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Galapagos Islands : 8 Day Cruise to Darwin´s Paradise July 28, 2007

Posted by Jason in Animals, Bird Watching, Cruise, culture, Darwin, Ecuador, Environment, Galapagos, Nature, South America, Travel, wilderness.
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Marine Iguanas keeping an eye on us!!

We arrived in Quito to book a cruise of a lifetime in the Galapagos to find that the pickings were rather thin on the ground with it being the high season. There were some good deals on a few tourist class yachts, but we wanted to go to a few places that most visitors don´t go, and to do this we discovered that we had to take a 1st class boat around the islands.

Our Catamaran the Cormorant II fit for the high seas Galapagos National Park Nazca Boobies!!

As you can guess this was not going to be cheap! After much soul searching we went for the Cormorant II Catamaran.

This is a much faster boat and being a catamaran should be more stable as this is the misty season with rough seas!

So on the 22nd of July 2007, we headed on a plane from Quito to Baltra Island and “The Galapagos Islands”!!

It was so weird to be on our way to the Iconic Galapagos Islands, another destination that I have wanted to see for 20 years or more.

After a delayed start (we were supposed to catch the 8:20am flight and ended up getting the 11am), we were picked up at the airport in Baltra by our eccentric guide Alex. An Ecuadorian born class III guide, a biologist who had been guiding for 15 years. Perversely, we soon found out that he had lived in Birmingham, England for 4 years while doing a masters degree!

We were worried by the first words Alex said to us as we hit the tarmac of the airport, “Where are your stickers”! As we looked around we saw several people with green stickers labelling them as passengers of the Cormorant II. Now we are not fans of tours and being herded around, and this was worrying in the extreme for us! However amusing it is to see grown adults herded around with bright green stickers on them!

It took an hour or so by bus, ferry, mini-bus and motorised dinghy zodiac to arrive at our boat. We had heard many stories of the boats not quite being “as advertised”, but the Cormorant II was everything they said it was. Spacious cabins, great food, friendly crew and for us extremely luxurious. A pleasant change!

Giant Tortoise

After a quick lunch we headed off to the island of Santa Cruz and into the highlands to see the Giant Tortoises. An amazing first sight in the Galapagos. Enormous creatures up to 250kg in weight and live up to 200 years. There are 14 species in the Galapagos although one species is likely to be wiped out shortly as there is only one of his kind left from the Island of Pinta. They call him Lonesome George. The Charles Darwin Research Centre have been trying to breed him with close relatives but he won´t breed. Each species has a different shaped shell and has developed independently on different Islands, sometimes a different sub-species within the same Island, like on Isabella Island where they have evolved differently depending on which volcanoe they live in and around on the Island.

Giant Tortoises on Santa Cruz island Giant Tortoise Giant Tortoise

After this it was back to the boat and a voyage started across the open sea to Espanola Island, an overnight crossing after our slap up evening meal.

Galapagos Cruise of a Lifetime

22nd July to the 29th July

After the first nights voyage at least half of the 16 passengers were, well. . . . shall we say. . . . a little green in the morning! The sea was not the calmest in the world and the voyage lasted a good 6 or 7 hours!

Marine Iguanas on Espanola Island Sea Lions Sea Lion sleeping, oblivious to the tourists around them!

The sun was shining as Espanola Island greeted us, and I have to say one of the highlights of the whole trip. A dry landing and a short walk around the head of the island . We were greeted to amazing sights of sea lions within a metre of us, Marine Iguanas, literally hundreds of them, mockingbirds, warblers, lava lizards, and beautiful Blue Footed Boobies!! And this was within the first 10 to 20 metres of the landing area! To get off the Zodiac onto dry land we had to negotiate sea lions who were lying on the pathway and clearly did not want to move! Not to mention the dozens of Sally lightfoot crabs, incredibly colourful with their red and yellow coats of armour scattered over the rocks.

At first we did not recognise the dozens of marine iguanas because there were so many so close that they looked like stones and rocks, not moving an inch! This was totally incredible.

Waved Albatross

A short walk further on and we encountered the Waved Albatross, the only place they nest in the world. We were so close we could have touched them, and we saw their amazing courtship dance with their beaks like a swashbuckling sword fight!

A few metres further on and we saw many sea birds and the “Albatross airport”! where the Albatross taxi across the cliffs and take a run before launching themselves into the sky, a wonderful sight. It was so nice to just sit here and watch them.

Blue Footed Boobie

Further around the island we were able to experience the Nazca Booby bird at close quarters and the Blue Footed Booby, mother and father looking after their chick within a metre or so of us as we sat and watched them, and saw their amazing courtship dance, lifting their bright blue feet into the air as if for the cameras!

Blue footed boobies feeding a young     Blue Footed Boobies!

So many species we saw on Espanola, Cactus Finch, Warbler Finch, American Oyster catcher, Galapagos hawk, and the Swallow Tailed Gull.

Chez observing the Blue Footed Boobies and their young

Absolutely amazing to be so close to the wildlife, to be able to just sit and observe their behaviour in a natural setting.

