Tourist information on trekking, tours, hiking and mountaineering in Huaraz
The Cordillera Blanca offers countless opportunities for trekkers and climbers, as well as for people not so keen on physical activities. The wonderful lakes and glaciers of the White Range are easily accessible from the town of Huaraz. Here is a quick guide to the best activities around Huaraz. Attention> before booking anything, please read about a survey the Huaraz Telegraph did in May 2013 among 14 agencies.
Before we head to the day trips, first a warning for visitors of the Huaraz area: AVOID THE RATAQUENUA CROSS AND DON´T HIKE FROM THE RUINS OF WILCAHUAIN TOWARDS THE BAÑOS TERMALES IN MONTERREY
Daily sightseeing tours
These tours are great for those of you who are not so active, or who need to acclimatise before heading out into the mountains.
LLANGANUCO – This tour visits the villages in the Huaylas Valley (Carhuaz, Yungay, Caraz), and the beautiful Llanganuco Lake. Be aware that you will only spend from 40 minutes to one hour at the lake. Daily departures.
CHAVIN DE HUANTAR – This tour takes you to Chavin, a village situated on the other side of the Cordillera Blanca in the Conchucos Valley. Here you can visit the Chavin de Huantar UNESCO World Heritage site, featuring some of the oldest and most significant pre-Inca ruins in Peru. You also make a stop at the lovely Lake Querococha along the way. Departs every day except Mondays when the ruins are closed for maintenance.
PASTORURI – This tour visits the southern section of the Cordillera Blanca, with the amazing Pastoruri glacier, which is still well worth a visit despite having lost 40% of its ice in recent years. You can’t help but be impressed by the huge ice cliffs and the Puya Raimondii – a rare 12m high bromeliad plant which you visit on the way to the glacier. Make sure you become acclimatised before going on this tour as the glacier is at 5000m. Departs every day.
These hikes are perfect for those needing to acclimatise before a trek, or for those with limited time.
LAKE CHURUP, 4485m – This is one of the closest and easily accessible hiking routes from Huaraz, leading to a very beautiful turquoise/emerald green coloured glacial lake. It can be quite challenging as there are some steep sections, and there is a rock wall before the lake which you need to scramble up to (there are wires to help you up). It can be tricky in the rainy season when the rock is wet and incredibly slippery, so be careful. It is recommended not to hike alone; for those of you with limited hiking experience it is advisable to go with a guide, as he will carry a rope that will help you go up and down the rock wall safely. For experienced hikers a guide is not necessary as the path is easy to find. The trailhead at Llupa can be easily reached by public transport.
LAKE 69, 4550m – This is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful hikes in the Cordillera Blanca. Located in the northern section of the national park. From Huaraz it’s roughly a three hour drive to the trailhead (Cebollapampa), the journey is incredibly scenic with great views of Mount Huascaran and the Llanganuco Lakes. The hike is of moderate difficulty, but can be challenging for those with limited acclimatisation. You can reach the trailhead by public transport, but finding transport to get back can prove very difficult, so it is recommended to hire private transport from Huaraz. For those with hiking experience a guide is not necessary as the path is clear. The lake is stunning for its pristine blue colour, and its fantastic location at the foot of the mighty Mount Chacraraju. You are rewarded with awesome views of the Cordillera Blanca’s highest summits during the hike.
LAKE LLACA, 4470m – This is one of the closest lakes to Huaraz. It takes two hours by private transport to reach the trailhead at the Llaca refuge. From there it is a short hike to reach the lake. The lake is not as stunning as others in the region, but it is a good option for those wishing to acclimatise with limited effort and time. It is possible to do ice climbing here, but the ice walls tend to be full of sand.
LAKE AGUAC, 4580m – This is another lake located close to Huaraz. The trail starts at the ruins of Wilcahuain and is fairly easy to find. It is quite a long hike and the altitude can make it challenging. The lake doesn’t have a special colour, but there are some great mountain views.
Easy to moderate treks
SANTA CRUZ TREK (four days) – Undoubtedly the Cordillera Blanca’s most famous and popular trek. It is suitable for novice hikers, but good acclimatisation is essential before starting the trek. This trek deserves its fame; offering varied scenery and endless views of majestic snow-capped peaks, jewelled glacial lakes and gorgeous Andean valleys. For those with ample experience of trekking at high altitude, this trek is doable without a guide, but be sure to follow the national park rules especially to carry all your rubbish out of the park. Ask in town for directions before heading out, as although easy to follow, the path is not signposted. Departures for this trek in an all-inclusive organised group run daily in high season, but standards vary from one company to the next. The trek can be completed in three or four days, but if you do it in three days you will miss the side trip to the Alpamayo base camp and Lake Arhuaycocha, which is undoubtedly one of the trek’s highlights.
