Cordillera Blanca Mountain Range Huaraz, Peru
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When I envisioned Huaraz I was picturing a quite mountain town with gingerbread houses, but who was I kidding this isn't Europe, America, or even the richer south American countries of chile and Argentina which have these ideal mountain towns this is Peru where concrete block buildings are king and while Huaraz is a pleasant safe town beautiful is not a word that comes to mind what draws people to Huaraz is whats in the foreground the Cordillera Blanca (worlds highest tropical mountain range). My first three days in Huaraz are spent bouldering, climbing, acclimatizing, and gathering gear and supply to begin a five day trek in the Cordillera Blanca-Parque Huascaran specifically the Santa Cruz/Alpamayo trek.
My trek starts in the valley of Cashpapa surround by high mountains ranging from 16000 ft (4900m) to 20000ft (6200m) you can't help feel like a ant in this world staring with mountain towering 16000ft+ above your head. My body can definitely tell where not in Kansas as the higher altitude make my head feel a bit lighter and my breathing becomes harder with the trek starting at 111000ft (3400 m) and camp the first night was 12500ft (3800meters) you start with a bang. My third day after a high mountain pass I arrive at Alpamayo base camp elevation 15000ft (4500 m) this is where my body revolts on me and I come down with a mild case of altitude sickness my arms and legs feel tingly, headache, rapid heart beat and loss of appetite. I decide its best to drop a bit of elevation and camp at Taullipama at 14000ft (4200m) this does seem to help with the headaches, but I still have a tingle sensations along with light headiness. The next day I huff and puff my way up to Puta Union pass at elevation of 15500ft (4760 meter) the views of the glaciers and high mountain lakes are stunning after enjoying the views I drop 3000ft (900m) in less than 3hours talk about a knee buster and come to Paia camp. By this time I feel much better either my body adjusting to the altitude or the fact I dropped 3000ft in elevation to 12000ft. One thing that I wish I would have hired is a donkey its much easier for a donkey to carry all your gear then you being the donkey so at $10 per day for a donkey with driver this could be in the works for future treks in south america.
After packing my gear and getting ready for the last day of hiking to the nearest town I am approached by a group of Israels asking if I could escort there friend you had come down with attitude sickness and was puking the whole night to the nearest town. I agreed to help this damsel in distress and although she was ill and stressed I give her credit for not only walking, but at a good pace I only had to help her out a couple times with drinking water and encouragement. As I got her to town of Vasqueria this prince only received a peck on the cheek rather than a lasting kiss I guess this is a good thing as a girl puking all night without brushing her teeth is never a pleasant kiss. Rather than taking a bus back to Huaraz I jump in a vegetable truck with one of my German hiking partners to enjoy the magical views along the way although it took twice as long as a regular bus the experience and the views were worth every $2 spent.
Acute Mountain sickness is a true problem in elevations above 8000ft (2400m) especially in the high mountain of Peru where the towns start at 10000ft (3100) not to mention the hikes in theCordillera Blanca start anywhere from 11-12000+ ft numerous of people have died in Cordillera Blanca region due to AMS and lack of supportive rescue services in the remote region if your three days from town and can't get to a lower elevation you can't always expect your body to automatically adjust especially if your brain has swelled or you have water in your lungs. So make sure you acclimatized before you hike, recognize symptoms of AMS, and get to lower elevation or seek medical treatment.
After saying this about acute mountain sickness, having a mild case my self I wanted to do some ice climbing and I figure what better way than to combine my love of the mountains, snow, and ice by scaling one of these mountain monsters so at 19000ft (5786 meters) I decide that I will attempt a submit bid of Vallunaraju wish me luck.
Side note one thing that cracks me up is the signs in foreign countries stuff that would never fly back in the states take a sign I saw the other day promoting a chicken sandwich the sign showing a baby chic in between a sesame bun. Good luck getting away with that in Europe or USA there would be public outcry and PETA would be in your face.
Huaraz: Can be reach by bus from Trujillo or Lima 8hours ($12). I stayed at Monkey Wasi hostel ($8) great owner Gustavo and atmosphere. It has a bouldering wall to practice climbing before you venture out.
Climbing: Hatunmachay is a great place to sport climb with over 100+ routes 1 ½ hours out of Huaraz Andean Kingdom can help arrange transportation ($10) there is a Refugio that you can stay at for ($10 per night) or you can tent camp. Gear can be rented in town $5 shoes/harness.
Hiking/Trekking: There are plenty of treks in the area from day hikes to 12 day treks I did a combination of Santa Cruz/Alpamayo trek I rented my gear in town and bought food in total it was ($40 to rent gear and buy food) to enter the park it cost $20 this pass is good for a month so don't lose it. There are numerous companies in towns that provide treks expect to pay between $30-40 per day make sure that the trip includes all your gear, food, transportation, meals, donkeys, and guide.
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