Trekking in the Huaraz region

Trekking in the Huaraz region

The Huaraz region is heavily served by potential trails, and we describe only three of these. (The route guide to the region is found here.) There are many one-day walks which you can undertake, many reaching considerable altitude. If you have access to a vehicle, there are many fine drives from which you can make short or long walks, to mountain lakes, to glaciers, to see the strange Puya raimondii in flower, with its attendant humming birds, to find scarlet Masdevallia orchids flowering in sheltered nooks. We include several maps of this region, including a trekking map. Please note that there is an interactive map of the region here. It in turn references sections of this text.

Security: It is advisable to be careful with vehicle security and not to offer lifts to people, however innocent-looking, as there have been instances of car hijacking in the region. If you take a guide, ensure that they are reliable. You do not need an expensive professional trekking guide – see below – but you do want to be certain that whoever you take is known to, for example, the staff of the hotel at which you are staying. Please read the guide to interaction with local people, as there have been ugly visitor-provoked confrontations in the area, several of which did not end happily.

Multi-day trekking needs careful planning. Huaraz town has dozens of trekking companies, any one of which can take you on a route, outfit you or simply give you advice. A basic but helpful service is to arrange your drop-off and collection. Please note that if you prefer to act independently and do not have a vehicle, then you must rely on the collectivo service between the villages. There is a well-organised system by which trekkers get to the more popular road-heads, but you will have to make special arrangements (or walk to a village) if you intend to do anything unusual without back-up. If you do not have a guide, please ensure that you have a map, several versions of which are available in Huaraz, plus a compass, GPS or other navigation tools. The puna can be featureless and confusing, and it is easy to get yourself lost.

Please note that you will need a permit to enter the National Park. These last for seven days, and you will need extended versions if you plan to stay for longer. They cost US$ 17 at the time of writing, and can be purchased at the main park office in Huaraz (Calle Sal y Rosas) or at the main park entrance, above Yungay. You will have to show a permit or permits on leaving the park, or face a fine.

You can, of course, operate in “back-packer” mode, but most will at least want a guide. These do not come cheaply: an English-speaking guide will expect around US$ 50 per day, and will expect a tip at the end of the trip. You can travel much more safely in Peru if you do have such a guide, and they will help you get closer to the country than you will on your own. Guides have to pass fairly demanding examinations and qualified individuals have a card with their photograph on it to show you. Unqualified guides have been know to be dangerously inept and even criminal. The guide will cook for you, and you are expected to pay for the food which you will all eat.

Mules and horses are often used to carry loads. (Llamas are also offered for their novelty value, but they can only carry relatively light loads, lack stamina and are noted for their bad temper.) A mule or horse will cost you around US$ 10 per day, and you should aim to take two for a three-person expedition of any length – that is, one involving two people plus a guide and the relevant equipment and food. We discuss what to take on trek elsewhere. The image below shows the entire Callejón de Huaylas from space.

Please click to see this image larger, and with the mountain names.
You should use the back button to return here - the 'go back' on the map takes you to the main travel menu.)

Alpamayo South trek

This is a trail which passes to Pomabamba, North-East of the Cordillera Blanca from the Rio Santa valley, just upstream of the cañon del pato. The village of Cashapampa offers accommodation, transport and both mules and guides. It provides a good starting place, although you can also start from Pomabamba. You can also make a complete loop around Alpamayo, returning to Cashapampa. Such a loop is strenuous, as it involves several climbs that are best approached as descents.

There are bus services from Pomabamba to Huaraz, for which you should allow a full day. The route offers good insight into the dry puna and is intrinsically interesting. It is easy to combine this trek with a visit to Chavin de Huantar, followed by a remarkable climb up to the tunnel-pass at Punta Yanashallas, at 4700m. This stop will make this a two day trip, but is well worth it.

Pomabamba also offers road trips via Palo Seco across a 4300m pass to the Alpamayo North face, which offers an arc-like sanctuary that encloses a number alpine lakes. This intersects with the trail described below.

