Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Huaraz and the Cordillera Blanca

After leaving the jungle (reluctantly...did you see those monkeys?!?), we had just over five more days to fill with Peruvian adventures before heading home. We decided to head north to the Cordillera Blanca for one last backpacking trek. A winding overnight bus from Lima landed us in Huaraz, a small town at 10,000 feet surrounded by astonishing white peaks. It's known as a trekker and alpine climber's paradise, but the tourist presence was pretty minimal.

We settled on the Santa Cruz Circuit, a ~47 km loop that includes a 15,584 foot pass. Much of the hike was through huge u-shaped valleys with massive glaciated mountains above us.

Now, just as Torres had mice problems, Santa Cruz had cow problems. Throughout the entire hike, there were cows, horses, and donkeys everywhere, riddling the ground with their poop and muddy hoofprints. The cows were very curious/hungry and would come within feet of our tent!

We went 4 for 4 for rainy nights, including one night of sleet. Luckily, we were mega-prepared (minus a leaky rental tent). The first morning, however, was sunny and beautiful. We even went for a swim in the glacial stream!

We hiked across a massive landslide that may have drained a lake that appeared on our map but did not actually exist.

Hiking uphill at altitude is somewhat hilarious. We shuffled along and took lots of breaks. It's incredibly difficult to catch your breath. The top of the pass was pretty cloudy, but nonetheless satisfying.

Check out those sweet rain pants

Although there are some official camping areas, you could camp anywhere. Mike had the great idea to climb up a little waterfall to a secret lake. When we woke up, we were rewarded with this:

See our little tent??
Later that day we arrived in a small town full of farm animals like this little guy:

They don't care about us at all
We hitched a ride over the last pass on top of a truck full of corn. In the rain. Two hours later the truck broke down at the top. So we walked in the dark down the crazy switchbacks to our final campsite. Phew! 

 On our final day we saw some brilliant blue glacial lakes cowering under Peru's tallest mountain: Huascaran.

Back in Huaraz, we had one last meal, one last Pisco Sour, one last longgggggg bus ride, and our South American adventures were drawn to a close...

But as our chipper French waitress told us last night, "one ending is just another beginning."


  1. The world needs pictures of Mike's beard!

  2. Fantastic saga, guys! Amazing!

  3. So much fun! And now out to the Wild Wild West. I'm supposed to be doing laundry and paying bills -- this is SO much more fun. Thank you!!