Start Of Trail
Distance: 19.5 km to the lakes.
Altitud : From 3,850m to 4,650msnm.
Rating : Easy to Moderate.
Timing : 4 days.
Transport.From Huaraz to Pitec: Pick-ups leave from the corner of calle Caraz and luca y Torre, Mondays and Fridays, whenever they fill up (about every 30 minutes), between 06:00 and 18:00. They go as far as LLupa; 30 minutes. Ask the driver to drop you off at the footpath up to Pitec, just before Llupa. From there it's a 2 hour walk.
The best season is from May to Octuber.
Although the dry/wet season pattern is more reliable than the weather in temperate climates, you should not be surprised to have rain, hail or snow in the dry season, nor some bright, clear weather in the rainy season. Bear in mind that in bad weather it is unrewarding and even dangerous crosiing the high passes which will be cloud-covered and you may get caught in a blizzard. Even in the dry season always carry good quality, waterproof camping equipment, warm clothing and extra food just in case you need to wait out the bad weather somewhere in the mountains.
The dirt road from Pitec continues to the Portada de Quilcayhuanca, at 3,850 msnm, about 3 km from Pitec. Go through the gate or climb over it and follow the trail up the valley on the left hand side. This is an easy hike to the head of the valley, through green, marshy meadows with lots of cattle, ascending slowly up various plateaux. The distance is about 8.5 Km, 3 1/2 hours, to 4,050 msnm. There are plenty of camping places.
The Nevado in front of you is Andavite (5,518m), the valley to your right is Quebrada Cayesh and the one to your left is the continuation of Quebrara Quilcayhuanca which brings you to the two Lagunas Tullpacocha and Cuchillacocha.
If you want to go up Quebrada Cayesh and you should, for a closer view of the dramatic nevados look for the little natural bridge over the stream, hidden to you right. Cross and climb up the small ridge to the meadow. Across the meadow is another stream. Look for a shallow place to cross, and enter Quebrada Cayesh.
The first part is green meadow; it's best to cross to your left, where you'll find a path bringing you all the way up to the head of the valley, passing through queñoa forest. Distance: 8 Km, 2 1/2 hours. Good campsites (but look for a dry place) and great views of the needle-like Nevado Cayesh
(5,721m) to the Maparaju (5,326m) in front of you, and San Juan (5,843m) and Tumarinaraju (5,668m) to your right. For an even better view climb up the mountain slope to your right, which takes abaout an hour. First climb over the moraine as far as the little bushes next to a huge boulder. Then it's best to climb up the boulder, finding the easiest route.
The reach the lakes in the Quebrada Quilcayhuanca, leave the valley floor and head left. You'll see a well-marked path climbing up the ridge to the meadow. The path runs across the meadow on the right-hand side, crossing a few streams. The trail stars climbing up the ridge, following the right side of the valley. The river, flowing from Laguna Tullpacocha, comes down on your rigt. Follow the path until you have reached a little open area between the bushes, just before you cross the stream again on your left. This is about 3 Km from the valley floor.
Laguna Tullpacocha and Laguna Cuchillacocha can be reached from here. To get to the former look for the trail to your right, curving around the mountain, passing the old ingemmet hut, and continue up the small canyon until you reach Laguna Tullpacocha, at 4,300 msnm, about a half hour's walk from the start of the trail. The lake is right underneath Nevado Tullparaju (5,757 msnsm).
To reach Laguna Cuchillacocha from the point where you cross the stream on your left, look for the path crossing the valley on the opposite side and climbing up the mountain slope in a series switchbacks to the top of the ridge, where there is a meadow. The path was once used by workers from Ingemmet (the government agency responsible for the glacial lakes) so is well worn but is now overgrown. It crosses a stream and continues to the head of the valley in about 4 Km (1 1/2 Hours). If you look to your right you'll see a path climbing up the slope, making a few switchbacks, until it reaches a little meadow with the old Ingemmet camp. From here follow the trailto your left, contouring the mountain side, to Laguna Cuchillacocha at 4,650 msnm, about 500m from the start of the trail.
The head of the valley provides good campsites and super views of Nevados Huapi (5,530m) and Pucaranra (6,156m)in front of you, whith Chinchey (6,222m), Tullparaju (5,787m) and Cayesh (5,721m) to your right.
For even better views, climb up the mountain solpe to your left (as you face the mountains) until you reach Laguna Paqsacocha in about 1 1/2 hours.
EquipmentAll camping equipment, boots clothing, tents, stoves, etc can be reneted in Huaraz, at reasonable prices.
However, the equipment if often not of good quality, being mostly the discarded gear of other hikers, so it's still preferable to bring everything you need from home.