The Alpamayo South trek covers around 100km at high altitude, and includes some fierce ascents. You will not be able to rely on fixed structures in which to sleep and proper high altitude tentage and other equipment is essential. It will take seven days, although there are side trips which can be added to bring the total to ten. In brief:

Day 1: The trail rises fairly smoothly through cultivated land, following the Los Cedros stream. There are hot springs and a range of Inca ruins that can be explored on the way. Camping can be undertaken at many sites, but available water and the interesting ruins at Hualcayan (3100m) makes this a good stop. Alpine pastures are cut by wandering streamlets, and you may see alpacas grazing.

Side Trip: A short and relatively easy climb from Hualcayan takes you to Laguna Yuracocha (4600m) in around six hours. The trail rises to the closed, rather sinister quebrada Yuracocha before opening to the lake. This lies at the base of the Nevado Santa Cruz and has an open, spectacular view of the snowfields. It is possible to camp by the lake, or to return back to the Cullicocha trail. The later makes for a long day.

Day 2: A sharp climb of around 1500m brings the snow face of Nevado Santa Cruz (6260m) into focus. This is a hard day – one of the most abrupt in Peru, and in line with the tougher Himalayan treks – and it ends at 4600m on the borders of the Cullicocha lagoon. There is a limited camp site some hours short of the lagoon, with water, but with space for only a few tents.

Side trip: The trail divides some hours before Cullicocha, and the right fork lead to Azulcocha lagoon, a jade-green lake with a major waterfall feeding it. There is a hut and a variety of small camp sites. You will have to retrace your steps, as there is no safe path to Cullicocha from the lake.

Day 3: Begin by contouring high above the lake on a cliff face, before reaching a 4850m pass. Views of the snowfields around are very fine. A descent finds a number of small and often waterless potential camp sites, but most will continue to a second and lower pass, at 4750m. This offers an extensive view forward into the valley beyond, which is now called the Quebrada Alpamayo, despite being cut by the same stream from which you began. The campsite is some hours ahead, at 4100m, beside this same river. Views of Alpamayo begin to appear, and sunset can be spectacular.

Day 4: The day begins with an approach to a massive moraine wall that encloses the milky-green Lago Jancarurish. A short walk brings you down to grassy puna and the Alpamayo base camp.

You can, of course, camp here, perhaps going forward from the base camp to a 5000m lake below Nevado Santa Cruz. This takes 4-5 hours and offers fine views. However, the route out requires you to retrace your steps and this leads to a tough day. Many prefer to return to the previous night’s camp site.

Santa Cruz peak is 6260m, but can be climbed by those with experience and stamina from Alpamayo base camp, in a trip of around 2 days. Naturally, you will need suitable tentage and high altitude equipment. Crampons and ice axes are needed, but no other equipment unless you prefer a helmet on general principles.

Day 5: It is necessary to return to the river that you left on Day 3, reversing the route. At the river, a steep climb through puna brings a stony pass at 4830m. This area is largely featureless and it is very easy to get lost if snow covers the faint trail markers and occasional cairns. It is most unwise to attempt this without a guide. However, the views to the South West are extremely fine. The views forward from the pass look down the steep Mayobamba valley. The trail drops into this valley, where it is possible to camp. Most continue over a further 4450m pass, where Nevado Pucajirca (6060m) comes into view. A descent to a settlement and stream offers camp sites at 4000m.

An alternative camp site uses the spectacular Lago Safuna, below Nevado Pucajirca. Safuna is set in idyllic surroundings, with golden ichu grass offering the classical puna frame for the lake. A range of ducks and waders seem to enjoy these near-freezing waters, with their quick littlewaves that one find in all high altitude waters.

Reaching this site requires you to go beyond the settlement, climbing to 4250m before resting after a very hard day. You should not attempt this from Alpamayo base camp in a single day. A higher (4600m) lake, sometimes called Pucacocha, can be reached on the road which mentioned above, which also serves the settlement of Huillca, the lower camp site. This lake abuts the Pucajirca icefall, and offers many opportunities for puttering about in what ought to be scheduled as a rest day.

