Friday, August 15, 2014

Trekking the Cordillera Huayhuash, Part I

Slowly but surely, I'm making progress through the 2700 photos or so I brought back from Peru!  I posted reports on the first trek we did, in the Cordillera Blanca, here and here.

On finishing our first trek, we retreated to Huaraz for two nights and a day of recovery (and a little shopping). Somewhat refreshed, we headed back out to the Cordillera Huayhuash for our second trek. Naturally, this involved a long (4 or 5 hours) bus ride deep into the mountains on terrifying dirt roads that switchbacked down into and up out of deep valleys (because that seems to be what roads in Peru do). While other members of the party ooohed and ahhed and took pictures out the window, I concentrated on not getting carsick, as I hadn't been able to find my motion sickness pills that morning. (I had, of course, put them somewhere logical, and did find them days later). It is a testament to the skill of our driver that I neither threw up nor panicked on the drive.

First glimpse of the Huayhuash--before the pavement ran out.
We drove all the way to our first camp, to give ourselves a second rest day (some members of the party were sick and needed it). While most of us helped set up camp, our boys proved that teens are still kids--they found a box, hauled out their multi-tools, and turned it into a boat (or at least a barge) to run the rapids on the creek.
The Rio Llamac, not too far from its beginnings. Pretty tame, but still too much for the experimental craft.
The next morning we started for real, with a climb to our first pass (Cacananpunta) at 15,500'. Since we'd been hit the evening before with a storm that dumped rain and hail on camp, it wasn't any surprise that the pass had fresh snow on it.
Cold enough for ya?
Once over the pass, the hike was pretty easy, though, and ended in camp at Tuctupampa, near Lake Mitucocha, nestled under the face of Nevada Jirishanca, at over 20,000' (the mountain, not the camp).  Camp was in a very pretty valley with a meandering stream, which proved to be very deep--too deep for bathing in! That didn't stop us from enjoying the view.
Tuctupampa valley

As usual, it frosted heavily overnight, and the clear morning soon began to gather clouds. We took a detour to the lake, to get a better view of the mountains.
A lake half full of tules, and a mountain flirting with a veil of misty clouds. Not a bad morning.
The sharp-eyed kids spotted a fossil in a trailside rock, and we soon found we were surrounded by reminders that these 20,000' peaks used to be a sea floor.
Sea food, anyone?
The weather held pretty nice as we climbed on up and over Punta Carhuac (also called Yanapunta) (15,300'). A bit down the other side we stopped for lunch, while the mountain views were still great. Below, Eldest Son is watching with both interest and trepidation as Juan, our amazing cook, lays out lunch. Meals were often a challenge for ES, whose Asperger's syndrome gives him a lot of strong feelings about foods, but he ate a lot of things he never could have at home. Hunger is the best sauce, as Miguel Cervantes said. Or, as we say in our family, must be the altitude!
Looking at Nevada Yerupaja and waiting for lunch.
The big treat for the day was a field full of biscachas--relatives of the chinchilla, looking rather like rabbits with squirrel tails. They were the main wild mammals we saw, though we did see Andean foxes on a couple of occasions (at night, so no photos).
I like the tails--they look like fiddleheads.
Our camp at Lago Carhuacocha had incredible views of Nev. Yerupaja and the north side of Siula Grande (featured in the documentary movie Touching the Void).  It was also where we were as we listened to Brazil's futbol team lose spectacularly to Germany. Since the broadcasts were in Spanish, we couldn't follow them, but every time we heard that annoying "gooooooaaaaaaaal" yell, we'd holler, "quien?" and our wranglers would answer glumly, "Aleman." A bit of weather gave us a great sunset, a scenic end to our third day.
Not our dining tent. Limited camp space made this a camp we shared, along with the football (soccer) news.

I had intended to cover one more day in this post, but my computer is on the fritz and it's too much work to access all my photos off the back-up just now, so this will be the end of Part I. You can expect at least two more posts for this trek--the mountains and the scenery are worth it anyway!

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2014


  1. Always a pleasure to see your pictures, and your story is compelling.

  2. Wow, Rebecca, what a trip! And the pictures are amazing! Thanks for sharing that :) I, too, get carsick, though I can't be a passenger in pretty much any vehicle even on a flat highway, let alone THOSE crazy roads! Wasn't that where the setting of "Romancing the Stone" was?

  3. I had to go Google Romancing the Stone too see! It looks like it was filmed in Mexico.

    Set hose roads were killer. I actually fretted all through the trek about having to do the drive back the other way, but it wasn't as bad as I'd feared, maybe because I was too tired to pay attention? I definitely prefer to be behind the wheel, though you could NEVER get me to drive through Lima (where we started and ended).

    1. Sheesh. Need to put my glasses on when I type. That's "to see," and "Yes, those roads were killer."

  4. Wow, what an amazing trip!! Thanks!!

    1. Hey there, thanks for coming by! (I had to magnify that picture a bit to see it was you:) And here I was hoping for some magic for my garden, which is a bit sad this year, but your climate is too different).

  5. Replies
    1. They were a great bonus. I knew in my head that the Andes are shoved up, rather than volcanic (not completely true--I believe the Cordillera Negra, across the valley from the Cordillera Blanca, is volcanic), but it's hard to think about sea floors when you're in need of extra air at 14,000'. And there they were!

  6. The second picture was really neat. Was that some sort of filter in there?

    1. The 2nd? My boys? No filters, on the photo or the water. Just boys turning things into boats, as they are wont to do :)

  7. I'm enjoying the heck out of your trip reports so far. Those are some impressive ups and downs...makes my knees smart a bit to read about it. Thanks for taking the time to write and post your trip of a lifetime. Just fantastic.

    1. My knees may never be the same again. But if I'm honest, they were in bad shape before we started; something about the training I did last winter and spring on my bike.


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