I'm assuming the centre summit counts (the summit to the east looks a little higher). Quite a tough climb, especially the last few 100 m in height which was loose scree at 45°+. Great views in all directions and the plateau at the top was a bit of a surprise.
Today I started our big traverse of Hualca Hualca with my nine year old daughter and 11 year old son. It was a major endeavor, so we had two mules to help carry gear. Eloy, Nicolas, and a muleteer joined us.
We started right from Cabanaconde in good weather. We walked through town and then through the beautiful terraced fields above town. We were told that the terraces are hundreds or even thousands of years old and are still being used today.
The valley was very green because we were at the tail end of the rainy season. After the scenic valley, we had some steep climbs and much of the route was off trail. The views of Hualca Hualca were really nice and we saw several condors (I actually lost count of how many condors we saw on this trip).
The route was pretty rugged, but we all did fine. Shaylee would sometimes get “tired” so rope the mule a bit. I think she just liked riding the mule, but the route was tiring at times. Shaylee really enjoyed the wild horses which were seen.
There were some really spectacular views (Hualca Hualca itself is a really beautiful mountain) as we climbed high and higher into the mountains. It got cloudy as well and we were glad to climb over the final ridge and to descend to a beautiful little valley to camp. Camp was set up at 4600 meters /15098 feet.
Except for a bunch of cows pooping up the place, it was an ideal campsite with a nice crystal clear stream, a waterfall just above camp, and hot springs. Bad weather hit not long after camp was set up, so we retreated into the tents early.
It was a beautiful day.
It snowed throughout the night, so we awoke to a blanket of white. The weather was a mix of sun and clouds. Camp was packed up and we headed up the valley. It was pretty steep at first and we climbed up to and past the waterfall. Along the way we saw some vizcachas in the rocks.
After the initial steep climb we found ourselves traversing a gentle high elevation valley. We would then climb up to a pass. Unfortunately, the pass which is normally climbed on this route was iced up and had fresh snow, so we had to climb an alternate pass. This once was at 5000 meters/16,404 feet. The other pass was higher, but this alternate route would be much longer and more rugged.
Climbing up to the pass was pretty easy and there were some nice views of the storm clouds dancing over and shrouding Hualca Hualca. We could see the Colca Valley as well. After the pass is where the route got much more difficult. We would have to traverse up and down the steep mountains. There were some nice views, some wild horses, vicuñas, and an interesting area of geysers and hot springs, but it was a long and tiring route.
In the early evening, we finally reached our campsite near a constantly erupting geyser. We were at 4600 meters. We had actually planned to go up to the Hualca Hualca basecamp at 5000 meters, but we ran out of time and energy since our alternate route was so rugged and tough.
We had some rain in the evening as well. Kessler and I went over to check out the geyser close up before heading to bed. It was an exhausting day!
It rained the night before, but the snowline was higher up and around 5000 meters. We awoke to a mix of clouds and sunshine. Since we had camped lower than planned, it was assumed that we woudn’t make the summit of Hualca Hualca. Climbing 1425 meters/4700 feet isn’t that easy at over 6000 meters (nearly 20,000 feet). The summit of Hualca Hualca is 6025 meters/19775 feet elevation. Because of the rugged day before, we got a late start as well.
We started out on a really steep climb towards the basecamp. Shaylee rode part of the way, but the mules couldn’t go very high. We moved fairly quickly and were at basecamp after an hour and a half of climbing. There were several wild horses at basecamp.
From basecamp, it was steep climbing on boulders and into a hanging valley. The weather was still pretty good most of the time, but it did snow a bit as well.
The upper realms of Hualca Hualca were really impressive up close. The mountain is a mass of snow, ice, and rock and is very craggy. Giant icicles hung of the cliffs of the mountain. We pressed upwards and upwards. Shaylee was ahead of Kessler and I much of the time and really seemed to be adjusting the altitude quite well.
We took a break and short lunch on a rocky knoll and climbed up higher and higher. With every step the kids were setting their new altitude records, something they were proud of. Eventually we donned our crampons and started up the snow slopes. It was snowing on and off as well.
The snow was quite soft, but we pushed on to a highpoint along the ridge. The summit looked oh so close, but the snow was soft and not in good condition. We were at a point that Eloy estimated to be 5800 meters (after carefully studying the map with the satellite photos after we got back, I estimated that we were actually at 5850 meters/19,200 feet). It was definitely the highest elevation the kids had climbed to and my third highest as well. It was time to turn back.
Eloy wanted to take pictures of him with the kids since he had never climbed with children before.
We took an alternate route down the mountain and followed a ridgeline. At times the ridge was very rugged and there were some cliffs to climb down. The end of the ridge was extremely steep as well, and it snowed at times, but we made it rather quickly back to basecamp.
It was a long and tiring, but very spectacular day!
After our big climb the day before, we slept in a little bit. We packed up camp and headed down the mountain following the creek. We checked out the geyser before continuing the descent. The weather was good and the descent was beautiful route through a well watered valley. The trip down was mostly uneventful.
We had some good views of the mountains and eventually reached the green fields above Pinchollo. My feet were pretty sore, so I was being the rest of the group much of the time. Eventually we descended down to the town of Pinchollo and visited Eloy’s house and then the main square while waiting for the bus.
After that it was a bus ride back to Arequipa.
Hualca Hualca was certainly the highlight of the trip and one of the most interesting climbs I have done. It had a variety of scenery, some rugged peaks and crags, and active geysers and hot springs. There was also lots of wildlife and especially condors. It was a very memorable trip.
To 5850 meters at age 9. Bad snow conditions prevented us from getting to the very summit.
To 5850 meters at age 11. Bad snow conditions prevented us from getting to the very summit.
Scott, I hadn't seen this report before, sounds like it was a great time for you and the kids! Glad you were able to do it with them.
Climbed with Smiley, after doing my second summit of Sabancaya two days before. Fairly easy climb but the final climb up to the summit rim is sketchy, sand over ice.