You can get to Safuna in a single day by way of a high (4830m) pass, the Paso de Safuna from Jancarurish. This is not for beginners, although the path is not technical.

Day 6: Starting from Huillca, the trail rises through a pretty, narrow valley in which sparse forest has taken hold. The pass at 4600m is steep and the trail leading to it is poor. Views at the summit are good, and the drop after is testing to the knees. The Laguna Sactaycocha appears at 4050m, fringed with the characteristic quenual (Polylepsis sp.) trees. (These are not be confused with quinoa, which is a characteristic high altitude grain crop, which also goes scarlet in Autumn.) These can turn remarkable shades of scarlet in Autumn. Note the heavy burden of epiphytes such as bromeliads and Spanish moss that coat the branches of these. You can camp here, or descend further. The trail drops down a narrow valley where signs of human life become apparent. The forest becomes denser and the gorge closer, to around 3400m. An icefall looms over the valley, and camping is easy on the alpine meadow.

Day 7: You can walk out to Pomabamba in a day from here, passing through quechua-speaking villages little changed by the outside world. The inhabitants have, however, accustomed themselves to trekkers and you will be offered many (commercial) opportunities to see how they live. The trail is easy, passing trough pastoralist villages, forest and some cultivation before plunging into a steep gorge. Pomabamba is an easy walk from the exit from this.

Day 7b: Walk as above to the village with the Tolkein-like name of of Piscopampa (Brandydown), and then follow a rough path South East to Paso de Yaino (4150m). Yaino is a major Inca ruin, well worth visiting. It is a few hours from the pass, and Pomabamba is an easy walk from there. You will, however, probably want to camp at the ruins. There are, in fact, a maze of trails on this side of the Cordillera and one can spend days exploring them. It would, for example, be easy to spend an additional day walking to Yanama, where there is transport, in place of Pomabamba.

Santa Cruz trek

The Santa Cruz trek is one of the most popular and accessible multi-day walk in Huaraz, which can mean that the route becomes crowded in the high season. The approach is by road, and the trail can end at Vaqueria, or the ambitious can go on to Pomabamba (see Alpamayo trek.) In its short version, trekkers should allow a basic four days. If you prefer to travel more slowly, or to make side trips, then allow six. Huaraz connects to Vaqueria by daily collective and the start, Cashapampa is a major tourist centre, with easy transport, guides and mules for hire. Connections go to Caraz, from which you will need to find further (easily available) transport to Huaraz.

This valley is noted for its wildfowl – ducks, geese and waders, coots and divers. Many hawks circle the air and the raucous black and white caracara will often come to inspect you. In addition, alpine flora abound and the rock walls are often clad with scarlet bromeliads. Unhappily, this profusion also encourages a midge which can be extremely irritating at sundown. Insect repellent and long-sleeved shirts solve this issue.

Day 1: Cashapampa lies at 2900m, and the trail will eventually rise to 3600m, much of it in an initial burst of effort. After a period amongst Eucalyptus trees, the path enters a wetter, boulder-strewn area before meeting the river. The climb lessens, and the camp site appears in open ground after a few hours. This is surrounded by sheer granite walls and headed by a snowfield, making it spectacular or gloomy, depending on the weather. Midges make their appearance at sundown.

Day 2: The walk up the valley continues, passing two lakes of perfect azure water. The contrast between the plants, the water, the snow and the black rock is very striking. Many waterfowl are found in these lakes, and may will prefer to stop and spend the rest of the day in these splendid settings. There are side trips available, which are discussed below.

Those in a hurry will, however, continue to a camp site at 4250m, set in an alpine pasture essentially at the foot of two large snow fields. The parent mountains are Ririjirca and Taulliraju. A lake a little further on, called Taulicocha also offers camp sites. The Caraz-Huandoy massif provides a backdrop to the South.

Side trip 1: Assuming that you have camped at the large of the two lakes that you pass on Day 2, there is an side trip to be taken to Lago Quitacocha. This climbs around 800m and is therefore time consuming. However, the lake offers very fine prospects of Quitacocha.

