Global Adventure - Trek Peru's Cordillera Huayhuash

Trip

Global Adventure - Trek Peru's Cordillera Huayhuash

Trek for 11 days (plus two driving days and three days of acclimatization hikes out of Huaraz) along 88 miles of remote trails and over wild high passes circling the Cordillera Huayhuash, a compact range of 20,000+ foot high snowcapped peaks studded with aquamarine lakes in the northern Andes mountains of Peru – often called one of the top 10 mountain treks in the world! The stunning scenery is a backdrop for a local culture of colorful people and rock corrals for sheep in summer pasture. We’ll camp every night under the looming peaks, and enjoy wonderful meals, supported throughout by professional drivers, laden (adorable) donkeys, and support staff as well as knowledgeable local guides, so we only need to carry daypacks. Midway through the trek we’ll hike to a viewpoint over Siula Grande basecamp, the place where Joe Simpson crawled after having been left for dead in a deep crevasse – the story told in the book and movie “Touching the Void”. Trekking days are moderate, ranging from the easiest day at 4 miles and 1176 feet of gain to the hardest day at 9.9 miles and 2460 feet of gain, but trails can be steep with sometimes unstable scree, and daily altitudes reach to nearly 17,000 feet, so participants will need to demonstrate strong recent trekking or backpacking experience, recent success and confidence traversing similarly rugged steep terrain, and good tolerance for cold, rough conditions, and no past significant altitude illness. A doctor’s permission may be required, especially for people with certain medical conditions. The route is very remote so exit would be slow and difficult. NOTE: The $2200 member fee shown is only for the 50% deposit; the remaining 50% will be paid the following spring.

  • Wed, May 21, 2025 — Fri, Jun 6, 2025
  • Global Adventures Committee
  • Backpacking, Global Adventures
  • Adults
  • Strenuous
  • Challenging
  • Mileage: 88.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 12,679 ft
  • High Point Elevation: 16,433 ft
  • Pace: 2-2.5 mph

Arrange to arrive in Huaraz Peru on the once-daily flight on the morning of 21 May 2025 (this is the first official day of the trip).   Flights go through Lima Peru, and it is recommended that you spend two nights and a full day in Lima, to take a city tour and for lost bags to find you – this would mean departing Seattle on 19 May arriving in Lima on 20 May – but expenses in Lima are on our own so this is up to you (as long as you book the flight to Huaraz on 21 May).  

After our morning flight to Huaraz on 21 May, we’ll spend that night and the next 3 nights in Huaraz, going out each day for an acclimatization hike to higher altitudes, before leaving to drive south to the start of our trek.   

The trek will end on Thursday June 5, 2025, we’ll drive back to Huaraz the next day, and participants will be free to depart on flights from Huaraz to Lima first thing in the morning on Saturday, June 7, 2025 (with flights getting back to Seattle from Lima no earlier than Sunday June 8).

Itinerary Highlights:   

This supported trek will take participants on foot on a 88-mile trek through the remote, stunning, high-altitude landscapes of the Cordillera Huayhuash in the northern Peruvian Andes (your leader's all-time favorite trek!).  We’ll be fully supported with an expert English-speaking local guide, transportation, food, and nights at supported camps with donkeys moving our gear each day.  This is a very remote route – an emergency exit would require a full day with hours on an emergency horse and driving on rough roads. 

After arriving in Huaraz Peru (10,013’ altitude) first thing on 21 May (via Lima – stopover encouraged, cost not included), meeting our guides and transferring to the Morales family hotel in Huaraz, we’ll rest, explore the town and adapt to the altitude that day, and have a welcome dinner, then start our adventure the next day with the first of three partial-day acclimatization hikes in the local area to 11,500’, 13,800’ and 14,600’.  On those afternoons we’ll be free to explore Huaraz and purchase any gear and snacks we want for the trail, and dinners will be on our own (breakfasts and lunches are included on those days). 

