz before hiking this route. There are several other day-hikes for acclimatization not far from Huaraz (eg Wilcacocha, Laguna Churrup, and Laguna 69) and Caraz (Miramar, Laguna 69, Laguna Parón, and Winchus) ...
ISHINCA TO AKILPO
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
THIS ROUTE OFFERS A bit of everything, from the camaraderie of a large climbing/trekking lodge to the solitude of a seldom-visited valley, from barren recently deglaciated moraines to lush queñua forests teeming with life. Superb vistas of summits, glaciers, lakes, and waterfalls abound, and the great natural beauty is complemented by a small archaeological site at the end of the route. Most of the trails are well maintained and signed, but there is enough cross-country travel and a 5000-m-plus pass to provide challenge and adventure. You can also choose not to cross the pass and still enjoy a worthwhile portion of the route. It is hard to find a better “bite-size” multiday trek within easy reach of Huaraz ...
BLUE OF BLUES
LAGUNA TISHUGYOC HAS A rare beauty. Its waters are a deep pure blue that is neither the turquoise of other glacial lakes nor a reflection of the sky, yet they are a faithful mirror of the white glaciers and black-, gray-, and red-rock mountains that surround it. Tishugyoc means “island lake” in the local Quechua dialect, and, indeed, it has a single island covered in exquisitely wind-sculpted queñua trees. The unusual color of the water is even more curious because it does not appear to contain much glacial silt; the outflow and shallows by the shore are crystal clear. The effect is spectacular and difficult to convey with words or photos; you have to see it for yourself ...
HUARI TO CHACAS
INTRODUCTION TO CONCHUCOS
LESS FREQUENTED BY TREKKERS and climbers than the Callejón de Huaylas or the Cordillera Blanca, Conchucos has a character of its own. People here are a bit more reserved at first but nonetheless soon warm up to visitors. The landscape is gorgeous: lakes and emerald green valleys beneath tussock-covered hillsides, rocky slopes, and glaciers. Huari, the starting point of this trek, is a regional center that makes a convenient base for several hikes in the area, starting with this fine introduction to the Conchucos backcountry ...
CHACAS TO HUARI VIA YAUYA
THE GREAT INCA CAUSEWAY
OF THE MANY OUTSTANDING features of the Capac Ñan or Great Inca Road (see Chapter 1), one of the most impressive are the causeways that carried it over marshy terrain. These highlight the monumental nature of the road because, in many cases, they were not strictly necessary. Inca engineers could have detoured around such bogs, but instead they built the road perfectly straight through them, over stone culverts that permitted the free flow of water beneath the roadway and have kept it intact for hundreds of years. The Inca did not deign to make detours for man or nature! ...
THE WARI PENTHOUSE
THE WORLDWIDE FAME OF celebrity archaeological sites like Machu Picchu (Chapter 10) and Kuelap (Chapter 7) has tended to eclipse the myriad undeveloped ones throughout Peru. Trekkers soon learn, however, that it’s hard to take a step anywhere in Peru without stumbling on something of archaeological significance. Marcajirca is a good case in point: an impressive, minimally developed, and little-known site spectacularly located on a narrow ridge 1000 m above rushing rivers on three sides. Objects from Marcajirca have been dated from approximately ad 700, placing its origins in the Wari era. (In the usual confusion of toponyms, Wari refers to the ancient civilization and Huari to the contemporary town.) The site contains residential, public, and funerary sectors, including many small stone mausoleums called chullpas. Views from Marcajirca are as impressive as its structures. It must have been quite a privilege to live (and die) up in this “Wari penthouse.” ...
CROSSING THE CORDILLERA BLANCA
THIS TREK IS A splendid combination of the wild and the organized. It traverses the heart of the Cordillera Blanca alongside some of its most impressive mountains and glacial lakes, crossing five 4500-m-plus passes. Yet the trail is excellent along most of the route, there are large designated campsites, and signs are generally helpful. An optional side trip takes you higher and farther off the beaten track, but all parts of the route offer plenty of physical challenge, incomparable mountain vistas, and many “wow moments.” Of course the perfect pyramidal summit of Alpamayo is the star of the show ...
POMABAMBA TO CHACAS
IT IS UNUSUAL TO find a multiday trek that is off the beaten track and offers breathtaking views of the Cordillera Blanca, yet is not too physically demanding. The three very scenic passes along this route are all under 4400 m, which is modest by Peruvian standards. Many of the climbs, although long, are on good trails and relatively gentle slopes. You can end the trek in Yanama or take a comfortable break there, about halfway along the route ...
CARAZ TO YUNGAY
ALONGSIDE THE GIANTS
FEW ACCLIMATIZATION HIKES HAVE views as spectacular as this one. It is quite a feeling to walk alongside the towering summits of Huandoy (6395 m) and Huascarán (6768 m, Peru’s highest mountain), among other beautiful glaciated peaks. This full-day hike on trails and back roads follows a broad ridge east and then south, high above the Río Santa valley between Caraz and Yungay. The ridge separates the Río Santa from the Ríos Llullán and Ancash, behind which are the giant mountains. In addition to spectacular views, the route offers a glimpse of rural life in the Callejón de Huaylas ...
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