Side trip 2: This route goes to the southern approach to Alpamayo. It takes a full day, and has to be seen as a two-day diversion, although the return trip is short enough for you to be able to camp as indicated for Day 2. The trail is steep. The camp site is short of Laguna Arhueycocha

Day 3: The trail rises to the 4750m Punta Union pass. This takes around three hours of effort, but the views are spectacular all along the trail. At the summit, you can see both the valley up which you have climbed and the steep drop down to the lakes which you are about to reach.

The adventurous can continue over a second 4650m pass, the Alto de Pucaruju which opens up a trail to Pomabamba in two days. (See the Alpamayo trail, to which it is entirely possible to connect. Combining these two trails offers a complete, rather exhausting circumnavigation of the Alpamayo massif. )

The conventional path drops down to the Quebrada Huaripampa, fringed with its scattering of little lakes. The cañon proper is steep-sided and austere, softened with forest at its base. The camp site lies at 3850m.

Day 4: The valley opens and habitation appears. The trail passes through Quechua-speaking villages, but the proximity of the road head means that these show many of the commercial signs that you find all over Peru. You can break away West from this trail to visit Lago Tintachoca at the head of Quebrada Ranincuray, which will take four or five hours and involves a climb of 800m. You can camp at the lake, putting it in easy striking distance of Vaqueria.

The trail to Vaqueria crosses the park boundary and you will be asked to show permits and passport particulars. The trip back to Huaraz is time-consuming and most collectivos and trucks depart early. You want to set out early on this leg of the journey, therefore, or you may have to wait an additional day.

Circling the Huayhuash cordillera

The Huayhuash cordillera is found to the South of the Cordillera Blanca and it is generally far less exploited for local and international tourism than the main range. The range has the status of a protected region, which bans development and mining, and limits settlement to the existing communities who live there. Wildlife is less disturbed and the condor is relatively common in the area.

The local society is anyway relatively pristine and village life still follows traditional paths. Notes set out elsewhere on intrusion on local festivities apply, and you should note that there have been some instances of violence against foreigners in the region. All of the trails described are cut primarily by animals, and are therefore braided and indistinct. It is truly advisable to have a quechua-speaking guide when walking in this area.

This is a fairly intensive trek which takes the average trekker in excess of 12 days. You can, however, walk only parts of it, and you can make it into anything from a fishing trip (the trout are good in many of the lakes) or a bird-watching event. Equally, if you prefer to punt along on ski poles for twelve hours a day, you can do the circuit much faster.

The key jumping off point is the pretty village of Chiquian, (3400m) This is the regional capital of the Bolognesi district, and as such is served by regular bus schedules from Huaraz, and also by services directly from Lima. (It is far easier to identify busses that go to Lima, and not pick one from the mêlée that go from it!)

This said, if you need to acquire equipment, do so in Huaraz: Chiquian has extremely limited facilities and can sell you only basic foodstuffs. It is, however, a horse-, mule- and bull-breeding area, and both pack animals and guides are plentiful. (Caballos de paso are bred locally and it is well worth spending a day in Chiquian simply to see these and to pick up the atmosphere. (See here for a description.)

There are many other ways to enter this trekking area, as the region is well-served with roads. Cajatambo is some hours off the main road on a dirt track, located at 3380m. Its communications with Huaraz are weaker thanChiquian and it is even less set up to deal with trekkers. It is best seen as an alternative exit point. Rough public transport also drops directly to the coast at Pativilca, where transport to Lima is easily arranged. The road follows the Rio Pativilca, and passes through some spectacular gorges.

Day 1: Chiquian hangs over the Pativilca valley, and both a road and a steep path drop 400m to the river. The village of Quisipata (2950m) has a pure Quechua atmosphere, and a remarkable baroque church that it is well worth visiting. There are trout in the river. The Inca ruins of Pueblo Viejo are located to the left of the trail, and a higher path that leads from them gives some views of the Cordillera. This is an arid and over-grazed region and cactus cover the landscape. The grayish-white parasites attacking these are cochineal, from which the red pigment used today in cooking and once for the jackets for redcoat soldiers was extracted. The trail follows the river through a narrow gorge, and a walk of around 4-5 hours brings you to camp at Llamac.

