Cordillera Blanca y Huayhuash

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The Cordillera Blanca is a massive mountain range with many peaks above 6.000m, including Peru’s highest mountain the Huascaran. As the name ‘white range’ already indicates, most of the mountains are covered in ice and snow. Most tropical glaciers on this planet are located here, although due to global warm the ice has already retreated rapidly, apparently over 15 percent during the last 40 years. The water flowing down on the eastern side is feeding the Maranon River, which is one of source rivers of the Amazon.

It’s a famous trekking area and of course I planned as well to leave my bike in Huaraz and explore the Cordillera by foot. After a few days rest I started the Santa Cruz Trek, what is the most popular trek around there and with just three days quite easy as well. A good start to get used to walking and carrying a heavy backpack. Unfortunately I forgot one SD card in my laptop before leaving for the trek and the other one didn’t work for some reasons. I was pretty upset about walking past beautiful mountains like Alpamayo and Artesonraju without the opportunity to take photos. On the other hand I could focus just on enjoying the amazing landscapes.

Getting back to Huaraz I was psyched to do another trek. So I teamed up with Melina to tackle a circuit around the Cordillera Huayhuash, which is located a little further south to the Cordillera Blanca. It’s supposed to be one of the nicest treks at all, but everything than easy. Most people just do it with a group, what we definitely didn’t want to do. Usually you need around 10 days to circumnavigate the range. But what makes it difficult is the lack of infrastructure. During those ten days, there’s ist just one tiny village, where you can stock up with supplies. With heavy backpacks filled with food for a week, we left Huaraz a little bit nervous.
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Almost every day we had to cross passes between 4800m and 5000m. This was the first and an easier one.

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Laguna Mitucocha, our second camp was just next to the shore.

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The first glimpse of one of the many snow capped peaks

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From that lagoon it went up a super steep slope. There wasn’t a trail at all and to make it even harder rain and hail let us freeze a lot.

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Enjoying the view.

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Yerupaja, Yerupaja Chico and Jirishanca. The Yerupaja is with 6.635m the highest peak of the whole Cordillera Huayhuash

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You could literally listen to the melting of the glaciers. Every few minutes a thunder roared through the entire valley caused by ice breaking off.

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What a fun to jump for a few kilometers over those grassy things.

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Snow in the morning.

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The way up to Punta Trapecio. It’s an alternative to the standard route and absolutely worth it. According to all maps there was still a glacier, but it must have melted during the recent decade.

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Detoured along a glacier.

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The way up to the super steep Paso San Antonio. The snow melted and transformed the path into a slippery muddy slope.

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The views though were amazing and rewarding. My favorite place on the trek.

blog-27-von-54blog-28-von-54If anyone has watched or read the mountaineering documentary ‘Touching the Void’. It happened in that valley. Siula Grande is highest peak you can see on this photo.

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Melina having fun descending through that crazy mud.

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A last fantastic view on the almost entire Cordillera.

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https://vimeo.com/189741744

After coming back to Huaraz we still haven’t had enough of trekking and decided to do another short three day hike in the Cordillera Blanca. We started walking through the Quebrada Quilcayhuanca to cross a 5000m pass into another Quebrada through which we hiked back to Huaraz. This trek is still quite unknown compared to the popular Santa Cruz trek, but the views are equally great. Though I guess it’s little bit harder.

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Not a bad view to start into the day. It was bitterly cold though and the tent was covered in ice. That’s probably the disadvantage of a clear morning.

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Great view from almost 5000m.

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I never planned to stay a month in Huaraz and do that many treks. I don’t regret it all. On foot you get just deeper into the mountains as on a bike and gives you another perspective. Still I wanted to do the Huascaran loop on my bicycle and after a month it was time to get back onto the road anyway. After saying my farewell to Melina and the so familiar Huaraz I left on the main road to Carhuaz. From there a even paved road crosses the Cordillera Blanca to the eastern side.

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In October the rainy season starts slowly and indeed most days it started raining in the afternoon. On my first riding day I got completely soaked during the last two hours. Luckily the ranger from the National Park entrance station let me sleep inside.

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The next morning was still cloudy and most peaks were unfortunately hidden.

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Just a few times I got a glimpse.

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Since 2013 there is a tunnel on the top of the pass. It’s the highest road tunnel in the world. The old unpaved pass road still exists, but because of the clouds I wouldn’t have had a better view anyways and I decided for the easy way through the tunnel.

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A long ascend is followed by a long descend. On the smooth paved road I was kind flying down the valley.

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After day riding along the east side of the Cordillera I began to climb up again to cross back to the western side. This time the road was just gravel, what made it much slower.

blog-50-von-54On the top of Portachuelo de Llangamuco on 4700m. Probably my last high pass in South America.

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And again a crazy descend on a damn bumpy road.

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The Lagunas de Llanganuco and a last view on the summits of the Cordillera Blanca. I left this impressive mountain range behind with a sad feeling. Spending over a month hiking and cycling there was definitely worth it. But now I’m keen to cover some distance to get further north.

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