Trek Peru's Cordillera Huayhuash

The Cordillera Huayhuash is a compact range of 20,000+ snowcapped peaks studded with aquamarine lakes in the northern Andes mountains of Peru, and the 80-mile circuit around the range is 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. Backpack the circuit on your own, or hire an outfitter out of Huaraz to support you with transport, food, and donkeys to carry your gear so that you only need to carry a daypack. Moderate distances and elevation gains between camps can be arranged (you need to take at least 11-13 days to complete the entire circuit safely), but be aware that this is a high altitude circuit, with most of the route above 13,000 feet with passes that approach 17,000', and exit to medical facilities is very difficult.

The Cordillera Huayhuash is a mountain range in Peru part of the larger Andes range, measuring just 18.5 miles long by 9.3 miles wide.  Within the range there are seven peaks that rise higher than 19000 feet in elevation and more than 40 mountains above 13000.    The range is also studded with several gorgeous alpine lakes as well as glaciers, river valleys and high passes, as well as rock-built summer shelters and corrals of the local sheep herding families.  Midway through the trek you can go to a viewpoint where you can look 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”. 

The 80-mile Cordillera Huayhuash circuit trek  goes nearly all the way around this massif, with camps at lakes and under dramatic peaks.  It's possible to backpack the circuit on your own, or to hire an outfitter out of Huaraz to support you with all the logistics arrangements, gear and food around the loop.   Be aware that all the camps are run by the local communities and they charge a fee to stay.  Huayhuash Route Map.jpg

However, this loop is not for the logistically challenged, the faint of heart, or the altitude-sensitive trekker.  Most of the circuit is above 13,000 feet with passes that approach 17,000, and exit is exceedingly difficult with at least 3 hour walks to trailhead roads and, from there, a 9 hour drive or more to good medical facilities.  Without good acclimatization before the start of the trip and a conservative daily trekking plan (no more than 1500' gain in sleeping altitude per day), you run a high risk of serious altitude illness and it is exceedingly difficult to exit to medical care (no helicopter rescue is available).

GETTING THERE

Almost all flights to Perú arrive at Jorge Chavez International Airport, which is located on the coast in the city of Lima. From Lima you have the option of traveling to the Cordillera Huayhuash by land or by a combination of air and land.

By land

The most popular route is to take one of the many daily interprovincial buses from Lima to the city of Huaraz , which is an eight-hour journey of about 250 miles. From Huaraz you may arrange for a private vehicle to bring you directly to the first campsite, Quartelwain (a trip of about 95 miles), or you can take the public bus directly from Huaraz to the village of Llámac (~85 miles). The public bus takes about five hours, departing every day at 5:00 a.m., and arrives in Llamac at around 10:30 a.m.   From Llamac, to get to the start of the trek at Quartelhuain you must walk a few hours on a dusty dirt roadl

BY AIR AND LAND

Flight service from Lima to Huaraz is an on-again-off-again affair, but as of 2024 it was ON with LATAM airlines offering once-caily service from Lima to the Huaraz Anta airport.  From Huaraz you must follow the land directions in the previous paragraph.

  • Suitable Activities: Backpacking, Global Adventures
  • Seasons: Year-round, May, June, July, August
  • Weather: View weather forecast
  • Difficulty: Strenuous/Very Strenuous
  • Length: 80.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 10,500 ft
  • 16,500 ft
  • Land Manager: Land Manager Varies
  • Parking Permit Required: see Land Manager
  • Recommended Party Size: 12
  • Maximum Party Size: 12
  • Maximum Route/Place Capacity: 12
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