It is worth noting that Llamac is on a road head, with transport coming in from Huallanca. Various drop-off points on this road (for example, Matacancha offer quick access to the North-East portion of the Cordillera. Some may regard this as cheating, but for those with little time it is easy to turn a trek into essentially a two-day trip. You will, however, still have to cross a 4700m pass. You can also skip Day 2, below, as this exits at Matacancha.

Day 2: This is a hard day with an ascent of over 1000m. The trail passes ruins, and begins to offer views back up the valley. Steep climbing through arid countryside that looks ready for a Western movie brings the 4300m pass of Pampa Llamac. This is a quite unspectacular and rounded affair, but the sudden appearance of the full cordillera is a reward for the climb. The 6635m peak of Yerupaja is dead ahead.

The trail then drops to the Pacllon stream that drains Lago Jahuacocha, 4070m, which is the day’s destination. A lesser path that skirts the pass comes in from the right, and you can take this if you want to skip the steep climb to the Pampa Llamac pass. There are many camp sites by the lake, which has trout and water the colour of green glass. Mountain scenery is fine, and reflects in this mirror if you camp on the Northern side of the lake.

Day 3: Skirting the moraine that drops to Lago Solteracocha (Spinsters’ Lake, but who knows why?), the indistinct trail winds up through alpine meadows and rock. It plunges into a small cañon before winding up to a jagged pass at 4730m. Mountain views are extremely fine over the spinsters’ lake. The drop down onto scree brings a climb to another pass, at 4750m, where the outlying flank of the massif that is called Ninashanca comes into view.

A path beyond Solteracocha leads to Yerupaja base camp. The snowfield offers non-technical opportunities to scramble about, and the views are fine.

However, assuming that you are not going to camp, the path drops steeply down loose rock and scree to the Ronda valley, picking up a small stream after thirty minutes. Shepherds huts and corrals appear, usually deserted in the dry trekking season but heavily used during the rains. You can camp almost anywhere, but most will choose to walk some hours to the road, stopping opposite Matacancha.

Day 4: The day begins with a climb to the cliffs below the pass to the North-East. Once these have been reached, the trail contours up and down, but mostly up, until it reaches the Cacanampunta pass. Raptors abound in the winds thrown up by the cliff, and you may see condors. The view forward are not particularly fine, although an expanse of puna dotted with alga-stained brown lakes is very characteristic of the whole altiplano. (You may well see people gathering this alga or selling it. It forms golf-ball sized brown spheres, which are eaten as a cooked vegetable.)

A descent through a cañon brings the path to Janca, at 4200m. There are abundant camping sites, but as the town has little to commend it and the views are poor, many will continue for an hour to Lago Mitacocha. Jirishanca (6090m) and other spurs and offshoots reflect in the lake’s waters. This Eastern flank of the cordillera catches the dawn light to spectacular affect, and an early rise is well worth the effort.

Day 5: This day leads to Lago Carhuacocha at 4140m.This is without doubt the premier site for mountain scenery in the cordillera and it also offers a wide range of informal side trips. It is well worth scheduling a rest day. You can, of course, fish in the lake and the bird life is excellent.

The trail is indistinct in the marshy pasture, and a guide is extremely helpful. A climb takes you up into scree and rubble, reaching the Carhuac pass at 4650m. This is a bleak and windy spot, but it offers views of the Eastern flank of the cordillera. The central peak of Yerupaja dominates the snowfields. It is, however, worth moving over the pass quickly, as the view improves thereafter. Winding down, the trail reaches a bluff that overlooks both the brilliant lake to which you are heading and also the snowfields. Drop down to the lake and camp to the South East, where the mountain views are best.

