Huayhuash, hidden treasure in the Andes
Huayhuash Mountain Range is located in the Central Peruvian Andes, south of the Cordillera Blanca (White Mountain Range). The demanding and strenuous trek that has place in this 30km long mountain range is one of the most rewarding in the world. With its breathtaking views of awe-inspiring snow mountain peaks, glaciers, lakes and wildlife, Huayhuash has become a must for all trekkers around the globe.
While trekking Huayhuash you will be able to appreciate all the majesty of Yerupaja (Peru´s second highest peak with 6634masl/21765ft and Siula Grande (6344masl/20813ft) which was the famous scenery of Joe Simpson’s epic book, based on his and Simon Yate’s true story of survival, “Touching the Void”. You will have enough time to challenge your physical shape with at least eight high altitude mountain passes, including the famous San Antonio pass, from where you will get and extraordinary view of the main precipitous ice peaks of the mountain range.
In this travel story we will go around Huayhuash Mountain Range in a nine days trek so you can have a good idea of all the wonderful experiences it offers. It’s worth remarking that there many configurations out there that you can pick for your trip, from 6 days to 16 or even more. The nine days trek we describe here is one alternative that covers a good portion of Huayhuash and that demands 14 km of trek a day.
Feel free to make comments and let us know if there is something else we should include here! We hope you enjoy this article and that it acts as a source of inspiration for your next trip!
Day 1: Huaraz to Matacancha “Huayhuash looms up”
Our adventure starts in Huaraz at 3091 masl/10141ft. We board our private transportation and head to Matacancha located 5 hours from this city. In Matacancha (4170masl/13681ft) we meet our porters and have the first approach to the Huayhuash Mountain Range when the northeast face of the Rondoy snow mountain peak welcomes us. Finally, we have a light dinner while enjoying the starry sky.
Highest altitude: 4170masl/13681ft
Day2: Matacancha to Carhuacocha “Most scenic lake”
We wake up at 7:30am to have a nutritive breakfast and heading up to our first challenge, Cacananpunta (4690masl/15387ft) pass. Once on the top of the mountain we start our way down by Quebrada Caliente which means hot gully, name given for its hot springs. As we descend, the landscape turns into a green full of grassy looking one. Then we continue to the south by Quebrada Wayac allowing us the first impressive views of the snow peaks in the Mountain Range. We stop in Jancas checkpoint where we have to pay an entrance fee to the community. Keep in mind that these are private protected areas which are managed by the communities and this fee helps improving security for hikers and also for conservation works. After going over this control we ascend to Carhuac pass (Yananpunta). The first 15 minutes of the climbing are steep but then it becomes easier, and the slope becomes less pronounced. From the pass you will appreciate the east side of magic Yerupaja Chico, Yerupaja and Siula Grande snow mountain peaks which rise imposingly. Having gone through the pass, we descend for almost 2 hours until we reach the most stunning lake, Carhuacocha. We set our camp in a cliff top in the north side of Incahuain lagoon. The view from our tent is wonderful: an enormous lagoon surrounded by 6000m tall snow capped peaks. We have some time to relax and admire this God´s gift while enjoying a great Andean dinner.
Note: A variation of the route heads to Mitucocha Lake for camping. The next day it continues to Carhuacocha where it’s a must to camp again to make the most of that magic place.
