Adventures In The Cordillera Blanca of Peru

Over the past two weeks, our South America program director, Gretchen, has been exploring the Ancash region of Peru. Read on to hear about wild treks, hidden glacial lakes, towering peaks and cozy mountain huts all found in the Cordillera Blanca!

Highlights:

  • Huaraz
  • Cordillera Blanca
  • Wilcacocha Lake
  • Rajucolta Lake
  • Llanganuco Lakes
  • Refugio Peru
  • Condor Pass
  • Laguna 69
  • Pisco Mountain
  • Yanapaccha Mountain
  • Lima
  • Miraflores
  • Barranco

DAY 1: 4×4’s in Sand Dunes, Caral Archeological Site, Huaraz

This morning we begin before sunrise at 4:30AM and take off in 4x4s to sand dunes outside of Lima. We arrive at “El Tubo” where the desert turns into a staggeringly steep funnel. Without second thought, our expert drivers whip us through these epic walls of sand to safety on the other side.

From here, we continue on to the 5000 years old (3000 BC), Caral Archeological site. Here we have a tour of the major pyramids lead by the head archeologist of the region.

From the desert, we head back towards the coast and pass endless passion fruit, pomegranate and watermelon plantations on the way. We finally arrive in Barracas, a small village on the sea, where we are served fresh seafood and several other local dishes.

Once we are are all full and sleepy, we board our bus to the mountain town of Huaraz. We overnight at the quaint Swiss-Peruvian hotel, Hotel Andino, which will become home base for the rest of my time in the Cordillera Blanca.

DAY 2: Acclimatization Hike by Wilcacocha Lake

Today we drive to Wilcacocha Lake (12,139 ft), have luxury picnic, and hike downhill for acclimatization. We return to the hotel for lunch and then have the rest of the afternoon free. A few of us decide to walk around town.

Huaraz is like a maze with lots of small hidden plazas with intimate, cozy bars and cafes. This evening we attend an excellent presentation on the Ancash region, Santa Cruz Trek and Huayhuash Trek and see where we will be exploring over the next days. The day ends with all of us having dinner in town.

DAY 3: Full Day Hike to the base of Huantsan Peak

Full day hike to Laguna Rajucolta at the base of the incredibly stunning and glaciated Huantsan Peak. The valley looks like Switzerland, lined with massive granite walls and dotted with happy cows munching on tall, wild grass. On the way back, we are surprised with a picnic lunch. At night we eat at a small restaurant off the main plaza in town.

DAY 4: Hike to Refugio Peru

This morning we wake up early and drive 2.5 hours to Cebollapampa. On the way, we pass through an epic canyon of granite walls and the two electric turquoise lakes of Llanganuco. Local lore says the lakes are the tears of the male and female mountains on either side who were forbidden to be together. Upon arrival at Cebollapampa, we are treated to a beautiful picnic breakfast.

We then set out up into the mountains on the Pisco Mountain climbers’ trail towards Refugio Peru. The trek is sunny and all around us are staggering, glaciated peaks many of them  jutting up over 6000 meters.

We arrive at the Refugio and are stunned. It’s a picturesque oasis at the base of Pisco Mountain and several other massive mountains- we feel like kings when we discover that we have the whole place to ourselves! We enjoy lunch in the cozy dining area and then scamper further up the morraine to get an even better view of Pisco.

In the evening we are treated to 360 degrees of mountainous splendor lit up by the magical alpine glow. We watch in awe as the sky turns from orange to peach to pink to finally an opaque grey. Then the real show begins as Venus rises and the Milky Way marches across the sky. Back inside, we enjoy hot showers and have a delicious dinner before curling up into our cozy bunks for the night.

DAY 5: Lakes Hike to Condor Pass, back to Huaraz

This morning we are saluted by the ring of peaks that protect this otherworldly mountain paradise. We pass through Pisco’s moraine, where half frozen steely green lakes reflect the massive Huascaran mountain peaks, and finally reach Condor Pass at 5000m.

From there we descend towards Laguna 69, a lake the brightest color blue any of us has ever seen. Above the lake towers yet another 6000m peak and a skinny and powerful waterfall cascades down into the electric blue water below. Four other incredible blue, green and turquoise lakes sit above the laguna  as well. We are in total awe.

After dipping our feet in the refreshing pool, we continue our descent back down to Cebollapampa for an exquisite picnic lunch waiting for us. Finally we drive the 2.5 hours back to Huaraz where we get ready to return to Lima after our final dinner in the Cordillera Blanca. Later at night, our bus meets us at our hotel and we drive back to Lima.