The camp site offers many informal walks: for example, to Lago Azulcocha, which as the name implies if brilliantly blue. You can also start the high route to Laguna Carnicero, which rises to Lagunas Siula and Quesillococha (“little cheese lake”) and crosses a 4800m pass. Any stage on this route offers fine views, but the trails are indistinct and very rough. The higher portions come close to the icefalls and glaciers of the peaks, and opportunities for photography are good. To achieve this as a side trip does, however, require and early start, stamina and good weather. As implied above, the trail drops from the pass to Laguna Carnicero, the destination of Day 6.

Day 6: The trail climbs around the Quebrada Carnicero (“butcher gulch”, named after the mountain spur Carnicero and not for its danger!) Reaching the rounded top of this, one of the major Inca highways makes an appearance as a section of paved road. Recall, as you puff along, that runners were supposed to cover 50km this trail in a day. The 4600m pass of Punta Carnicero marks the beginning of a gradual descent past a number of smaller lakes, with the peaks of Carnicero (5960m) and Jurau (5600m) appearing ahead. The two-lobed Laguna Carnicero (4450m) below and walkers drop off the main trail to descend to it. The lake is surrounded by often-damp alpine pasture and it is important to pick your site carefully.

Day 7: It is necessary to climb to meet the Inca trail to the settlement of Huayhuash. The trail passes down the valley, the head of which is blocked by an impressive cliff. A number of pretty lakes lie towards the foot of this. Climbing upward, the path ascends around 400m to the Portachuelo de Huayhuash (4750m). Ahead lies the Cordillera Raura, a smaller massif rising to 5860m. The trail descends to the large Laguna Viconga (4400m) passing a scattering of ponds-with-ambitions on the way. Most will camp close to the lake or on the trail up to the Punta Cuyoc pass. Views are good and the rock has eroded into strange shapes.

A road head exists to the South of the lake, connecting to the Cordillera Raura and ultimately to Churin, on the coast. You could, in theory, follow this up over the 4800m Portachuelo pass to Fundacion, or seek a lift from the road head itself. However, this is at best a hit-and-miss ambition unless you have pre-arranged transport.

Day 8: The Punta Cuyoc pass lies at 5000m, and is challenging. You can by-pass it by going down the Rio Pumarini to exit at Cajatambo, or making a wider circuit to Chiquian and neighbours, perhaps by way of Paclon. A road is being built to connect Cajatambo to the Viconga road head, and the trail will be increasing disrupted as this proceeds.

Assuming that you are going to cross the pas, however, the path climbs up between the snow peak of Cuyoc (5550m) and slightly icy peak of Pumarini (5460m). Mountain scenery is very fine during the ascent, with many close encounters with the snows of Cuyoc. The pass itself is heralded by contours around marshy ground. The summit arrives as something of anticlimax, with limited views. The descent is steep, based on unstable stones. It joins a river, the Rio Huanacpatay, which quickly cuts itself a ravine. Camp sites begin at around 4300m.

Day 9 to finish: The trekker now has some options to consider. It is possible to exit via Cajatambo (2 days) or to Chiquian (3 days). The latter offer fine scenery, whilst the former does not. There is, in addition, a two-day side trip which investigates the beautiful lakes under Sarapo. All of the routes drop to Huayllapa. Here, they diverge.

Let us begin with the lakes. The Rio Huayllapa flows from these and joins the Rio Huanacpatay, which the trail is following. However, it is necessary to cross North considerably earlier earlier than this junction. There is a fragile bridge, but the site is marked by the point where you can just see the snow peaks around the shoulder of the quebrada to the North of the trail.

An indistinct trail heads upwards and North, eventually offering excellent views forward. It then drops steeply to one of the tributaries to the Rio Huayllapa, which is followed by the trail up to Lago Jurau (4340m). This valley is a wet area and plants grow well. Their predominant purple and yellow is striking against the mountains. The grazing is also good, which is why the animal trails are so well defined. Not all of these go where you want to go, however, so follow the river.

The lake is dammed by a moraine wall, which the trail approaches from below. The location is very fine, and offers many camping sites. An hour further, on spectacular waterfall-dotted landscape, is Lago Sarapococha (4500m). Here, too, are good camp sites. The views from the head of this valley are extremely fine, both back on the lakes and up to Carnicero. A short walk brings Lago Santa Rosa, light blue with glacial flour and ice.

