Monday, May 7, 2018

TREKKING THE CORDILLERA BLANCA in PERU, Guest Post by Owen Floody



Trekkers in the Cordillera Blanca of the Peruvian Andes
Our friend Owen Floody, an avid trekker, recently hiked the Cordillera Blanca in Peru. Owen recently retired from a career of teaching and research at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. He has always been an avid photographer and in his retirement has taken numerous trips that allow him to pursue his passion. He is a frequent contributor to The Intrepid Tourist. Here is the report of his trek and a few of his superb photographs.
 
In the past six years, I’ve done about twelve treks on three continents, curiously not yet including North America.  Of these, my favorite was a trek in the Huayhuash (“why wash”) range of central Peru.  Accordingly, I jumped at the chance to join close friends on a return to the same region in May of 2017 for another famous trek, in the Cordillera Blanca.   
Our trek (in early May) enjoyed the added bonus of amazing wildflowers almost wherever one looked.
Both of my treks began in Huaraz after an overnight bus ride from Lima.  Likewise, both were expertly supported by Peruvian Andes Adventures (PAA), a family-owned trekking company based in Huaraz,.  This is one of those companies that are so good you are tempted to keep them to yourself.  They are pleasant, reliable, well-organized at every phase of the game, and do a great job of supporting camping treks such as those in the Huayhuash and Blanca.  To understand the importance of their services, it’s important to appreciate the main challenge posed by these treks, i.e., the altitude.  For example, the twelve days of the Blanca trek were spent entirely above 13,123 ft.  The high point was 15,945 ft, but this represents just one of eight passes (nearly one per hiking day), each of 14,436 ft or more. 
Laguna Churup
In view of this challenge, I think it imperative for one to arrive in Huaraz several days early and devote 2-3 days to nearby practice hikes.  And one of the nice things that PAA does is provide and support many such day hikes.  These get you up to the right altitudes, help to get you into shape more generally and even expose you to some beautiful scenery.

My Cordillera Blanca trek lasted twelve days, including two devoted to rest or optional hikes. But another nice thing about PAA is that they can tailor treks to the time and energy at your disposal: It’s not required to include rest days if a 12-day trek would be too slow, and it’s not essential to do the entire circuit if that would exceed your limits.
Camp for the night in a beautiful valley.
A typical day’s hike ascended 2,000-3,000 ft to a pass before descending to a camp, usually located in a beautiful valley. Aside from the contents of our daypacks, all of our gear (much of it provided by PAA) was packed, transported and set up for us.  Likewise, all meals were provided. I don’t think that anyone would confuse this with a tour of famous French restaurants. But we (including the one vegetarian in our midst) were impressed and satisfied (in both senses) by the meals provided.
Glacial lake
Not surprisingly, the main attractions on this trek were the often stunning views of mountains and glaciers. The Cordillera Blanca boasts about twenty peaks exceeding 6,000 meters (19,686 ft) and contains one of the world’s largest concentrations of tropical-zone glaciers.  Unfortunately, we did not see everything: The weather was sometimes too overcast, as several of the images will confirm.  But the mountains, glaciers and glacial lakes still were great. 
Looking outward from a point just outside one of our camps toward the peak of Alpamayo.
This last photo shows the mountain Alpamayo in early-morning light. This peak was literally and figuratively central to our trek: The trekking route encircled it and Alpamayo is considered to be one of the most beautiful of peaks, perhaps in the world.

In logistics and other respects, there was much overlap between the Huayhuash and Cordillera Blanca treks. Therefore, you might want to read my columns on both if you are potentially interested in either. Click HERE for Owen's Huayhuash post.
To consider a vacation of this sort you should be attracted to a region that is about as beautiful, pristine and remote (no cell-phone service here!) as you will find.  But it probably doesn’t hurt that such an adventure can be undertaken without breaking the bank: For each of the five of us, the land cost that PAA charged for our 12-day trek was just $1,752.  Tell me where you can better this!

2 comments:

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