Trek Peru’s Ausangate Circuit and Rainbow Mountain


Global Adventure - Trek Peru’s Ausangate Circuit and Rainbow Mountain

Trek for 9 days where few travel other than soaring condors and the elusive vicuña, through the remote, stunning high-altitude landscapes of Peru’s ‘Sacred Mountain’ of Ausangate. Our itinerary includes custom side trips to the ancient pilgrimage site of Qoyllur Rit’i and the Vinacunca ‘Rainbow Mountain’, and four days to acclimatize and explore around the colorful historic Andean city of Cusco before we set out. We’ll be accompanied by experienced local guides, and will camp each night with a support crew carrying our overnight gear and providing tasty meals, so that you only need to carry a daypack. NOTE: The Member Fee shown is for the 50% deposit only. The balance will be requested in approx March of 2020.

COVID-19: Learn about our most up-to-date guidance for participants and leaders on our COVID-19 Response page. All participants and leaders must agree to the COVID-19 Code of Conduct before participating in this Mountaineers activity.
  • Strenuous/Very Strenuous
  • Challenging
  • Mileage: 59.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 16,130 ft
  • High Point Elevation: 17,060 ft
  • Pace: 1.5 mph

We will gather at our comfortable hotel in Cusco, Peru (convenient connections through Lima, Peru) on Sunday May 31, 2020 and spend the next 3 days acclimatizing and exploring the area, before transferring 3.5 hours southeast in private vans to the starting point of our Ausangate trek, Tinqui at 13,123’.  After our trek we will transfer back to Cusco for one last night (on Friday June 12, 2020) and participants can fly out on Saturday June 13, 2020 or schedule other explorations to the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, the Peruvian rain forest or other parts of Latin America. 

Itinerary Highlights:    This supported trek will take participants into the remote, stunning landscapes of Peru’s ‘Sacred Mountain’ of Ausangate, including custom side trips to the pilgrimage site of Qoyllur Rit’I and the Vilcanota ‘Rainbow Mountain’ (not normally included with commercially available Ausangate circuit treks), with the colorful historic Inca capital city of Cusco as our gateway.  Don't let just my words convince you that this trek is not to be missed - watch this 4 minute video and you'll be wanting to pack your bags tomorrow!  

After resting and enjoying Cusco on our own on our arrival day, we'll start with three days of acclimatization day-walks up to 13,500’ from our hotel in Cusco, including a walk past the four famed Inca Ruins of Tambomachay, Puca Pucara, Q'enqo and Sacsayhuaman just above the city; one to the Chacan cave (called the Temple of the Rainbow because of the small waterfall inside the cave that reflects rainbow rings off the sun’s rays), and the Temple of the Moon, a natural rock structure with a man-made altar on which the full moon shines at certain times of year;  and a third to Huchuy Qosqo (Small Cusco), ruins that are believed to have been abandoned by the time the Spanish arrived in Peru and which offer spectacular views of the Sacred valley.

Then we’ll transfer 3.5 hours in private vans to the starting point of our Ausangate trek, Tinqui at 13,123’, with one more acclimatization dayhike along the way, up to amazing views high on the peak of Pachatusan.  We’ll spend two nights at Tinqui camp, including a side trip to the sacred pre-historic shrine of Qoyllur Rit’I at 15,091’, returning to Tinqui for the night. Then we’ll set off for 7 more days of trekking around the sacred mountain of Ausangate. Partway around the circuit, we’ll take an extra day from the same camp to visit the Vilcanota ‘Rainbow Mountain’ with its stunning ribbons of color.  We’ll end the trek with a night at the natural hot springs at Pacchanta before driving back to Cusco for one more night.  See an approximation of our route on GaiaGPS  here.

This is a high-altitude trek that remains above 13,000’ for 8 nights and crosses 3 passes over 16,000’ (highest at 17,060’ on the 5th day out from Tinqui).  Trekking days have been kept mostly modest, under 8-hour days (shorter days when we have more altitude to gain during the day).