You can drop down the valley of the Rio Huayllapa to Huallapa (3500m) when you have exhausted this exciting area, joining the joint exit trail. However, it is now necessary to select an exit route.

To Cajatambo: Huallapa is a modest village with some shops, but extremely limited camping sites. The trail follows the river – offering some camping potential – before rising to Uramaza. Camping is again limited. The Rio Pumarini joins the Rio Huayllapa just West of Uramaza and it will appear to you that the stream changes direction.

The river crossing at 3200m marks the low spot on this trail, and you then climb steeply to meet the trail down from Lago Viconga and the Cordillera Raura. There are a few small camp sites on the river edge, before the major climb begins. This climb continues to a pass at 4140m (around a thousand metres above the river crossing.) The drop to Cajatambo is steep and raid, and the town is an hour or so from the pass.

To Chiquian: The trail from Huayllapa rises to the Tapush pass at 4800m. There is a camp site at around 4300m before the pass, making this a good day’s walk if you decide to skip the side trip to the lakes. You can also camp at a lake near the pass, at 4700m, but you should wrap up warm. This altitude is hard on the pack animals if the overnight stay is made in Winter.

Day 10: Returning to the circuit, the pass is around an hour on from the high lake mentioned above, and offers a view of the whole of the Cordillera Blanca range to the North, and to the coast (on a clear day) to the West. It passes lakes and ponds where there are camp sites for those intending to try the 5220m trekking peak, Diabolo Mudo (Which translates as the Deaf Devil!). Ice axes and crampons are needed, and ropes advised.

The remainder of the day can be used to make a rapid descent to the Rio Pacllon valley and on to Pacllon itself, or to traverse across to the 4800m Yaucha pass. This gives excellent views of the Northern peaks in the Cordillera. A minor peak nearbu can be scrambled up to get a view to the Cordillera Blanca. The steep drop is in an area patrolled by wild cattle and condors, amongst a host of other wildlife. This is where Chiquian raises its famous fighting bulls, one of the town’s main attractions and exports. There are good views of lakes and mountains as this trail is descended.

Pacllon is reached in a few hours along the valley from the Quebrada Huacrish, from which this trail emerges. There is a rough road from Pacllon to Chiquian, or you can walk it in 3-4 hours.

Other treks around Huaraz.

The region abounds with short walks. It is possible to drive to considerable altitude – for example, the Pastoruri glacier (5240m) can be approached by car and the glacier strolled over for an hour or so.

Caraz gives access to the periwinkle-blue Lago Paron, located between the peaks of Caraz (6025m) and Huandoy. Five huge peaks fringe it, and the site is extremely spectacular. A fine walk of a few hours runs up to nearly 5000m, taking the trekker to the foot of the Artesonraju glacier. The glacier itself has few crevasses and can be walked, but you will need to camp overnight as this is too much for a single day.. Various semi-technical and difficult mountain ascents start from here, including the glacier walk (with full crevasse equipment) to Caraz I and II, at around 6000m.

Yungay is an extraordinary location. The town was destroyed suddenly when the ice face of Huascaran North sheared off during an earthquake in 1970. The million tonnes or so of steam-supported slurry raced down the valley to obliterate the town in seconds. Vehicle and house remains protrude fromt eh rubble, plus the four palm trees that once graced the plaza de armas.Above Yungay, the road rises in to the Quebrada Llanganuco, a narrow valley with fien lakes sandwiched between Huascaran (6770m) and Huandoy (6395m.) The road crosses a 4770m pass, offering wonderful views and many opportunities for more or less short side walks. The valley is the formal entrance to the national park, and much frequented by tourists. Few get much beyond the first lake, however, and you will often have the upper valley to yourselves.

