Friday, August 8, 2014

Cordillera Blanca, Part II

Ready for another round of photos? I've made some progress through the collection, and I'm ready to resume the narrative, begun here.

When last seen, we were camped at Huillca with the alpacas (alpaca poop made a nice change from cow plops). The next day (Day 5, I believe) saw us (as usual) getting up in the morning and climbing up over a pass, with views to match. The (young) guys switchbacked up out of sight quickly, keeping up with Juan, our amazing cook and high-speed guide. This was a two-pass day, with an easy climb of Mesapata Pass followed by a longer and harder climb to Caracara Pass.
Climbing toward Mesapata pass
Mealtimes were something we really looked forward to. This particular bit of fruit wasn't quite what we were expecting, however. It's some kind of relative of a passion fruit, but we aren't quite sure what.
Here, take a closer look:
The fish-egg texture and crunch of the seeds were off-putting for some of us, though the flavor was good.

A fair bit of lounging about seemed an appropriate response to mealtimes, summits, and any of a number of other excuses. In fact, on a trip like this, when not actually hiking, lounging about is the primary activity. Staring at the scenery of course is what we'd come for, so it mades sense.
My son, my foot, and my brother-in-law, atop yet another pass

The sixth day, and we were descending to our layover near Alpomayo. We can see the glacial lake (thus the lovely turquoise color) behind the moraine. Once again, we see too that we have to go down. A long way down.
Lago Jancarurish and Quitaraju towering above, seen from Caracara Pass

Clouds kept hiding the peaks, but they also made for great light at sunset. Since this moraine had failed catastrophically in the 1940s, flooding the valley and washing out a nearly-completed hydro-election dam down on the Santa River, I did think a bit about where we were camped!
Alpomayo Camp at sunset.
After two nights in our scenic camp, and a dayhike to get a closer look at the lake, we had to move on. But we had great views behind us at the mountain, as we descended the deep glacial Quebrada Alpomayo past Incan ruins.
The Spouse reluctantly leaves the Most Beautiful Mountain in Peru.
 This was a tough day. After descending the valley for several miles, we turned and began a relentless 2000' climb to the first pass of the day, Hatun Ventuna. This was the point where various people's minor illnesses and fatigue began to show--the gap between the Tres Muchachos and the last of the old folks was huge! But we all eventually made the summit, and we had traded Alpomayo for a new set of stunning mountains.
 Of course, having rested on our laurels, and eaten our lunch, we had to drop several hundred feet and climb a thousand to the second pass of the day, Ventana. In between, we passed a little cove full of these giant lupins, native only to the Andes.

Finally, after a day that went on far too long for me, and just in time for afternoon tea, I reached our next-to-last camp. Tucked into a small area next to a dam, we shared our space with several buildings and a pair of trekkers from Colorado, just starting out in the other direction.
Lago Cuillacocha camp
 What the campsite itself lacked in aesthetics, the lake and mountains more than made up for when sunset moved in.
Sunset on Santa Cruz mountain Lago Cuillacocha
 The last two days were a long, long way down, into the valley of the Santa River. Even though we didn't have to hike all the way to the bottom, it was a tough descent!
Down we go, into civilization!
I can't let this go without giving some credit to the guys who did the heavy lifting--our team of 11 burros and a packhorse, not to mention the wranglers. They got to walk home when we were done, too, but without all the gear and coolers. Well, the two wranglers who took the donkeys back rode, but still--no horse trailers for these guys. So it takes two days to get home? Vamos!
Descending toward Hualcayan, where we were picked up to return to Huaraz

 The Alpomayo Circuit was an incredible hike, and inspired all sorts of responses from our group. . .

These two posts don't even come close to doing the trip justice, and my husband's photos are better. Even better, for those who really like good photography, will be my brother-in-law's photos, once he has them up on his website, (I just checked yesterday and they weren't there yet, which is no surprise given the size of the job!).

And, for those who want more: next week, I start the report on our second trek, the Huayhaush circuit.

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2014


  1. Wow! Did you see any caracaras? I think they are an Andean eagle or vulture (I should check before I post, but I'm in the garden, lazing with my lawn-mowing squad)

  2. We did see caracaras which are in fact Andean eagles (your memory is good!)

    1. Also condors, which are doing well there, living on the cattle and sheep that didn't make it.

  3. hello, thanks for visiting my humble town of Huaraz. I also invite you to visit the mountains huayhuash one of the most beautiful treks.



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