DAY 6: Cooking Class, Bike Tour, Larco Museum

We arrive very early in the morning in Lima and immediately check into our hotel, Hotel Atton, in San Isidro and sleep in until lunch time.

When we wake up we head to the Sky Kitchens where we are taught in a colorful, inviting environment about local dishes. Here we learn how to make the famous pisco sour, ceviche (fish and mushroom for the vegetarians), Lomo Saltado (beef and veggie for the vegetarians), and picarones (fried anise doughnuts) with a molasses sauce for dessert.

After lunch, we split in two groups to do a walking or bike tour of Lima’s most iconic areas. I am on the bike tour. We start on the Malecón overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the upscale Miraflores neighborhood and follow it to the bohemian neighborhood of Barranco. We end the tour back in Miraflores where we board our bus to quickly head back to the hotel, change our clothes and continue on to the gorgeous Larco Museum.

At the Larco Museum, we have a private tour that covers the common symbology and beliefs reflected in the art of various  Peruvian cultures. Finally we settle down for dinner in the museum’s restaurant- located along side a verdant patio lit by soft candle lanterns and lined with bushes bursting with red and pink flowers in full bloom.

DAY 7: Free Day in Lima with Music/Dancing/Dinner Performance

Today we have a free day in Lima. In the evening, we head to the Barranco neighborhood where we have a lively cocktail hour at Amoramar with live music and local dancers performing, followed by an incredible dinner. The night ends at the infamous Ayahausca Bar, celebrated for its creative pisco drinks.

DAY 8: Transfer to Huaraz

Today our group departs and I board a bus back to Huaraz. I arrive late in the evening and overnight back at Hotel Andino.

DAY 9: Free Day in Huaraz

This morning I meet with my mountain guide, Agripino, about the coming days in the high mountains. I spend the afternoon exploring town, going for a run and packing for the next days. I eat dinner in town at a local brewery and then head back for an early night at Hotel Andino.

DAY 10: Acclimatization Hike to Lake Chulup

After a quick breakfast, I am met by my guide and we drive up to the Lake Chulup trail head. After a steep 3 mile hike we arrive at the secluded glacial lake. Here, we enjoy a snack while taking in the views and then continue up to a vista point before heading back down. I have a leisurely afternoon in Huaraz and then enjoy a healthy dinner at the Hotel Andino.

DAY 11: Hike to Refugio Peru

We depart the hotel at 6AM today and return to Cebollapampa where we hike up again to Refugio Peru. However, this time, we camp in the grassy valley.

Day 12: SUMMIT DAY!

Today we have a 1AM start and work our way up through the Pisco morraine, to the toe of the glacier. Here, we don our crampons and suit up to make our go at the summit. We pass through crevasse fields that could swallow semi-trucks, brush through passing clouds and finally reach our objective at dawn (5752m/18871 ft). With the sun splashing the surrounding 6000m peaks and seemingly minuscule turquoise lakes below, our breaths are taken away. We take in one last look at the glory of the Cordillera Blanca and return to camp by 10:45am. We remain here for the rest of the day and camp under an epic blanket of stars once again.

DAY 13: Hike to Yanapaccha

At 7AM we start our hike down to Cebollapampa from Refugio Peru and then continue up the path towards Laguna 69. Half way to the laguna, we cut off of the path and head up towards Yanapaccha base camp. Hidden in a rocky basin adjacent to the glacier, we set up our tents at Yanapaccha base camp.

DAY 14: Hike to Llanganuco Lagunas, back to Huaraz

Unfortunately, overnight the clouds roll in and snow starts to fall. A couple near by avalanches signal to us that Yanapaccha Peak will have to wait for another day. We sleep in until 7AM and then traverse to the Llanganuco Lagunas vista point and then on to a high mountain road where our car meets us at 9AM to head back to Huaraz.

Arriving at Hotel Andino, I have time to shower and rest before meeting my guide for a final dinner in Huaraz at Creperie Patrick, a wonderful French-Peruvian bistro in the heart of the city center (I highly recommend the house drink specialty: Coca Sour!). This evening I have to say good-bye to the Cordillera Blanca and board my bus back to Lima for my flight home.

Want to book your next adventure to the Cordillera Blanca? Contact us!

Also check out these itineraries for more inspiration:

Your friendly Peru expert,

Gretchen

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