On Sunday May 25, we’ll set out driving 3.5-hours to the small but lovely village of Llamac, the gateway for our trek, far down a precipitous winding dirt road with the Huayhuash peaks growing in the distance.  We’ll have lunch while our camp is set up, and explore the area before spending the night there.  The next day we’ll head down the road a short way to the trailhead for another acclimatization hike, this one to Rondoy pass at 15,509’ and a sneak preview of the lakes we’ll camp at on our second-to-last night!  We’ll end that hike at Quartelhuain camp at 13,665’, the traditional starting point of the Huayhuash circuit (this day is counted as day one of the trek).  

Over the next 10 days we’ll circle the massif, including two days from the same camp to hike to amazing viewpoints.   Along the way we’ll walk 4 to 11.8 miles (average 7), pass multiple high lakes (we’ll camp beside 4 of them) and cross multiple high passes between 14,700 and 16,600 feet altitude.Huayhuash Route Map.jpgThe group will be supported by Peruvian Andes Adventures, a local Huaraz-based family company run by the Morales Family who were among the pioneers of organizing climbing and trekking expeditions in the Cordilleras Blanca and Huayhuash when foreign climbers and explorers first starting arriving in the area in the early 60’s.  (The family supported the crew that filmed Touching the Void!)   There will be one English-speaking professional guide and assistant guide accompanying our group through the entire trip, and depending on the size of the group we will have 2-4 cooking/camp staff and 4-5 donkey drivers to tend the animals that will carry our overnight gear, food and dining-cooking equipment, and to assist the guide with any necessary evacuations.  At our request, the staff will have two emergency horses and will carry supplemental oxygen.  On the one trekking day that horses can’t take the same route, the staff will carry a stretcher.  We will be carrying daypacks and camping every night.  Our camps will consist of roomy, sturdy 2-person tents (two of us will share each tent), a dining tent, a cooking tent, and a toilet tent. 

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Special Risk Factors:  This adventure has some elevated risk factors that participants must be aware of and accept when they register for this trip.  In particular, the route spends most of its time at altitudes over 13,000’ so altitude illness is a real risk.  In addition to building in four days of acclimatization hikes before starting the actual trek, we will require that each participant go through some advance training including a quiz for understanding.  We will also recommend that you ask your doctor for specific medications for prevention and treatment of altitude illness, and your health requires that you actively monitor yourself and communicate ANY symptoms to the leader that could indicate altitude illness (at these altitudes people can perish in a short time from undiagnosed severe altitude illness).   NOTE:  If you are in good condition with no pulmonary, circulatory or other risk factors (see this article for a list!) but have never been to altitude, the risk of contracting severe altitude illness is low and you won't be denied a spot on the trip as long as all the other qualifications are in order.  However, past severe altitude illness is a good indicator that  you will have such issues in the future and it is essential that you communicate that history to the leader iof you decide to apply!

In addition to the altitude, because of near-constant proximity to grazing animals and poor water quality even in town, most people get a trace of GI illness in Peru.  To avoid serious illness, participants MUST be extremely diligent about hand hygiene, use of purified, bottled or boiled water (even for tooth-brushing at our hotel) and in-town food choices (no salads, ice in your drinks, fresh juices, or unpeeled fruits or veggies), and our camp staff will provide wash water and soap and will be very careful to boil our drinking water and wash any fresh food with purified water. 

Finally, participants must be aware that this route is extremely remote so any evacuation could take 1-2 days, with long hours on a horse and then as many as 9 hours drive to a hospital.  To reduce the chance of exhaustion and associated injuries, we will have some short days and two ‘zero days’ where you can do a dayhike or relax at camp.

Time of Year:   The best window for trekking in the Huayhuash is early winter (the dry season), late May through June and into July.  The summer rains have finished but snow hasn’t yet closed the passes.  Still, it can rain for days in this country and can be very cold, so we will need to be prepared with the right clothing and positive attitude!

