The beautiful Cordilla Blanca
Trip Start Aug 25, 2010
65Trip End Ongoing
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The hostel was apparently only a short walk, so we pulled on our backpacks and headed off, however, what the owner of the hostel had forgot to mention was that the last part of the walk was up a very steep hill and as Huaraz sits at a dizzying altitude of 3,100 metres, we were all gasping for breath by the time we reached the hostel.
The guy showed us to our rooms and even though we were toldthat our room would have a bathroom we ended up in a room with a multigym and a double bed in the centre of the room with no space around it, so to get to the window you had to climb across the bed
Huaraz itself, is quite a small village, but its main draw is the stunning mountain scenery surrounding it. On one side is the Cordilla Negro and on the other, the stunning Cordilla Blanca. The Cordilla Blanca is one of the premium hiking spots on the continent and is the highest mountain range in the world outside the Himalayas, with 22 summits over 6,000 metres.
We had read in the book that there was a beautiful 4 day trek you could do which traverses a number of the mountains in the range and some of the striking blue lagoons. Therefore on the first day we spent time speaking to a number of the tour companies about the trek, but you need a few days to acclimatize due to the altitude, particularly as on the second day of the trek you go over a pass at 4,750 metres. So we decided to think about our options and stopped off to eat at Cafe Andino, which is a funky little cafe with some tasty burritos!
In the evening while we were playing some games of jenga in the bar of the hostel we got talking to a group of Israeli's who had already booked on a tour and got it far cheaper than we had found, so the next day we signed up
We were picked up from the hostel at a very unsociable 6am and were joined by 7 other Isreali's and one guy from Wales. Still feeling very tired we attempted to sleep on the bus, but this was in vain, as we had stupidly sat at the back of the bus - Warning - do not sit on the back of a bus on rural roads! for every bump in the road (of which there were thousands) it was throwing us up, hitting our heads on the roof. The bus journey to the start of the trek was a spine killing 3 hours the journey broken up by a few short stops to look at beautiful lake and some mountains, but when we arrived we were all very greatful to have stopped driving.
The first day was a gentle 5 hour walk, ascending slightly to our camping spot at 3,870 meters. The views on the first day were spectacular, with mountains flanking both sides. By the time we got to the first camp we were all very hungry but were told dinner would be another couple of hours, so we amused ourselves and started to deplete some of the snacks we had brought for the trip.
After a restless night sleep we were woken at 6am to the sound of our guide smashing the lid of a pan - not our idea of a tranquil trek! We had breakfast and were back on the way just after 7am, as this was going to be the most difficult and long day trekking. Today's trek included going over the pass at 4,750 meters, so the first 5 to 6 hours trekking we were climbing steadily uphill. At one point our guide suggested he knew a short cut, We were not convinced it was much of a short cut, but after a difficult uphill slog and then rock climbing, yes clambering up rocks for the last 20 meters at about 4,500 metres. We were rewarded with lunch next to a beautiful lagoon. After refueling with food and a sunbathe by the water we started the most difficult climb of the day towards the pass. Carla began to suffer from the affects of the altitude and started to feel unwell. The guide recommended she chew on coca leaves and then put them in the side of the gum, apparently this is what the locals use to help with the altitude. All we know is it tastes horrible and Carla's headache was still paining her. Eventually we arrived at the pass and wow, what an incredible view, as you pass through the gap in the mountains you are rewared with an awe-inspiring view of a glacier capped mountain and a stricking blue lagoon at the bottom. Carla could not celebrate for too long as the best cure for altitude sickness is to decend as quickly as possible and she was beginning to feel sick (it was very similar to a migrane), so she started to descend
The third day was a much easy day, in fact from here the journey was all downhill or straight - wonderful! Shortly after starting the trek however, our guide explained we needed to cross a river without our shoes, with the water coming up to our knees. Apparently the water was 10 degrees, but we are not so convinced,these are glacial rivers remember and in the end we could not feel our legs by the time we reached the other side
The final day was only 2-3 hours walking, all downhill next to a gushing river. We stopped at the botttom to eat our lunch before reboarding the bus for the bumpy ride back - this time we sat in the front!
We arrived back at the hostel to find there had been a leak in the room that Ed was staying in and our bags had got wet, so all our clean clothes we were looking forward to wearing were wet along with Carla's sleeping bag, which had litterally absorbed all the water. After a little arguing with the owners of the hostel they agreed to wash our things, because as you can imagine they smelt quite horrible as they had sat wet in the bag for the last few days. You may be thinking, well if it had leaked why did Ed not move rooms and sort our stuff before, well cleverly we had put our pack-safe's on (wire cages for our bags) and tied them to the bed, so Ed could not move! We had pre-booked to go on a night bus to Lima the same night, so luckily our clothes were dry before we had to leave.