Bam, just got back from a nine day wilderness adventure to the pretty impressive Cordillera Huayhuash just south of Huaraz in Peru. Due to certain budget constraints and the fact that it was wet season and there was noone about this quiet little city of Huaraz, I ended up doing a solo mission. Nine days with your own thoughts is a bit bizarre, but a good feeling being completely self-sufficient and carrying it all on your back. My pack must have weighed close to 20kgs at the start with all my food and equipment, which made it pretty tough climbing the nine passes at between 4000-5000m altitude. I think it partly ended up being more of a physical challenge than a relaxing wilderness walk to be honest, but successful none the less. Here are a load of snaps from the amazing grueling escapade!
Day 1: Took the early morning 5 am bus to the cozy mountainous town of Chiquian, and then a connection on to the even smaller town of Llamac and a bit further to the end of road at a tiny town called Pocpa where the hike begins. I had to pay gringo prices and kicked up a stink with the bus driver and we left on bad terms. I hiked along a dirt road past a couple of local mines and then on to my first camp (Cuartelhuaim, 4180m) below the first pass. From here I was harassed by some extremely annoying local children for the afternoon throwing stones at my tent, just delightful.
Day 2: Awoke early to evade paying the local camping tax and began the journey up to the first pass (Cacanam punta, 4700m). I thought I was pretty well acclimatised after my Santa Cruz hike and spending almost a week in Huaraz but hauling a pack up to this height was taxing on my frail vegetarian body. Eventually I made it over and headed up into the next valley towards laguna Mitococha and another smaller glacial lake up a bit higher up just below Mt. Jirishanca (6094m). I camped on the Southern side of the laguna to again evade the camping police which was effective ish. But, being wet season the whole camp site was flooded except for a tiny section right next to the lake. So I pitched the old tienda and hoped that it didn’t rain profusely overnight.
Day 3: I escaped the boggy marshlands of the lake and meandered for only 4-5 hrs out towards the next pass (Carhuac Pass, 4650m) and over to laguna Carhuacocha which was to be my next camp. On the way I met a strange local who wanted to swap my dodgy old alarm clock for his semi-functioning bandless wristwatch, to which I opted out of the transaction. The man clearly upset by this later came to collect the local camping tax for the area which totalled a whopping 40 soles (16 bucks). To be fair it was a pretty swell camp site, facing onto the lake and with the towering Mt. Yerupaja (6634m) in the background. He claimed the facilities were second to none here, which I assumed included the doorless loo which flushed directly into the local creek. Gotta love Peru’s environmental protection standards.
Day 4: Feeling pretty rejuvenated after a relaxing afternoon by laguna Carhuacocha I powered up the hill and was verbally attacked by a trio of angry perros. After evading being mauled I made my way to the next pass Punta Carnicero (4600m) and on towards the next campsite at Huayhuash. I arrived super early and the thought of the thermal springs at the end of the next leg of the walk. This was way too enticing so I decided to continue on to the next campsite another 4 hours away via pass Portachuelo de Huayhuash (4700m) to Laguna Viconga. I was verbally attacked by a duo of perros this time who actually looked physically threatening this time so I legged it again. It cleared up in the afternoon and the views over the lake were delicious but not as good as the water temperatures at my private hot springs later on.
Day 5: Left my thermal spring paradise for the highest pass on the circuit punta Cuyoc (5000m) and then on to the Guanacpatay campsite located in an extremely cold valley. I ran into a humble poncho rocking donkey herder who tempted me to head to the next camp over another +5000m pass, but I got severely lost in some cow tracks and ended up having to turn back. I set up camp at the top of this cliff looking over the valley but wind picked up so I had to cut my losses and ended up camping next to a waterfall where I spent probably the coldest night of my life.
Day 6: After surviving the coldest night of my life I awoke to a frozen tent fly and blue skies. I spent the early morn defrosting my tent and then attempting to bust up over a seemingly impossible mountain range. I couldn’t find the locals track so ended up snaking up some cow tracks up the the pass and then up some steep and super dangerous scree slopes. I think at one point I actually thought If I slip here I would most likely roll for a kilometer to the bottom of the slope breaking many bones along the way. I almost got to the top before spotting the actual track 200m below me down the slope. Luckily I had watched that episode of Bear Grylls and was well prepared for a descent. I eventually made it to the top of pass Mirador San Antonio after a good 3 hour battle and was rewarded probably the best view of the hike looking up over to the mountains of Jirishanca and Siera Grande famous for being the setting of the adventure, book and documentary “Touching the Void”. The only problem left now was getting down the other side which took a good 2 hours of the bush-bashing downhill until I reached the valley floor a good vertical 800m down. Here I got swarmed by a herd of possessed cattle and had to bust off to another campsite after visiting another seriously blue laguna.
Day 7: From here I descended back down under 4000m to only town on the hike Huayllapa which I bypassed after I met a local lady going up to collect her cow which was located along the way. Whilst heading up to the next pass the weather turned pretty foul and started raining sideways combined with a hefty gail. So I was forced to set up camp in a boulderfield before reaching the actual campsite, this was the first I had seen of the apparent rainy season. It took me ages to set up my tent because I couldn’t feel my hands, so the tent got soaked on the inside and I ended up having to sop up pools of water inside with my soggy socks. The situation was not ideal.
I got an early morning visit from the lovely little old lady/debt collector who made me pay a fake camping fee because it was remotely close to her house. But she looked super poor and also asked for some pain killers for her back problems so I paid her a small donation and went on my way. Reached the last pass Punta Llamac (4300m) and made my midday bus which turned out to be the same dude who ripped me off last time.