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Cordillera Blanca is the world's highest and most glaciated tropical mountain range. It is a paradise for high altitude climbers as it offers a wide range of peaks and routes in all difficulties. Topped by 6768m high Huascaran there are 25 6000ers and more than 50 peaks above 5500m within this range, amongst them beautiful Alpamayo and "Paramount peak" Artesonraju.
Climbing season runs from May / June to August / September. It provides long periods of dry and sunny weather only interrupted by one or two less stable days, which however may force you to wait in your tent before the summit bid.
Formed by the movement of the South American continental plate against the Pacific plate, C.B. is mainly one long mountain chain less then 100 km off the Pacific coast. It is intersected by many formerly glaciated U-valleys which bring nearly all base camps within a day's reach from Huaraz.
All mountains are usually climbed by small teams in alpine style using one or two high camps. Besides burros (donkeys) which may help you carrying your backpack to the base camp (mostly around 4000 - 4500m) there is no need of expedition infrastructure with porters, multiple camps or fixed ropes.
Except an entrance fee to the national park (see below) there is no red tape and you don't need any permits for climbing one of these beautiful peaks. This makes C.B. to propably the best choice worldwide for high altitude moutaineering in the 6-7000m range!
Getting There (Peru - Lima)
Fly to Lima. If you come from Europe and have all your expedition gear with you, the baggage allowance of the airline is an important factor: In 2003 all European airlines switched from the "piece system" (max. two pieces of baggage, 32kg each) to a 20kg-limit on their S-America- routes. Only North American airlines and their code-sharing partners still use the piece-system. As you will be charged for extra baggage up to 50€/$ per kg flights via the USA seem to be the most economic choice at moment.
Getting to Huaraz
Though there is an airstrip in Anta (20km from Huaraz), there are no regular flights from Lima. So the only way to go there is a 7-9 hour ride by bus. There are several bus companies, each one with its own bus station in Lima:
Three of them are listed below:
Cruz del Sur: Jr.Quilca 531 Phone 424-1005. Departure at 9 a.m. and 10:15 p.m. 7h. 12$ incl. onboard-lunch
Movil Tours, Paseo de la república 656. Phone 332 0004 or 0024. Departure at 11:00 a.m. 7h. 12$ incl. onboard-lunch
Ormeño: Av. Carlos Zavala 177. Phone 427 5679. Departure at 7:00 a.m. and 12:00 a.m. 9h. 7$ stops for lunch.
All bus companies charge a reasonable fee for baggage exceeding 20kg. Tickets can be delivered to your hotel.
the Huaraz-area is a nice place to acclimatize as it offers a wide range of excursions, for instance:
- Bus tour to Yungay and Quebrada Llanganuco (nearly daily)
- Bus tour to Pastoruri (4800m, pressurized oxygen in the bus - no joke)
- Bus tour to Chavin on the Amazonian side of the C.B. (pre-Incaic ruins)
- Hiking to Laguna Churup (4500 m, 4h)
- Hiking to The ruins of Huilcauain (2h)
Books and Maps
Best Map: Alpenvereinskarte 0/3a (Cordillera Blanca Nord) 1:100000, UTM (GPS)-grid; edited by the Austrian Alpine Club
The Southern sheet of Alpenvereinskarte (0/3b) is not recommended for climbing, as it is only a reprint of the 1945 map. Nevertheless it is very interesting to compare this map with glaciers and lakes nowadays: This shows, that dozens of the beautiful lagunas of the C.B. have formed within the last 50 years.
A brand-new edition of this map is expected to be available in summer 2005.
Brad Johnson: Classic Climbs of the Cordillera Blanca (2003, highly recommended): ISBN 1-890437-90-5
Climbs of the Cordillera Blanca of Peru by David M. Sharman (1995)
The High Andes by John Biggar (1996), ISBN 1-871890-38-1
Escaladas en los Andes (Guía de la Cordillera Blanca) by Juan José Tomé Nacle, Ed. Desnivel 1999
La Cordillera Blanca de los Andes by Antonio Gómez Bohórquez and Juan José Tomé Nacle, Ed. Desnivel 1998
Climbing Season: (May) - June - July - August - (September)
The Casa de los Guias situated near the Plaza de Armas in Huaraz is THE spot where to gather information about recent snow and weather conditions. You will also find a posting board to place adds to find climbing partners and/or equipement for rent or sale.
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