OLLEROS – CHAVIN TREK also known as LLAMA TREK (three days) – A less popular trek, it mainly crosses vast expanses of puna, following ancient pre-Inca and Inca paths that lead to the village of Chavin. There are no glacial lakes and few snow-capped mountain views during this trek, but you will come across isolated communities.
Moderate to challenging treks
QUILCAYHUANCA – COJUP TREK (three days) – A stunning trek which goes through some less-visited, but none the less stunning valleys of the Cordillera Blanca. It is a much tougher trek than the Santa Cruz for two reasons. First there are no donkeys to carry all the equipment, so you will have to carry a backpack weighing around 15kg (the weight depends on the number of porters accompanying the group). Second, because the pass is much higher. At 5050m the path leading up to it is very steep, rocky and generally not well trodden. The way down from the pass is even steeper and more challenging. This trek is perfect for fit, experienced hikers who wish to experience peace and tranquillity. Good acclimatisation is essential before starting the trek.
AKILPO – ISHINCA TREK (three days) – This trek is similar in difficulty to the Quilcayhuanca trek, although donkeys can be used (they do not go over the pass but go back and around). The pass is very high at 5050m and the path leading up to it is steep and not well marked. The trek starts at the pre-Inca ruins of Honcopampa, and then goes up the Akilpo Valley through beautiful forests of local quenual trees, before reaching the superb Lake Akilpo just before the pass. Then you go down to the Ishinca Valley. This trek is perfect for fit, experienced hikers looking for an alternative to the Santa Cruz trek. Good acclimatisation is essential before starting the trek.
ISHINCA – COJUP TREK (three days) – This trek is vastly different to all the others, because it includes a glacier traverse requiring the use of equipment such as crampons and ropes. Bringing you much closer to the giant icy peaks of the Cordillera Blanca, the views are simply spectacular. This trek is only suitable for very fit and experienced hikers, but does not require any mountaineering technical knowledge. Thorough acclimatisation is essential as you will go well over 5000m. It is possible to include a summit climb to Mount Ishinca (5530m) during this trek.
HUAYHUASH TREK (eight or ten days) – The Huayhuash full circuit trek is considered as one of the world’s most beautiful. It is a trek that requires good physical condition and acclimatisation, because it crosses many high passes (eight passes minimum ranging from 4650m to 5050m) and the campsites are all above 4100m. Trekkers are rewarded with endless breath-taking views of stunning glacial lakes, pristine valleys and icy peaks, which can be extremely close. There are many alternatives possible for the itinerary, but the most common group departures are for the eight day and ten day treks. Those with more time and wishing to explore less visited valleys of the range can do the trek in as many as 15 days, and take the more challenging high trail. Those with limited time can do the four day Mini Huayhuash trek, which visits one of the range’s most beautiful locations: the Lake Jahuacocha area.
CEDROS – ALPAMAYO TREK (seven or ten days) – This trek is less popular than the Huayhuash trek, and also very different, although not less beautiful. It is probably a bit more challenging too, even though the passes are not as high (eight passes on the full circuit ranging from 4400m to 4850m), but the trails leading up to the passes are much steeper. You are unlikely to meet many trekkers and will come across several isolated Quechua communities who still follow a traditional lifestyle.
The highlight of this trek is undoubtedly the view from Jancarurish of Mount Alpamayo, known as the World’s most Beautiful Mountain thanks to its near perfect pyramid of ice. You will not see as many glacial lakes and close-up views of glaciers on this trek as on the Huayhuash trek, but the landscape is much more varied and the isolation a real bonus. The trek can be done in seven days starting in Hualcayan or Huancarhuas and finishing in Pomabamba, allowing one worthwhile rest day in Jancarurish, but take into account that you need a full day to travel back to Huaraz from Pomabamba (night buses are not recommended due to frequent robberies on this route). For those with more time, you can add extra days by joining on to the Santa Cruz trek at the end, making it a ten or 11 day itinerary if finishing in Cashapampa, or a nine day itinerary if finishing in Vaqueria. The trek can be done in reverse, but it is tougher.
Keep in mind that glacier conditions change from year to year, so what was an easy walk across a glacier one year may be a difficult passage through crevasses the following year. So make sure to check the latest conditions in town before setting out on any of these expeditions.
These expeditions are suitable for people with no previous mountaineering experience; however, even though they are often referred to as trekking peaks these expeditions, although not technical, are harder than a trek, due to the fact that you wake up at midnight, walk in the dark and use heavy equipment such as mountain boots and crampons. If you are fit and have experience of trekking at high altitude and want to experience being on a glacier, then one of these peaks is for you.
MOUNT PISCO, 5752m (three days) – This expedition offers some of the best summit views of any peak of the Cordillera Blanca, and for that reason is very popular. Crossing the moraine takes two to three hours and is considered the most challenging part of the expedition. It is possible to include a hike to Lake 69 on the last day.