A great first encounter with the wildlife.

A Sea Lion Sea Lions in Gardner Bay Jason disscussing the value of a sun hat with a Sea Lion!

After snorkeling in the afternoon, we had a further wet landing on the beach in Gardner Bay where we were able to chill out as the sun descended and we were able to observe the Sea Lions again at close quarters. Simply beautiful.

Land Iguana

The following day, following another sea crossing we went to Santa Fe Island, completely different to the previous day. More barren this time and we managed to see Land Iguanas, Sea Lions and the Boobies. There are wonderful cacti here with a red bark that is just beautiful. We saw many finches here and the yellow warbler.

After snorkeling we headed to South Plaza a simply amazingly beautiful Island. It is amazing how each Island is so different and sustains such life in sometimes what appears to be quite a barren or hostile environment. Each creature that has evolved has increased its chances of survival by creating a unique niche for itself and in the main not competing with other species.

South Plaza Island

South Plaza is quite beautiful with its red succulent plants and wonderful cacti. Here we saw diving Pelicans and Land Iguanas, not to mention the amazing Boobies and Sea Lions. A walk along the cliffs revealed an array of sea birds including the Galapagos Shearwater, Red Billed Tropic Bird and Brown Noddy. Below the cliffs we could sea Sharks (the vegetarian kind!) feeding and swimming with the Sea Turtles.

This is also the place where the sea lion bachelor colony hang out, who are either too old or cannot get a mate. Needless to say they did not look the happiest of sea Lions!

Pelicans hitching a ride on our boat!

In the evening we were joined at the rear of the boat first by a couple of Sea Lions who clambered up to “chill out”!!, but later 2 Pelicans decided to use the boat as a good feeding post, staring fixedly on the sea waiting to dart into the water! We watched them for at least an hour, they did not blink an eye at us taking photos and watching them from within 2 to 3 metres!!

The following day we headed to North Seymour Island, it was a hot sunny day again and we spent a good 3 hours or so walking around this beautiful Island. Again completely different to every other Islands we had seen. The big attraction here is the Frigate Birds with their ostentatious red pouches displaying. This is a sight to behold. So amazing if rather ridiculous looking!

Frigate Bird Displaying

We also saw the Frigatebird behaviour, as if on queue for our Guide as he explained that they do not fish in the sea, indeed they cannot get their feathers wet with sea water, but that they steal food off other birds.

We saw a band of frigatebird robbers! Swooping down on a family of Blue Footed Boobies where they were trying to feed their chick and a frigate bird swooped down and stole a fish from within the young booby´s throat as it tried to swallow! Where else could you see behaviour like this??!

We saw many other species on the Island, many more Marine Iguanas and saw areas where they lay their eggs. In addition we sat and watched for a while a sea lion mother trying to teach her young pup to swim, he could only have been 2 weeks old!

After chilling out on the boat sunning ourselves we snorkeled at the Isle of Bartolome around the compressed ash rocks reaching into the sky on the coast. We swam with sea turtles and saw enormous rays – marble and manta rays. Wonderful colourful fish at every turn.

The View of the Galapagos Islands from Isla Bartolome

Then we landed on Bartolome itself and climbed to the top of the hill across a wonderful volcanic landscape to view the bay below. Truly beautiful.

Overnight was another rough crossing, a long night for those without their “sea legs”! At times the boat was lurching from side to side with things crashing off shelves to the floor! To go to the bathroom was becoming a major feat!

The boat was heading to the west of Isabella Island where few boats are allowed to go any longer, only the faster boats and those with permission with new park regulations are allowed to visit here.

We stopped to see Tagus Cove a place where Charles Darwin visited and observed what are now called Darwin´s Finches. A major piece in the puzzle of his evolutionary theory, even if he did not know it at the time. A beautiful area on the largest of the Galapagos Islands covering 58% of the whole landmass of the Islands.

We could see the hulks of the volcanoes on the Island reaching up into the mist.

Sea Turtle coming up to breathe Sea Turtle swimming Lava Heron

Each day we saw plenty of the mist covering many of the land masses, hence the “misty season”! However we were lucky on the whole that the mist often cleared to give us wonderful views.

We then visited Elizabeth Bay where we took a Zodiac into the breading grounds of the sea turtles, seeing many Pacific Green Sea Turtles and the Leather Back Sea Turtle.

Then a trip around the outlying rocks here to observe a feeding frenzy of Blue Footed Boobies diving into the sea for food, along with pelicans and penguins. We also observed the Flightless Cormorant.

This evening was beautiful as we watched the sun go down. The sunset was amazing turning the sky in 360 degrees into oranges and purples.

Fernandina Island

The following day we visited Fernandina Island which was stunning, seeing the nesting Flightless Cormorant, Marine Iguanas, Lava Cactus, Blue Heron, Lava Heron, rays off the coast with sea turtles and different species of mangrove.

The Island has a spectacular backdrop of the large volcano, Volcan La Cumbre.

Jason making friends with the Marine Iguanas!