Lodging:    In Huaraz we will stay in the Morales family’s comfortable 3-star guesthouse, private rooms with ensuite bath, twin-share basis.  All along the trek we’ll sleep in wild camps in 3-person tents shared between two people.  Roomates/tent-mates will be assigned through the trip to help the group get acquainted and to avoid anyone feeling left out (from people just picking their friends), and we will rotate to different roommates/tent-mates every few days.

Luggage:  All food and cooking gear for the group as well as our overnight gear will be carried by (adorable!) donkeys. Donkeys will carry 15 kg max of your personal gear (including overnight warm clothing, sleeping bag and sleeping pad) in a soft-sided duffel that you will supply, and any gear you aren’t using on the trek will be stored safely at our Huaraz hotel.  You’ll need a daypack to carry your bottled water, ten essentials, cameras and your own first aid kit.

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Food:   We’ll enjoy wonderful breakfasts, lunches and dinners all around the trek, prepared by the camp staff (all included) and served in a cozy dining tent.  There will be an opportunity to try out different local restaurants in Huaraz, with one welcome dinner and one farewell dinner provided and two dinners before the trek on our own.   Lunches on our Huaraz arrival day and on the next two days of acclimatization hikes will be provided.  Vegetarian and gluten-free diets can be accommodated but the variety won’t necessarily be great; other special diets will need to be discussed in advance and may not be able to be accommodated since all of our trekking food needs to be carried and prepared by field crews on donkeys all the way around the trek.

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Leaders' Experience:   Primary leader Cheryl Talbert has led many Mountaineers hikes and several Mountaineers and private backpacks, treks and cultural trips around the U.S. west and worldwide, as well as 40 Global Adventures including successful high-altitude treks in Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim and four in Peru including the Huayhuash in 2016.   Co-leader Colin Chapman has led many backpacking trips and winter overnight snowshoe trips with the Mountaineers, including trips into areas – such as the Enchantments, Wyoming’s Wind River Range, and Torres del Paine’s O Circuit – with extensive off-trail travel or challenging terrain.  Colin has Wilderness First Responder certification, has led two successful Global Adventure trips in the past 12 months, is leading a Global Adventure trip in Switzerland's Jungfrau region in 2024, and has more trips in the planning stages for 2025 and 2026.

Strenuousness or Difficulty rating:   Though the daily routes are not very difficult, this itinerary is rated very strenuous because of the cold, high altitude and successive days of trekking and camping.

Party Size Limit:   Maximum of 14 and minimum of 10, including the leader and a co-leader.

Participant Requirements:    Must be a current Mountaineers member with an up-to-date waiver on file. This is a  challenging trek that includes some steep scree and narrow traverses with a long steep dropoff below, very cold temperatures and exposure to high altitude for several days.  The risk of altitude illness is mitigated through multiple acclimatization hikes, and days that only exceed 15,000 feet for a short time, returning lower to sleep, and also through medications and participant training (see below).  Though we will have multiple exit options during the route, exit (by horse – no helicopter evac is available) to a road and back to a medical facility will be difficult and time consuming, and rural medical facilities are limited and poor. Therefore, participants will be screened by way of a detailed application and follow-up discussions to demonstrate:

  • recent experience with strenuous mountain trekking and the gear and experience to pack properly for very cold mountain conditions.
  • if the leader hasn't personally trekked with you, you'll be asked to provide references who can speak to your confidence on rugged, moderately-exposed terrain and your ability to get along well as part of a mutually-supportive group.
  • no past HAPE or HACE on trips above 8000 feet altitude (chance of any random healthy person having severe altitude illness if they have never had bad symptoms before is low).
  • no medical conditions that could be exacerbated by severe cold, GI illness or altitude (people with some of these conditions that are well controlled may be allowed to participate with a doctor’s written approval – contact the leader before registering!). If you have any of the conditions laid out in this article, or if you have had HACE or HAPE on a previous high-altitude trip, the trip will be dangerous for you and you will not be approved to join.
  • the maturity and judgment to recognize and be forthright about illness or injury symptoms before they become significant problems (as evaluated based on application responses, conversations with past Mountaineers leaders and other respected colleagues, the leader’s past direct experience with the person, and the leader’s impression from in-depth conversations with the person). 
  • a positive attitude and the ability to get along well with groups for extended periods under demanding conditions with few amenities for multiple days at a time (evaluated through the same process as in the previous bullet).