MOUNT VALLUNARAJU, 5686m (two days) – This expedition can be quite challenging, because no donkeys can be used, you have to carry a 15kg backpack up a steep path to moraine camp on day one. It is very popular due to its proximity to Huaraz making it a short expedition.
MOUNT ISHINCA, 5530m (three days) – This peak is mostly used as an acclimatisation peak for those wanting to climb the higher and more technical Mount Tocllaraju, which is situated in the same valley.
MOUNT TUCO, 5479m (two days) – A very seldom climbed peak, although it offers a relatively short and easy ascent, as well as the chance to see the rare Puya Raimondii plant.
Intermediate level climbs
These expeditions are suitable for people with some mountaineering experience. It is recommended to climb a 5000m+ peak before starting any of these expeditions in order not to suffer from altitude sickness.
MOUNT TOCLLARAJU, 6034m (four days) – This expedition is perfect for those who have climbed a non-technical summit previously and want to take the next step in the mountaineering world by trying something more technical. It includes the ascent of two 60m high ice walls requiring the use of ice axes. The relatively short summit ascent makes it a perfect first 6000m+ peak.
MOUNT CHOPICALQUI, 6354m (four days) – This expedition has the same technical difficulty level as Mount Tocllaraju, but it is a more difficult climb due to the much longer summit route and higher altitude. It includes the ascent of two 60m high ice walls requiring the use of ice axes. It offers one of the Cordillera Blanca’s most beautiful ascent routes along its southwest ridge.
MOUNT HUASCARAN SOUTH SUMMIT, 6768m (seven days) – Although not very difficult from a technical point a view, this is an extremely tough expedition suitable only for mountaineers with plenty of experience, because of the difficult climbing conditions (crevasses, risk of avalanche, extreme cold and altitude). Do not underestimate the difficulty of this climb.
These expeditions are suitable for people with plenty of technical mountaineering experience. It is recommended to climb a 5000m+ peak before starting any of these expeditions in order not to suffer from altitude sickness.
MOUNT ALPAMAYO, 5947m (seven days) – This is a serious and technically challenging expedition requiring the ascent of a 470m high ice wall. Excellent crampon and ice axe techniques are essential. Please note that the ascent from base camp to high camp is particularly challenging, given that you need to climb up a 60m high ice wall (at a 55 degree incline), carrying your backpack. Known as the World’s Most Beautiful Mountain, each year Alpamayo attracts many mountaineers from the world over.
MOUNT ARTESONRAJU, 6025m (five days) – This is a mentally, physically and technically demanding climb requiring the ascent of a 600m high ice wall, at an incline of 50 degrees. Excellent crampon and ice axe techniques are essential, as well as an excellent physical condition. Two ascent routes are possible, either from Lake Paron or from the Santa Cruz Valley.
ROCK CLIMBING & BOULDERING
Rock climbing and bouldering spots are plentiful around Huaraz. All types of climbing, at all levels, with many different types of rock, fantastic views, and no chance to get bored! Check with local climbers or travel agencies specialising in rock climbing for a detailed list of the necessary equipment and help with logistics.
CHANCOS – Located 32km northeast of Huaraz in the foothills of the Cordillera Blanca, Chancos is the perfect place for beginners and climbers with limited experience. After climbing, a good option is to visit the Chancos Hot Springs which are situated an easy ten-minute walk away.
LOS OLIVOS – This is the closest climbing spot to Huaraz, situated only three kilometres from the town centre. It features a large number of equipped sport- climbing routes in five different sectors, as well as several boulders, suitable for climbers with some experience. From here you get an amazing panoramic view of the town of Huaraz and the Cordillera Blanca.
ANTACOCHA – Situated 35km south of Huaraz in the Cordillera Negra it is one of the few places in the area offering long routes with a variety of difficulty levels, suitable for climbers with limited or a lot of experience alike. The 180m high wall towers high above Lake Antacocha. This place offers a magnificent vantage point of the Cordillera Blanca, especially at sunset.
HATUN MACHAY – Located 104km south of Huaraz at 4300m high in the Cordillera Negra, this stunning rock forest is a paradise for rock climbing and bouldering with some 250 equipped sport-climbing routes and countless boulders, suitable for all levels. It is also a great place for hiking, as it offers some amazing viewpoints with views of the Cordillera Blanca, Huayhuash and the Pacific Ocean, as well as many caves with ancient rock paintings and carvings dating back to 10,000BC.
THE SPHYNX – Also known as The Colossus of the Andes it is situated 90km northeast of Huaraz in the Paron Valley and is considered to be one of the most amazing granite rock walls in South America, offering a variety of traditional climbing routes with superb views of the snow-capped summits of the Cordillera Blanca surrounding it. Given its extreme altitude (5325m), it is essential to be well acclimatised before setting off on this climb and to have sufficient experience in traditional climbing. It takes an average of three days to complete the climb.
Information provided by Marie Timmermans