The group will be supported by Apus Peru, a local operator with a great reputation and years of experience leading this and many other treks in the Cusco area.  Depending on the size of the group (min 8, max 12), we may have 1-3 guides, as well as porters and donkey drivers to carry our overnight gear, food and dining-cooking equipment.  We will be carrying daypacks and camping every night.  You will truly enjoy our trekking crew arriving at your tent door at dawn with hot wash water and hot tea, coffee or hot chocolate!

Assistance can also be provided with booking of a private six-day Machu Picchu-Sacred Valley cultural tour after the main trek, with guides, Vistadome train transport and stays in nice hotels in Cusco, Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes provided by Apus Peru.  Contact the trip leader if you'd like more details!

Time of Year:   The trip dates in early June are in the heart of the driest season in the Peruvian Andes, though it is also moving into the coldest season.

Lodging:   In Cusco we will stay in a lovely boutique hotel within convenient walking distance of sightseeing around the town.  On the trek we will be camping, with tents, cooking and food taken care of by our support crew (you will bring cold-weather clothing and sleeping bag).

Food:   We’ll enjoy wonderful local cuisine around Cusco and three tasty filling meals each day on the trek (including hot breakfast and dinner).  Vegetarian diets can be easily accommodated but other dietary preferences may be considerably more difficult during the trek.

Leader’s Experience:   Cheryl Talbert has led many Mountaineers hikes and several Mountaineers and private backpacks, treks and cultural trips around the U.S. west and worldwide, including successful high altitude treks in Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim and three previous high-altitude treks in Peru.

Trip Rating:   This itinerary is rated very strenuous, because of the remoteness, cold and high altitude.

Participant Requirements:   Must be a current Mountaineers member with an up-to-date waiver on file. While the route is well graded and marked, this is a very challenging trek that includes very cold temperatures and exposure to high altitude for several days.  In addition, the route is very remote, so although we will have multiple exit options during the route, exit (by horse) to a road and back to a medical facility will be difficult and slow.   Therefore, participants must be experienced with strenuous mountain trekking and have the gear and experience to pack properly for very cold mountain conditions, as well as the maturity and judgment to recognize and be forthright about illness or injury symptoms before they become significant problems.  The Mountaineers require that anyone participating in a high altitude trek must participate in a training class on safe travel at altitude and on safe decisionmaking in outdoor adventure (both classes will be organized for the whole group well in advance of the trip).  Medical history will be requested from all applicants and anyone who has a history of altitude illness or other medical conditions potentially exacerbated by cold or high altitude may not be approved to participate in the trip or may require a doctor’s written approval.  Each participant will be required to hold international medical treatment insurance as well as emergency evacuation insurance sufficient to get them home in case of an emergency medical issue during the trek.

Participants will be encouraged to take Diamox (with the approval of their doctor) to reduce the likelihood of serious altitude illness.  Participants will also be expected to demonstrate a positive attitude and the ability to get along well with groups for extended periods under demanding conditions with few amenities (such as showers and laundry) for multiple days at a time.   NOTE:  Your leader makes most of the arrangements and provides logistics support during the trip, but is NOT a tour guide!  As a Mountaineers group we will operate as interdependent, capable travelers making our way together and helping one another succeed and be safe. 

Trip Price Detail:   $2700 including all lodging, transportation, guide and most meals.  Your airfare (~$1700), travel insurance ($75-350), tips (~$100-150 per person) and a few meals in town (<$100) are not included. 

Registration Instructions:   First please submit the application form which will automatically be sent to the leader.   After the leader’s approval, go to the trip listing and click the REGISTER button to pay the 50% deposit and hold your space on the roster. Registration will close on January 1, 2020 or whenever the roster fills. A place on the roster can only be held with payment of the deposit.   As soon as you are registered, please complete the trip agreement and release form.  The final payment due date will be announced by the leader as the outfitter’s payment schedule is finalized.

application     trip agreement     release

Cancellation Policy:  If you cancel because of an emergency, you may receive a refund less expenses incurred and a $100 administrative fee.


Trek Peru’s Ausangate Circuit and Rainbow Mountain

Required Equipment

Required Equipment

After receiving your deposit, the leader will send out a series of letters or emails providing information to help participants succeed on the trip, including recommended and required gear, recommended maps and guidebooks.


Trip Reports