The Mountaineers also require that anyone participating in a high-altitude trek must participate in training on safe travel at altitude and on safe decision making in outdoor adventure (The training will consist of a summary of the latest literature from the Wilderness Medical Society in altitude illness prevention, symptoms and treatment, and a quiz for comprehension.)  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 follow the guidelines of the Wilderness Medical Society including medications for prevention and treatment of severe altitude illness, in consultation with their doctor. 

Objectives, Expectations and Style:  Mountaineers groups can be very different from commercial groups because Mountaineers are expected to invest in getting to know and trust each other so that they can rely on each other to have their back in case of any challenge during the trip.   Trip pacing and itinerary decisions are made with an eye on each of us helping one another be safe and successful even if this means not every individual’s personal goals are met.   On an extended Mountaineers group trip, this interpersonal investment in mutual support and group relationships is particularly essential because many group members start out not knowing each other, but then then find themselves in close quarters for a week or more and sometimes called upon to give significant aid to another group member. 

Global Adventures leaders therefore not only need participants to be fit and medically capable, but also need to be sure that everyone’s trip objectives, expectations and trip style are aligned with the leader’s and with one another.  For this reason, we ask any applicant for the trip to read and agree to the leader’s Objectives, Expectations and Style for this trip, and proactively ask  any questions they have about what any item might mean.

Management of Covid and other Contagious Illness Risk:  All participants will be expected to be up to date on the latest vaccinations and boosters for Covid-19, and to take precautions before and during the trip including:

  • avoiding indoor crowds and gatherings the week prior to the trip that carry a risk of bringing Covid-19 or other significant contagious illnesses to the group
  • masking during all transport to Peru
  • carrying Covid self-tests and testing yourself proactively if you begin to experience any symptoms that could indicate a covid infection
  • masking and distancing in the case of any positive test or symptoms of any other significant contagious illness, at least until you have been fever-free without meds and free of contagious symptoms for 24 hours or more.

Trip Price Detail:    $4400 including all lodging, transportation, guides, support teams and most meals on the trek, all your breakfasts and two dinners in town. Your airfare (~$1500-1800), travel insurance ($75-350), tips (~$150-200 per person) and remaining meals in town (<$100) are not included.    NOTE:  If the trip fills to the total roster size of 10 participants with the two leaders, the final trip payment may be reduced by as much as $300.  If fewer than 8 participants register (which I consider unlikely), then the trip may have to be cancelled or postponed to 2026.

Registration Instructions:   First please submit the application form (see button below) 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.  As soon as you are registered, please complete the Trip Agreement and Release forms, also at buttons below.  (The Supplemental Information Form is to be completed a few weeks before our departure to update your medical conditions, dietary requirements and any other changes since you registered.)  Registration will close on December 1st 2024 or whenever the roster fills. A place on the roster can only be held with payment of the deposit.   The final payment due date will be announced by the leader as the outfitter’s payment schedule is finalized.

APPLICATION

TRIP AGREEMENT

RELEASE

SUPPLEMENTAL INFORMATION

Cancellation Policy:

If you cancel from the trip, you may receive a refund less any outfitter cancellation fees and a $100 Mountaineers admin fee – see the following cancellation schedule:

  • From the date of your deposit up to and including 60 days prior to trip departure, the cancellation penalty will be $800 plus any non-refundable hotel expense and the $100 Mountaineers cancellation fee
  • Between 30 and 59 days prior to the trip departure the cancellation penalty will be $1000 plus any non-refundable hotel expense and the $100 Mountaineers cancellation fee
  • Less than 30 days prior to trip departure there will be no refund

If a person registers and pays the deposit to take your place, the cancellation fees above will not apply except for the $100 Mountaineers admin fee.

Route/Place

Trek Peru's Cordillera Huayhuash


Roster
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.

 

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