A number of mountain climbs start from this valley, some difficult, others relatively unchallenging. Pisco is the most-climbed, requiring an ascent to 5750m on an technically-undemanding snow ridge. Most camp before the glacier’s moraine, and the ascent itself takes half a day. Note, however, that all snow walks above 5000m have their special hazards and this is not the place to try your first an unassisted summit attempt.

A similar crossing of the Cordillera starts from Carhuaz, a few miles upstream from Yungay. This crosses a pass at Punta Olimpica, (4890m), before descending to Pompey and the road to Pomabamba. A path following the Rio Catay sets out from the settlement called Llipta, and leads up to the twin lakes of Auquiscocha and Chequiacocha. This forested walk takes perhaps 4 hours, and the ultimate views of Hualcan, (6120m), are excellent.

On the Eastern side of the Cordillera Blanca, roads in from Pomabamba reach into the central ranges in a fan of routes around Chacas and Pompey. The crossing of the Punto Olympico pass offers those with 4x4 transport the opportunity to penetrate deeply into this little-visited area. The satellite image, below, gives the area immediately North and East of Huaraz. It shows the many short walks and drives that can be made from the town.

Further up the Rio Santa valley, however, there are still more routes into the West wall of the Cordillera. The route from Vicos passes at least two major archeological sites before penetrating deep in the Quebrada Honda in the central Cordillera Blanca. Above the quechua village of Rinconada the road goes right to Laguna Pacuashcocha, at the foot of the Toclaraju (6030m) and Palcaraju (6275m) peaks. There are many small trips that can be made from this road-head.

Somewhat South of Vicos, the trail up the Quebrada Ishinca set outs for the village of Pashpa. This route is much favoured by climbers, and there are various facilities established for them at the head of the valley, including a Refugio. The path is forested and winds below rather gloomy cliffs. The camp site is at the centre of a spectacular cirque that includes Ranrapalca (6160m), Ishinca (5530m), Palcaraju (6110m) and Toclaraju (6030m). All of these can be climbed, with varying degrees of difficulty, but some - Ishinca, for example - are only semi-technical ascents involving a few hours of snow walking.

Trails from Huaraz lead up to the opposite, West faces of Pucaraju (6160m) and Palcaraju; and into the Quebrada Quilcayhuanca. The short Quebrada Llaca has a Refugio that offers a jumping off point for mountain ascents. Aside from this valley, the rest of the region is seldom trekked, perhaps because the valleys lack major lakes and because it is necessary to descend by the same route. It is nevertheless surprising that a valley so close to the regional capital is so wild, but it is usual to see the condor and other wild animals that neighbouring valleys lack. The Quebrada Cayash, at the head of the valley, offers a concealed and very fine spire peak. There are various climbing routes up from the glacier that ends this valley.

The neighbouring Quebradas Shallap and Rajucolta offer similar walking experiences. The latter provides an impressive approach to Huantsan (6400m), one of the highest peaks in the Cordillera.

Further South, the Chavin and Huaraz valleys are connected by a 3-4 day walk, starting from Olleros. This crosses a 4700m pass at Yanashallash and is a rather fine way to visit Chavin, which itself has very good road connections to other areas of interest such as Pomabamba.

The Catac-Chavin road offers many side walks to lakes, stands of the weird Puya raimondii plant and llama flocks. It passes through a tunnel at 4700m and terminating in one of the most interesting archaeological sites in South America.

The Southern-Central Cordillera accessed from Pachacoto provides better drives than walks, as the puna that surrounds it is flat and monotonous to walk. Herdspeople keep sheep, llamas, alpacas and horses and there are many interesting sites.

Wild-life is plentiful, and the strange botany of the altiplano is everywhere evident. White deposits of snow turn out to be cactus. Red spots in sheltered gullies are Masdevalia orchids. Strange 7m spires, surrounded by what appears to be abstract sculpture and permeated by humming birds is the strange Puya raimondii. There are cave paintings. The road goes on to a 4680m pass, and then returns to Huaraz on tarmac, or connects via the gold mine at Antemina to Chavin. As noted above, you can drive to the foot of a 5000m glacier at Pastoruri, for some effortless photographs of yourself on top if the world.