I hiked Cordillera Huayhuash for 12 days from June 20, 2022 to July 1, 2022.
If you are a fit and well altitude acclimatized, I recommend abbreviating the trek to 8 days. The trails are easy to moderate and there is little preventing you from trekking longer distances per day if you’re not at risk of altitude sickness. On the other hand, all camps during this trek are above 4000m and you’ll hit passes that are 5000m so if you aren’t well acclimatized, altitude sickness could make this trek less enjoyable. To mitigate that risk, you may choose to perform 3+ day hikes from Huaraz prior to the trek (e.g. Laguna Wilcacocha, Laguna Churup, Laguna 69). If you’re still feeling the effects of altitude after these, it may be beneficial to start your trek at Llamac which is at a lower altitude than driving directly to Quartelehain or higher.
- Day 1: Drive to Quartelhain
- Day 2: Camp Mitucocha
- Day 3: Camp Carhuacocha
- Day 4: Camp Huayhuash
- Day 5: Camp Viconga (hot spring water)
- Day 6: Camp Elephantes
- Day 7: Camp Cutatanbo
- Day 8: Camp Huayllapa
- Day 9: Camp Gashpapampa
- Day 10: Camp Jahuacocha
- Day 11: Camp Jahuacocha and visit Paso Rondoy
- Day 12: Walk to Llamac
Essential gear for trekkers using a guiding service. If you are hiking Cordillera Huayhuash self supported, you need more:
- Sleeping bag that is rated for approx -15 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re hiking during the Peru dry season, night time temps drop below freezing. Regardless of how well rated your sleeping bag is, it’s a good idea to pack layers to wear to sleep and a sleeping bag liner. I was comfortable with two layers (top and bottom), a down jacket, and a Mountain Hardware Bishop Pass sleeping bag. Guide agencies often provide a thermarest / sleeping mat but it’s worth checking with your agency prior to departure. The insulation of your sleeping mat(s) plays a large role in how cold you will feel at night so bring your own if you’re not sure about the mats you’ll be borrowing.
- Sun hat and sunscreen. Locals are frequently fully covered and wear large hats that provide ample shade for the face and neck. You likely want to do the same because the UV index will hit 10/10 most days between 11AM and 2PM.
- Toilet paper and hand sanitizer. All campsites feature servicio hygenicos (bathrooms) that range from a hole in the ground to a toilet without a seat. Carry a zip-loc bag with toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and a head lamp (the stalls are dark) in your day bag.
- Head lamp with extra batteries and/or solar panel if rechargeable
- 2+ liters of water carrying capacity. One option is a 1 liter Nalgene bottle and a 1.5+ liter water bladder. The water bladder will be convenient to drink from while walking and the bottle will be more convenient during meals.
- Dry bags for your clothes and sleeping gear
- Set of trekking clothes
- Set of sleeping clothes (warmer, multiple layers)
- First aid kid
- Trail mix, granola, or snacks to share with your team
- Small soap and shampoo if you’re planning on stopping at Campo Viconga (the camp with thermal hot water baths). If you aren’t constrained by weight, add a swimsuit.
- Insect repellent is not necessary because there aren’t mosquitos at this altitude. You may want it for day hikes in Huaraz but don’t need it during the Cordillera Huayhuash trek
- Wrist sweatbands to wipe runny nose
- Solar Panel works well here because lots of direct sunlight
- External battery pack
- Small microfiber towel
- Trekking poles
If you’re trekking unsupported
- Sols to pay for community fees. When trekking between camps, you’ll encounter guarded gates where you will be expected to pay a fee to pass
- Maps and GPS device because the trails aren’t well marked
- There are small stores at Camp Viconga and Camp Jahuacocha that sells marked up beer, sports drink, and candy. The store owner at Camp Viconga has WiFi and will charge you 10 Sols for 30 mins of WiFi usage. This is a great opportunity to check in with loved ones to let them know you’re doing well.
- The thermal baths at Viconga appear to be cleaned overnight. Get there early if you want to swim in clean water.
- Learn to identify Bed of the Devil and don’t sit on it. Rocks are safer to rest on.
- There is a spot between Lake Carhuacocha and Camp Huayhuash that has cell reception for Claro but not Movistar.
- Paso Rondoy has signal for Claro and Movistar.
- S 10.247824 W 76.977003 degrees has signal for Claro and Movistar. Duck behind the wall to avoid the winds on the ridge.
- Studying Spanish prior to arrival can significantly improve your experience. Most guides will speak English but most Cocineros (cooks) and Arilleros (donkey drivers) won’t. If you’re lucky, you will eat meals together with the team in the kitchen tent and basic Spanish will help you pick up on the gist of the conversation. If you’re a Spanish novice, the translations below can help. Also you can download English and Spanish for offline translation in the Google Translate app.
- There is a guideline that permits six animals per one donkey driver. If you’re traveling solo, expect to have approx. eight donkeys, one mule, and one horse so two donkey drivers.
- The road between Huaraz and Llamac is bumpy. If you’re prone to motion sickness, come prepared.
- Practice deep squats until you’re comfortable maintaining the position for the time it takes you to use the bathroom.
- Fill a Nalgene 1L bottle with hot water prior to getting in your sleeping bag and stuff it down by your feet to keep your toes warm.
- Turn off your head lamp and look at the sky before calling it a night. On clear nights, the stars are extremely visible because the minimal light pollution.
- Touching the Void by Joe Simpson
- Skip Peru's Cordilleras Blanca & Huayhuash: The Hiking & Biking Guide by Neil Pike because it is dated and doesn't contain much practical information. Online blogs are a better source of up-to-date info on this trek, especially: The Ultimate Guide to Independent & Solo Hiking the Huayhuash Circuit in Peru
I had a great experience trekking with Peruvian Andes Adventures and would highly recommend them.
Good food spots in Huaraz (especially for vegans). Warning: most places close at 10PM
- Paulino’s Indian Cuisine is a great sit down restaurant for dinner post day-hike. They have an entire page of vegan options. Dishes come with rice but you can also ask for their chapati (no eggs or butter). Two dishes is more food than one person can eat. I liked Palak Chana, Daal Mushroom, Bhangan Bharta, and Mix Veg curry.
- Cafe Andiano has a vegetarian burrito that can be made vegan (tofu, onions, peppers, and avocado)
- Mamma Mía has good coffee and a vegan sandwich with eggplant
- Chilli Heaven has Asian curries that can be vegan
- California Cafe has good coffee
- Mercado Central de Huaraz has many fruit vendors. Plantains are a better hiking snack than bananas because they are more robust and may not get as smushed in your bag. Other great trekking snacks: apples, clementines, pears, nuts, dried fruit.
Some common phrases and their translations
|It's hot||Hace calor|
|It’s cold||Hace frío|
|It’s windy||Hace viento|
|It’s snowing||Está nevando|
|The pass||La punta|
Please reach out to me if you're considering this trek and have questions!