Total trekking distance: 19km/11.81miles
Mountain passes: 2
Highest altitude: Cacananpunta pass (4690masl/15387ft)
Day 3: Carhuacocha to Huayhuash “Climbing up to Siula Pass”
Waking up with the sunrise reflecting in the Carhuacocha lagoon and the towering snow capped peaks makes trekkers wordless. After having breakfast and packing our stuff we continue our way. We start descending slowly surrounding the lagoon until we reach the lower part. From there we have a perfect view of Yerupaja, Yerupaja Chico and here also looms the great Jirishanca. The highlight of the day is the famous and picturesque 3 lagoons viewpoint. We climb up to Gangrajanca lagoon which unfortunately is drying, as a consequence of global warming. We continue our path through a steep ascent of about 45 minutes to the famous viewpoint where we have a spectacular view of the 3 lakes and the snow mountain peaks of Ninashanca, Jirishanca, Yerupaja Chico, Yerupaja and Siula Grande. The landscape is amazing: snowy mountains and lagoons of different colors. Then we continue going up until we reach Siula Pass (4830masl/15846ft). The ascent of this last section is very demanding but the views you will have from the viewpoint and pass are worth the effort. From here we have to walk downhill for almost 3 hours through the west side of the Quesillococha lagoon until we reach our campsite in Huayhuash (4350masl/14271ft). During the descent we stop for lunch in a green plain with nice views of Carnicero, Jurau, Huaraca, Quesillo and Trapecio snow peaks.
Total trekking distance: 12km / 7.46miles
Mountain passes: 1
Highest altitude: Siula pass (4830masl/15846ft)
Day 4: Huayhuash to Viconga “A deserved rest at the hot springs”
We wake up in our frozen tent. We get some hot food and drinks and head to “Portachuelo de Huayhuash” (4780masl/15682ft), the only pass of the day. This is the easiest day and allows us to recover some energy. In our way to Portachuelo we go through the left side of Miticocha lagoon and Trapecio snow peak (5653masl). These lagoons are habitat of different Andean wildlife. When we reach the pass we get the closest view to the white Raura Mountain Range. Continuing our way we descend to Viconga lagoon which is one of the most important water reservoirs in this Region. Once we leave the Viconga lagoon behind there is a short but abrupt ascend of some minutes to Viconga control. From here we continue our way downwards and we can hear the sound of Pumarinri River and its cascades. Upon reaching the bottom we can see at our right hand (Northwest) the Puscanturpa snow Peak Mountain including the Cuyoc Mountain (Puscanturpa Sur). We continue walking along the Pumarinri Valley by a green plain until we reach our campsite in Viconga. Since we arrive early to this campsite we have the whole afternoon to enjoy the sun, the river and of course the revitalizing hot springs. During the day the weather here is almost perfect, but be aware because in the night comes the temperature plummets. We go to bed early because the next day we will have our big challenge; Cuyoc and San Antonio mountain passes.
Total trekking distance: 16km / 9.94 miles
Mountain passes: 1
Highest altitude: “Portachuelo de Huayhuash” (4780masl/15682ft)
Day 5: Viconga-Cuyoc-San Antonio-Huanacpatay “The big day and the big challenge”
Today is by far the most challenging day! We decide to wake up early and start the slightly but long and strenuous climb from Viconga campsite to Cuyoc pass. Although the Cuyoc pass is signed as 4950masl/16240 we have to climb up to 5020masl/16469 to cross the pass. Piles of stones mark that we did it! From here we get amazing views of the Mountain Range with glaciers defying gravity and enormous snowy and untouched mountains. However be aware of not getting cold because most of the time it is bitterly cold and icy windy. From here a steep descent begins downhill by Cuyoc gorge and through a tumble of rocks until Huanacpatay Valley. We walk for almost half hour in a green plain valley with Andean cattle until there is a deviation to the right heading up to the famous San Antonio Mountain. This is one of the toughest climbs ascending up to 5020masl/16469ft. The first part of this ascent is a steep climb of loose rocks (gravel). We continue by a dirt path which turns steep with snow and melting streams. Finally, we walk through a rugged path to reach our goal. Once in the top of the mountain we enjoy our victory and see that the challenge was worth the effort. From here we can see the superb Juraucocha lagoon of intense turquoise colors and the snow mountain peaks just up for our eyes. We can also see the Sarapococha lagoon which was the base camp of Joe Simpson truly story of survival, “Touching the Void”. The greatness of the Jurau, Sarapo, Siula Grande and Jerupaja snow capped peaks makes us feel so little but also happy of reaching this magical place. We don’t want to leave but we have to, so we begin our descent by the same way we have come up. Once down San Antonio Mountain we go to our right hand and continue by Huanacpatay Valley walking through rock forests. After a long 14km day of trek we reach our campsite in Huanacpatay. There we have a nice view of Puscanturpa and Sueroraju mountains in the background.
