Cordillera Blanca – Huascarán Circuit
I will apologise in advance for the lack of creativity in superlatives from hereon in – I’ve run out.
After a few days hanging out in Caraz, I set off to do a loop into the Cordillera Negra, which runs parallel to the Cordillera Blanca (where the really big mountains are) and would offer me the opportunity to get some impressive panoramic views of the Blanca. However, I hadn’t been feeling 100% that morning and, half-way up the 1500m climb, I hit the buffers – no energy whatsoever and a suggestion of imminent stomach troubles! Needless to say, I beat a hasty retreat and headed to Yungay and the spartan but welcoming Hostel Gledel, where I then spent the next five days recovering. All part of the joy of travelling, I guess!
Energy restored, I set off from Yungay to do a circuit into the Cordillera Blanca which would take me on a 6-day loop around the peaks of the mighty Huascarán, Peru’s highest mountain (6,768m). Thanks to Neil and Harriet Pike for the superb route.
Huascarán certainly loomed ominously above as I climbed out of Yungay…
Fortunately, the gradient was not too bad but I took it fairly easy, not least since Yungay is at 2500m and I had about 1300m of climbing to do to get to my campsite for that evening. By early afternoon, I made it to the checkpoint into the park (Parque Nacional Huascarán), bought my S./65 ticket (best £15 I’ve ever spent) and pushed on to the first of the spectacular lakes through a fairly narrow valley.
My campsite was a little further along the valley at Yurac Corral, at the head of the second lake. Having pitched the tent and rustled up some food, I was joined by a few locals…
The next morning I woke at 4:30am so that I could get a headstart on the day-trippers heading up to Laguna 69. This is a 16km (round-trip) hike up to a spectacular lake and offered a good opportunity to get off the bike for a short while.
Due to the cold (Sally was frost-covered once again) and the humidity from the river (and my breath), the tent was pretty soaking inside and my sleeping bag fairly wet on the outside but I had to pack them away anyway, knowing I ought to be able to dry them later. The campsite attendant, the friendly Victor, had kindly offered to store my bike in one of the buildings whilst I hiked up to the Laguna. Leaving at 5:30am, the pitch black was soon punctured by the first light of day on the mountain tops…
I spent much of the walk up totally gob-smacked by the beauty of the scenery – it was truly magical.