|Glacial Lakes on the Huayhuash Circuit, Peru|
|One of our camps.|
The Huayhuash Range (Cordillera Huayhuash, pronounced “why wash”) is a compact cluster of mountains in the Peruvian Andes, approximately 225 miles from Lima. It only extends over about 20 miles but contains more than 20 peaks, six of which exceed 6000 meters (19,685 ft) in height. One of these is Siula Grande, the scene of the adventure described by Joe Simpson in the book and movie “Touching the Void.”
|Our pack animals awaiting their day’s assignments.|
|On the Huayhuash Track|
Though the distance we covered may suggest a rigorous trek, the real challenge was in the altitude. Most of our time was spent above 13,000 feet and most days saw us crossing at least one pass exceeding 15,000 feet, the highest of these at 16,400 feet. One can prepare for some aspects of such a trek with an appropriately challenging exercise program, ideally including a healthy dose of actual hiking wherever you can find significant ascents and descents. But how can most of us prepare for altitudes such as encountered here?
What I did was to arrive in Huaraz (the
trek’s starting point and PAA’s base) four days early and then take full
advantage of the many half-day and day hikes offered by PAA.
These covered beautiful ground and were graded in difficulty, making it
possible to put together a package of pre-trek acclimatization hikes that were manageable
and enjoyable, and that very much helped me to prepare for what was to come.
|Day hike from Huaraz|
|Soaring snow-covered peaks of the Andes and wetlands|
The scenery encountered on this trek was spectacular, the most impressive of any of the seven major treks that I’ve done. Many of the types of scenes that we enjoyed are the ones that you would predict, i.e., soaring snow-covered peaks, high mountain passes, pristine valleys and meadows, wetlands. But the Huayhuash is especially well known for its beautiful glacial lakes. Some of these treated us to the sights and sounds of repeated avalanches. And many, if not all, presented an array of contrasting and beautiful colors.