Ausangate, Peru: Unguided 4 day trek

Ausangate, Peru: Unguided 4 day trek

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: May 16, 2016
Activities Activities: Mountaineering
Seasons Season: Fall

Ausangate, Peru Unguided Circuit Trek, May 2016

Ausangate Circuit Trek, 3 nights, highest pass 17,500 feet,

I almost don’t want to tell people about this area because I
rank it as one of the most beautiful places we have ever seen in the
world.  During our 4-day trek (I
recommend you do it in 5) we saw a handful of indigenous shepherds each day;
and a total of 7 other trekkers (a couple from Belgium doing it alone like us
but going the opposite way; another 4 from Belgium who had a large group of
guides, porters and donkeys helping them; and a single girl, who,
coincidentally, happened to be from our hometown, and was with her local guide
and his horse.)

Day 1 Flew from our hometown of 6000 feet to Lima, then on
to Cusco.  Rented a car and made the
beautiful, relatively easy, 3-hour dive to Ocongate, the town near Tinki, where
the trail begins.  Overnighted at
Ausangate Lodge (10,000 feet or so) which is a beautiful, comfortable B&B
on the river.  The village has places to
buy food.  We mistakenly bought biodiesel
for our MSR stove, which did not work, so we had dry food and cold water every
day on the mountain.  Later, we saw many
shops in Cusco that sold every type of camping fuel.  It might be sold in Tinki, where the trail
starts, but we are not sure. 

Day 2 Amazing breakfast in Ausangate Lodge, checked out, and
left our car rental in their fenced lodge area. 
When we couldn’t hail a cab, the owner gave us a ride to Tinki, where we
bought entrance tickets to the trail (around $5USD each) and got a taxi to take
us to Upis Hot Springs (around $18USD) to cut off part of the trek.  It was about a 1 ½ hour drive up a steep and
very rutty, dirt road.  We began our trek
in mist at around noon.  There were some
Canadians at the springs who were doing day hikes from a hut there and said
there were beds to rent in the huts.  3
hours into our hike we met a young Belgium couple going the opposite way, doing
it alone like us. We hiked for another 2 hours and made camp by a beautiful
stream and lake.  When we made dinner, we
discovered our fuel did not work so our dinner was cold summer sausage and cold
spring water (which we purified with our steripen).

Day 3 Our goal was to make it over the highest pass of
17,500 feet and camp on the other side, but rain, snow, and lightening, changed
our plan.  The rain and snow happened
while going through a camp ground that has, believe it or not, flush toilets in
the middle of nowhere. We stayed under the eaves of the bathroom while waiting
for the rain and snow to let up.  A
Quechua woman collects a $5USD pp fee if you stay there or even walk through
(she gives you a receipt from the park service).  We made it almost to the top of the high pass
when the lightening was so bad that we thought we better not continue, and
camped near some boulders for a bit of shelter during the snow and lightning
storm.  Dinner was cold summer sausage
and cold water again.

Day 4 We waited for the sun to come up to dry our tent
before we put it away.  Breakfast was
peanut butter mixed with dry milk and dry hot chocolate.  We climbed to the highest pass of the circuit
(17,500 feet Palomi Pass) where we met the Belgium group with their entourage
that included guitar and flute players. One of the trekkers asked me, “Why are
you doing it that way, when you can have all this?”  We also met the young girl from our hometown
who took our picture.  This day of the
trek is when we started getting lost. 
Remember when you reach a tiny indigenous village when going TOWARD
Pacchanta, to stay LEFT of the village. 
We went right, had to go through the village, which was a series of
marshes and streams we had to cross, sometimes walking on people’s private log bridges,
which was very scary to me.  I sat down
on them and scooted across, while my husband and son easily walked across.)  My husband started to get sick that day
(later we found out it was some kind of food poisoning from a cereal he ate in
the U.S.) and in the late afternoon it started snowing again so we set up camp
near an abandoned, old shephard’s hut near a stream.  That evening my son and I tried to scout out
the trail because it was not evident at all in this section of the trek.  Since we were at the beginning of the
climbing season, there was plenty of alpaca poop, but almost no mule or horse
poop, footprints, or a worn trail to follow. 
Dinner that night was dry ramen noodles, dry oatmeal, and cold water.

Day 5 We could not find the trail and using our gps, kept
following the mountain up and discovering it was just a cliff.  My husband was very sick and weak by now and
we were getting worried as to what to do as we walked for 2 hours in all
different directions.  We finally saw the
woman from our hometown and her guide, far below us in the valley and her guide
pointed to where to go—a direction we never would have thought to follow.  We had very little water with us because we
wanted to stay light for the last big pass, and figured we could get water
along the way as we had been doing all along. 
BIG MISTAKE!  We forgot that
mountains have a dry and a wet side, and to the other side was dry.  We were so thirsty that we ate the bits of
snow we could find.  There was a lake off
the trail and out of the way, but looked like a 2 hour walk, so we plugged
along, going downhill to Pachanta.  As we
approached the village, we got water in a river and started seeing day trekkers
of people who were staying at various Pachanta B&Bs.  We could have continued our walk to Tinki,
but our goal was to get to Cusco that night, so we asked drivers in the parking
lot at a B&B if they could give us a ride to Tinki or Ocongate.  Everyone said no, even though I was offering
$25, then $30, then $35 dollars. 
Finally, after crying and saying my husband was sick, a man who was
shuttling government workers around said he would take us to Tinki in the back
of his truck.  We gave him $35 for his
trouble, got a taxi in Tinki for $2 along with an indigenous woman and her
baby, and got to Ausangate lodge, where we loaded our car and were on our way.  We stopped in the friendly village for food,
then made the 3 hour drive to Cusco, where we stayed at the fantastic Hilton
Garden Inn, probably the only hotel that has lighted, guarded parking.

NOTE:  If you can
bring extra stuff in your pack to give away to the shephards you meet, please
do!  These people live just as they 200
years ago, with the exception of plastic sandals.  Yes, while we were wearing warm, supportive
hiking boots in the snow, they were wearing plastic sandals with NO SOCKS on
their feet, just leggings!


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sbenis - Sep 11, 2019 7:12 am - Hasn't voted


You are totally right. Thanks for the trip description. This was an amazing trip and more unknown. We probably would have been fine planning out the logistics without a guide but like you said, the people in the mountains are struggling so we were able to find a very affordable local Quechuan guide to assist us with food and to bring pack animals for some gear. It really enhanced the experience especially since many of the people in the mountains only speak Quechuan. We were even able to get some fresh fish from one of the mountain dwellers.
Our guide was Valerio Huanca Layme and here is our his website. I just helped him make it since most of the affordable guides can't write in English. If you want to hire a guide in advance, you traditionally have to go with one of the expensive outfitters.

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