Total trekking distance: 14km / 8.70miles
Highest altitude: 5020masl /16469ft
Day 6: Huanacpatay-Huayllapa-Huatiac “The nice valley”
Still tired from yesterday we hit the trek heading west and following the Huanacpatay Valley up to the end of it. We descend up quickly from 4100masl/13451ft to 3800masl/12467ft and continue along the river Huayoma to Huayllapata village (3600masl/11811ft). This part is quite easy because we are in the lowest altitude of the trek and the vegetation and flowing water distract us. Continuing the way we have to head up again, pass through the Huayllapa control and follow the Milo Valley. As we go up and reach 4100masl/13451ft the Valley name changes to Huatiac. Here vegetation starts changing and turns into a more rugged scenery. We climb up to 4570masl/14993ft where we find our campsite in front of the snow capped peak Tapush and Diablo Mudo. This is a good spot to fish trouts in the river.
Total trekking distance: 14km / 8.70 miles
Mountain passes: 1
Highest altitude: Huatiac (4570masl/14993ft)
Day 7: Huatiac- Jahuacocha “Gorgeous views of the Huayhuash Mountain Range”
We walk toward Tapush Punta (4770masl/ 15650ft) then, along Susucocha lagoon. The snow peak of “Diablo Mudo” will accompany through this walk. The wildlife in the lagoon is very varied; there are different kind of Andean ducks and Huayllatas making sounds. We continue our trek until the way splits. We turn east in the direction of Llaucha Punta or Llaucha pass at 4850masl/15912ft. The ascent takes approximately two hours but it is really demanding. Once in the top we have a gorgeous view of the range´s mayor peaks including the impressive Yerupaja. From this point we have two options. The most common option is to start descending until the Jauacocha lagoon, and the other one is to climb a little bit more along the Llaucha hillside where we have a great view not only of the Huayshuash Mountain Range but also far away Alpamayo and other peaks of the White Mountain Range. Obviously we chose the second one. We continue until we reach the summit of the Huacrish hill with a unique view of the Jahuacocha and Solterococha lagoon backed by Jirishanca and Rondoy Peaks. From here our campsite looks completely tiny. Finally we have to go downhill almost 800meters by a rugged terrain until we reach Jauacocha. Once there we see a cross raised in honor to the crew of the TAM airplane that crashed in 1954 against the Jirishanca snow peak.
Total trekking distance: 13km / 8.07 miles
Mountain passes: 2
Highest altitude: Llaucha Punta (4850masl/15912ft)
Day 8: Jahuacocha to Solterococha “Beauty at its best”
Today we can stay in the tents until the sun hits them. We have a complete day to relax and explore this beautiful area. We walk by a path along the Jauacocha lagoon and then we climb the Solterococha moraine. Jirishanca snow peak rising just next to emerald colored Solterococha looks unbelievable. We walk to the base of this huge mass of ice in our heads, go into the glaciers and caves and take a lot of pictures. Finally we return by the other side of the lagoon to our campsite. In the way back we stop in some lagoons to catch some trouts and have our last special dinner.
Highest altitude: Jahuacocha 4050masl/13287ft
Day 9: Jahuacocha- Llamac-Huaraz “It is time to go back”
Today we wake up very early and start walking in the dark and bitter cold with our flashlight toward Llamac. We start next to the Jahuacocha River heading the west until the road splits into two. One path goes up to Macrash Punta at 4272masl/14015ft and the other one goes almost flat following an aqueduct. However, both ways get together before reaching Llamac. The muleteers and the mules can only go by Macrash Punta, we instead take the path that follows the aqueduct. Once in Llamac we say goodbye to our muleteers and we board our 11:00am bus heading Huaraz where a nice hot shower awaits for us.
