Pucaccacca is an impressive castle-like mountain in the spectacular Cordillera Huayhuash in northern Peru. By Peru standards, the mountain isn't that high (16,644 feet/5073 meters), but it is still impressive. Although the peak is in full view from the well known Viconga hot springs on the amazing Huayhuash Circuit, it is seldom climbed. In fact, we may have made only the second ascent of the mountain on June 29 2017. The first known ascent of the mountain was in 2013.
Thousands of trekkers or climbers of other higher peaks in the area have viewed this rugged mountain, but apparently few think of climbing it. The mountain looks very difficult from all directions, but fortunately it isn't as difficult as it looks. It's still a challenging ascent by any route.
If you are camped at the Viconga Hot Springs and want something to do on a "rest day", Pucaccacca makes for a spectacular climb.
Pucaccacca from the north.
Kessler and Other on Cerro Pucaccacca on June 29 2017. It is possible that our ascent of the peak was only the second one; the first being in 2013. (Yes we should have wore helmets, but this was an unplanned ascent, so we didn't bring them to Peru).
View from the northeast summit of Pucaccacca.
Most people will do this climb as part of the Huayhuash Trek. The climb starts at the Viconga Hot Springs, which is usually reached after four days from the start of the trek.
Most people now days start the trek at Quartelhuain. Quartelhuain can be reached from Huaraz by collectivo or private transportation from Huaraz. This takes about five to six hours.
Huaraz can be reached from several bus companies in Lima, many of which make the journey at night. This usually takes 8 hours. Movil Tours
and Cruz Sur
offer the most comfortable bus services.
You can also fly to Huaraz in less than an hour using LC Peru
, which flies to Huraz four days a week.
Although most people will do this climb as part of the Huayhuash Trek, there is a faster way in (but you miss a lot of good scenery along the way). A new road reaches to with an hour or two of the hot springs from Cajatambo. I am unfamiliar with this route however.
Heading towards Pucaccacca.
There are at least two reasonable routes to the summit of Pucaccacca. Both of these routes approach the peak from the east ridge, at least to the base of the cliffs.
We checked out the 2013 (first ascent?) route, but I didn't like the looks of it and suggested that we check out an exposed ledge crossing out onto the vast north face. We followed the exposed ledge and found a series of gullies and faces that allowed us to reach the summit.
From a technical standpoint, the pitches weren't that difficult (5.5), but some parts of the route were really exposed, with 2000+ foot (600 meter) voids yawning below. The crux up top involved a short, but scary knife edge, where you had to grab the top of the knife edge and scoot along, but with 2600 foot/800 meter drops on either side. I was ready to turn around here, but since the other three completed the knife edge, I did as well. The summit was surprisingly roomy.
The climb was a bit scary at times, but a good one and one that we won't be forgetting.
Take a good look at the route diagram for a good idea of the route.
Route Diagram for Pucaccacca. Click for full size.
Looking up towards the summit of Pucaccacca, which is just out of sight. The route to the summit goes straight up the rocks facing the camera. The summit is just out of sight. The crux of the route starts at the top of the photo.
Approaching the summit of Pucaccacca.
Descending the north ridge of Pucaccacca.
The sharp ridge of Pucaccacca.
You must pay a fee to several of the communities along the Huayhuash Circuit. This was about $75 US per person in 2017. The fee goes for maintaining the Trails and campsites, including the toilets. Please pay the fee as it helps out the communities and the maintenance of the facilities.
A condor near Pucaccacca. We saw several, but they are hard to get a photo of! Please take care of the area.
When to Climb
The dry season is May to September and is the best time to climb. You wouldn't want to climb this mountain when the rocks are iced up.
Kessler high on Pucaccacca in late June.
The summit of Pucaccacca in late June.
Everyone who camps in the vicinity camps at the hot springs. It's a great location! Make sure to leave a clean camp.
The hot springs are nice and you can even buy a coke or beer at the springs. Just make sure to pack out all of your garbage!
Mountain Forecast has a forecast for the nearby Siula Grande below. The forecast below is for 5500 meters on Siula Grande.