OverviewThe Cordillera Huayhaush is a remote and rugged range of snowcapped peaks located south of the more frequently traveled Cordillera Blanca in central Peru. Towering 6000 meter giants including Yerupaja, Jirishanca, Siula Grande, Sarapo, and Rasac anchor the range and offer some of the most difficult and treacherous alpine routes on the continent. Climbs in the range tend to be committing, difficult, and threatened by numerous objective dangers. As there are few options for accessible easy to moderate climbs in the area, most travelers heading to Peru focus on the comparatively friendly peaks closer to Huaraz in the Cordillera Blanca. In spite of this, climbers and trekkers are heading to the Huayhuash in increasing numbers to enjoy the world class trekking and climbing in a remote and relatively unspoiled area.
During the early 1990s, the Cordillera Huayhuash was little visited by foreigners due to terrorist activity by the Sendero Luminoso (“shining path”) guerilla group. Furthermore, a series of robberies, assaults, and even murders along the major valley trekking route discouraged most from traveling to the Huayhaush. During the past few years the occurrence of such issues has declined and travel in the Huayhuash is generally considered safe again. Nonetheless, the small settlement of Huayhuash provides trekkers with an armed guard and escort over the Portachuelo de Huayhuash as a precaution. Be aware of your surroundings and take precautions if you decide to venture into the Huayhuash.
Getting to the Huayhuash
From Huaraz, it is a three to four hour ride by bus (cheap), collectivo (group-taxi, also cheap and crowded), or private transport (more expensive but maybe worth it) to the town of Chiquian. Inquire locally about transport options, as they are numerous and varied in quality. Chiquian has limited accommodations for travelers, as well as some small stores and restaurants. Do not count on supplying for an expedition in Chiquian – come prepared from Huaraz. From Chiquian one must arrange travel along a newly cleared, rough and precipitous dirt road for a further three hours to the small town of Llamac, the starting point for most treks in the Cordillera Huayhuash. Mining activity in this area has opened up more roads and brought with it a host of problems, but trekkers and climbers may benefit from the shortened hike into the heart of the range by using the road.
Local accommodation in Llamac can be arranged for those wanting a night’s rest before heading into the mountains – campsites are available near the playing field in town, and several locals have beds to rent out to travelers (be advised – my wife got fleas sleeping here).
When to Visit
AcclimitizationEven the low-level circuit trek around the Cordillera Huayhuash passes above 5000 meters (16,500 feet), making acclimitization of the utmost importance for safety and enjoyment. Several day hikes in the Huaraz area make good forays into higher altitude, including short trips to the beautiful Laguna Churup (highly recommended) and a nice half-day hike to the Wilkawain pre-Inca ruins. At least five days in the Huaraz area (elevation 2800 meters) is recommended to avoid altitude sickness. If you are planning on attempting any of the 6000 meter peaks in the Huayhuash, acclimitizing on some of the friendlier Cordillera Blanca peaks (Pisco, Ishinca, Tocllaraju, etc.) is a good idea before venturing into the Huayhuash.
Trekking in the Huayhuash
Included below is an example of a longer trekking itinerary generally following the lower level “Valley Circuit”, beginning and ending in Llamac.
Day 1: Depart Huaraz, Arrive in Llamac (auto transport)
Day 2: Llamac - Pampa Llamac (4,300m) -Jahuacocha Lake
Day 3: Jahuacocha Lake - Punta Sambunya (4,750m) - Paso Rondoy (4750m) - Quartelhuain
Day 4: Quartelhuain - Cacanampunta (4,700m) - Mitococha Lake
Day 5: Mitococha Lake - Punta Carhuac (4,650m) - Carhuacocha Lake
Day 6: Carhuacocha Lake - Punta Carnicero (4,800m) - Huayhuash
Day 7: Huayhuash – Portachuelo de Huayhuash (4,750 m) - Viconga
Day 8: Viconga - Punta Cuyoc (5,000m) - Cuyoc Valley
Day 9: Cuyoc Valley – Cutatambo
Day 10: Cutatambo – Huayllapa
Day 11: Huayllapa - Punta Tapush (4,800m) - Suerococha
Day 12: Suerococha - Punta Gaucha (4,800m) - Jahuacocha Lake
Day 13: Jahuacocha Lake - Llamac – return to Huaraz
Numerous opportunities exist for daytrips and alternative routes over different high passes. I would definitely recommend taking a side trip beginning in the Cuyoc Valley over Paso San Antonio (4850m) to Sarapacocha and the stunning turquoise Laguna Jurau. From here one may visit the site of the Touching the Void epic and climb a minor ridge summit (“Cerro Gran Vista”) to look down on Joe Simpson’s torturous glacier crawl. This strenuous trip puts the trekker in the seldom-visited heart of the Huayhuash among numerous towering, forbidding 6000 meter peaks.