Total trekking distance: 13km / 8.07 miles
Mountain passes: 0
Highest altitude: Jahuacocha 4050masl/13287ft
Before you go…
Be sure you are in good shape
Huayhuash circuit is a demanding trek of 170km. This means you will be walking around 15km and 7 hours a day. Also take in mind that almost the entire circuit is above 4000masl with several high altitude passes above 4800masl. Before booking be sure to be in good shape. We highly recommend you to prepare yourself at home physically in order to enjoy this stunning trek with no problems. We guarantee you that the effort worth it. We also highly recommend you to acclimatize in Huaraz for some days before starting your journey to Huayhuash. You don’t need to be mountaineering but you should have some trekking experience
Remember you are going to a protected area
Due to its scenic features Huayhuash Mountain Range has being designated as a National Reserved Area which primary objective is the conservation of the high mountain ecosystem. This area has the status of private protected area in which the communities that live in the area are the ones in charge of the protection of the it. Seven communities manage and organize themselves to protect Huayhuash (Llamac, Pacllon, Queropalca, Jesus, Tupac Amaru, Uramaza, Huayllapa).
Try to keep weight as low as possible. We highly recommend bringing a small day-pack where to carry your own gear for the day and some other items such as cameras, rain jacket, sunglasses and other personal items you think will be helpful to have during the trek.
Prevent altitude sickness “Soroche”
Soroche is a common problem that some of the travelers are afraid of when trekking Huayhuash and other Andean trails. Soroche is caused by exposure to low pressure oxygen at high altitude which can result in headaches, stomach illness, fatigue or to a more serious degree- fluid accumulation in the lungs or cerebral edema which could be very dangerous. However, don’t be afraid of this because it can be combated just by doing the basics: Drinking plenty of water! Make sure you are hydrated properly and you will be alright. You must take it easy and ascend slowly so you can get acclimatize properly. Another good option is to chew coca leaves. Coca leaves are easily obtainable, and are considered by many as the best way to combat potential altitude sickness. A pharmaceutical option is the drug Acetazolamide sold under the trade name Diamox, which works as an effective altitude sickness preventative.
During the trek…
In the highlands temperatures have accentuated variations between day and night with sudden temperature falls after sunset. Expect to have sunny days with temperatures between 15°C to 20°C (59°F to 68°F) and cold nights with less than 0°C (32°F), reaching -5°C (29°F) at some campsites. During the dry season or also called Andean Summer (May to September) the weather should be stable and with no precipitations however in the mountains weather can change quickly so it is a good recommendation to have some rain jackets. Talking about clothing, wearing multiple layers of clothing will enable you to strip down easily when it gets warm or add an additional layer when it gets cold or windy. The outer layer should be water and wind proof and the insider layers should be of fleece and polypropylene material which allow you to keep dry and warm.
Guides and support staff
For your Huayhuash trek you will have a professional bilingual guide. Muleteers will help you with the backpacks and all camping equipment.
You will be served 3 square meals a day plus some snacks to eat during the day however it’s always a good idea to have some energy bars. Our chefs are authorized by the Huascaran National Park and have cooking lessons at “Casa de Guias Huaraz”. They will prepare the most delicious Peruvian and international dishes.
You will need to bring a flask or a bottle of water so we can supply you with filtered boiled water every day along the trek. Our campsites are always near a good source of washing and drinking water however it is essential to boiled it before drinking it in order to prevent any problem.
Toilet and washing facilities
Stand–up bathrooms will be find during all campsites along the trail. Huayhuash is also referred by tourists as “Why Wash?” as there are no bathroom facilities throughout the entire length of the trek, thus you won´t be able to wash yourself for at least 8 days. Take in mind that you will be able to wash yourself in the rivers and in Viconga hot springs in the middle of the trek. However if you are looking for more comfort we can include a shower tent so you can wash yourself with hot water as at home.
Peruvian Soul gives all their clients a personal four seasons mountain tent for sleeping and also a kitchen tent where clients will have their meals and can protect themselves from the weather. All the camping equipment will be transport by the muleteer and his mules and in most of the times they will be ready by the time you arrived to the campsites.