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Cordillera Huayhuash Circuit, Peruvian Andes

In late spring of 2001, Dana and I journeyed to Peru to complete a circuit trek around the beautiful Cordillera Huayhuash.  Travelling with a group of five other hikers, a peruvian trek crew, and our fearless guide, Val Pitkethly, we completed the circuit in 16 incredible days.  Photos and trip report follow.  Enjoy.




The Cordillera Huayhuash is a compact, yet utterly impressive range of mountains in central Peru.  The range, which is only about 30 miles long, is often overlooked by explorers and trekkers, particularly relative to the larger and more prominent Cordillera Blanca and the trekking areas around Cuzco.  Many maps do not even show the Huayhuash range, and its compact size and remote nature keep it out of sight from the normal tourist byways.  Yet the Huayhuash is perhaps the most magnificent range in the Peruvian Andes.  It contains Peru's second highest peak and the highest summit in the Amazon watershed -- Yerupaja (21,766').  It also contains a number of lower but no less impressive summits, including the beautiful Jirishanca and the deadly Siula Grande (immortalized in Joe Simpson's book "Touching the Void").  

Yerupaja crowns the Cordillera Huayhuash, from above Chiquian



The standard 110 mile route around the Huayhuash begins and ends near the town of Chiquian, and initially follows the Rio Pativlica and Rio Llamac.  However, we took a slightly longer route up the Quero valley in order to avoid the mining road that is being constructed in the Llamac valley.  This route took us over two additional passes in excess of 15,000' in elevation, but was worth it in order to avoid the mining road and to get the views from the top of the two passes over the entire Huayhuash range.  Here is a map of our route:

click to see a more detailed map of our trek route


Our trip was organized through a UK-based outfit called KE Adventure Travel (www.keadventure.com), which also has offices in Colorado here in the US.  We traveled with five other fellow trekkers, one guide, and a six person local peruvian trek crew.  Our guide, Val Pitkethly, is an expert in the Huayhuash area, having led this trek for more years than probably any non-peruvian guide.  Val also leads treks in the Cordillera Blanca (including the Alpamayo Circuit) and in the Nepal Himalaya.  She's not only knowledgeable about everything, she's also a very nice and kind person -- you couldn't ask for a better trip leader than Val.

Most outdoor activities in the Huayhuash/Blanca region operate out of Huaraz, capital city of the Department of Ancash.  Although Huaraz is nearly four hours by bus from the Huayhuash area, it is a far better place to acclimatize than Chiquian, which is much smaller and has almost no facilities.  Huaraz has several bookstores, mountaineering shops and Internet providers, and actually has some very good little restaurants.

We arrived in Huaraz by first flying to Lima.  Non-stop flights from the states are usually on American or Continental through L.A., Houston or Miami; flights from Europe generally arrive via KLM non-stop from Amsterdam.  From Lima, regular bus service will get you to Huaraz (about eight hours). 

Photos and Trip Report:

Dana and I shot a truckload of film on the trip, and kept fairly detailed notes of the places we saw and people we met.  To read about our adventure, click on the "next" button below, and scroll through the many pages.


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