Choosing a Guiding ServiceTravel in the Huayhuash is both logistically challenging and potentially hazardous, leading most visitors to hire a local guiding service. Even those of us who prefer self-sufficiency should consider the benefit to local economies in hiring a guide, arriero, and/or cook – and making new friends is an incredible part of the Huayhuash experience. In addition to the standard guide responsibilities, guides can handle the hire of pack donkeys and arrangement of payments to locals (more and more of whom are demanding payment for travel through their land). As so many agencies target the trekking industry in Huaraz (many of them suspect in experience and reliability), it is important to select a reputable company in making trekking arrangements. Many operators cut costs by not paying fair wages to guides, cooks, and arrieros (donkey drivers), and by not hiring qualified personnel. These practices lead to abuses both of workers and the fragile alpine environment, so please do your research and hire a legitimate trekking company.
The following is a list of recommended guiding services in Huaraz which have proven themselves trustworthy, responsible, and professional (please send me a private message if you have had a positive or negative experience with a Huaraz guiding service and I will add them to this list):
Mount Climb alternate address
Located in the Hostal Quintana – contact Alfredo Quintana 51 (043) 426060
Casa de Guias - local guide training center, also leads trips
Skyline Adventures - guided treks, climbs, and mountaineering courses out of Huaraz. Run by a group of expats, recommended by Summitpost users (high marks on their work with the local communities and environmental practices)
Red TapeAs of summer 2006, the Huayhuash is not yet designated a national park by the Peruvian government and thus there are no entry fees. However, locals in Llamac and Huayllapa charge a fee to enter through the town gates, and the smaller communities throughout the Huayhuash will charge you a small fee for camping and for livestock. Bring plenty of small bills for these exchanges (generally less than US$5 per person). The tiny community of Huayhuash uses these funds responsibly and provides trekkers with an armed guard overnight and an escort over the Portachuelo de Huayhuash pass (the site of robberies and assaults in past years). Other communities seem content to simply extract the fee and provide no services – you might suggest that in such sites a pit toilet and trash cleanup would be appreciated in exchange for your payment.
Books and MapsBy far the best map available is the 1:50,000 Cordillera Huayhuash map, 2nd edition, by the Alpine Mapping Guild (updated in 2004). It features 25 meter contours, shaded relief, and recent updates to roads and other features. You can buy it at Peaks and Places.
Suggested reading includes:
Climbs and Treks in the Cordillera Huayhuash of Peru, Jeremy Frimer
-The best source for climbing route info and trekking route details
Classic Climbs of the Cordillera Blanca, Brad Johnson
Touching the Void, Joe Simpson
External LinksCity of Huaraz - information on lodging, activities, and restaurants in Huaraz
Peaks and Places - good place to purchase the Cordillera Huayhuash 1:50,000 map, and also an adventure outfitter specializing in Peru based out of Boulder, CO.
Huayhuash Photo Tour
featuring photography by Tom Dempsey
Peaks of the Huayhuash
|Peak||Height (meters)||Image||Peak||Height (meters)||Image|
|Siula Grande||6344||Siula Chico||6265|
|Jirishanca Chico||5989||El Toro||5965|
|Puscanturpa Central||5442||Diablo Mudo||5350|
|Cerro Gran Vista||5152|
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