After snorkeling we headed to Urbina Bay on Isabella where we saw more Land Iguanas and snorkeled in the bay, swimming with sea turtles within touching distance and we saw a blowfish.

In the evening we did not experience a sunset like the previous evening, instead we had 14 hours of rough seas and mists! Finally landing at Floreana the following morning. Here we saw marble rays, dozens of them within 5 metres of the beach just above the sand feeding and sea lions commanding the beach!

Flightless Cormorants with their chick and Marine Iguanas in the background

We also visited the “Post Office” which is a barrel where people leave post cards and if any travellers live near the address of the cards takes them away and posts them personally! Well saves a stamp hey.

Following these we snorkeled at Devil´s Rock, a sunken volcano in the sea where Chez swam with a White-Tipped Reef Shark! Rather her than me!

This was to be our final evening, a Saturday night of cocktails and barbeque on deck in the port of Puerto Ayora in Santa Cruz.

Our final day was a short visit to the Charles Darwin Research Centre and then to say our farewells to the rest of the group.

The Galapagos Islands, a trip of a lifetime?

There is no doubt that the Galapagos is an amazing place to visit, but is extremely expensive!! There are restrictions as well. You cannot go anywhere in the National Park without a guide, its all tour orientated which is inevitably restrictive and expensive. But for good reason – to protect this natural environment is paramount.

The Galapagos is certainly not as we expected. Over 30,000 people live on the Islands – far more than I had envisaged. And rather than being unspoilt, the human interference of the last 200 years has almost devastated many species.

However, the abundance of wildlife you can observe here in its natural environment so close is truly awe-inspiring and amazing.

The islands are beautiful and unique in many ways and it never gets too crowded. When you consider that visitors can only see a tiny percentage of the islands visited, yet you can see so much wildlife, it gives an indication of just how abundant the wildlife is.

We have asked ourselves whether it was worth the money to come to the Galapagos and our answer has been a resounding YES! It is truly a unique experience and a trip of a lifetime!!

Huayhuash : The most beautiful trek in the world? July 21, 2007

Posted by Jason in climbing, culture, mountaineering, Peru, South America, Travel.
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Cheryl and I have just completed an 11 day trek of the Huayhuash, a remote mountain range south of the more famous Cordillera Blanca in Peru.

A year a go I met a frenchman while climbing Illimani in Bolivia, we ended up sharing a tent at high camp before our attempted climb.  This guy, Pierre told me of his travels around the world, to Patagonia, the Himalaya, Alaska and the like.  He told me that the most beautiful mountains he had ever seen were in the Huayhuash in Peru.

Being the usual sceptic self, I took this with a rather large pinch of salt!  But intended checking out this range of mountains myself sometime in the future.

So, here we are and we made it to Huaraz and hired our Arreiro to help us with an 11 day trek of the Huayhuash.

Huayhuash map

I have to say that Pierre was pretty spot on with his assessment! We have had the most fantastic time, seen the most amazing mountains, valleys and breathtaking scenery.  Met locals who are living the same way they have done for centuries, in stone thatched houses, no electricity or water supplies, traditional dress and incredibly friendly.

The whole 11 days were an awesome experience we will never forget. Wowed again by the breathtaking scenery and experiences in South America.

To read more detail about the trip (from the bottom up!)… Click here

For more photos…. Click here

Huayhuash : A future in doubt July 10, 2007

Posted by Jason in climbing, culture, Environment, mountaineering, Peru, South America, Travel, trekking, wilderness.
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 The mountains of the Huayhuash at Laguna Yahuacocha as the sun goes down

We have just completed one of the most amazing treks we have done in South America (or indeed the world) in the Huayhuash in Peru. A superb trek for wilderness, culture and just the most amazing mountain scenery.

Yet, despite this beautiful area not having changed a lot in the last 20 years, the next 20 years could be make or break for the region. So many pressures on a fragile landscape could be the breaking point for a once untouched land.

The Huayhuash has suffered in the past from crisis but has always come through. With the rebels of the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) fighting a Guerilla War and using the Huayhuash as a base for its activities. The war was waged between 1980 and 1992 when its leader Abimael Guzman was caught. Some 23,000 Peruvians died in the conflict making the area a no-go zone for foreigners for several years.

A cross commemorating the loss of 2 trekkers in the Cordillera Huayhuash

More recently, in 2002, 2 Americans were robbed and killed on a pass at Punta Tapuish and in the same year 2 people were again robbed and murdered in Catajambo.

In 2004, in a 20 day period several people were robbed and threatened and 4 Isrealis were killed when they refused to hand over their money on a pass.  These shocking events have lead to private conservation projects where the local communities charge trekkers money at different campsites in return for security and installing certain facilities to protect the landscape such as long drop toilets. Since this time there have been no incidents of theft or killings and gradually visitor numbers have increased.

Yet, now more strife is on the horizon. The Japanese, who have large mining interests in Peru, have been given rights to mine in the mountainous areas around Huaraz and the Huayhuash.

There is a mine near Matacancha, and there are several areas of the Huayhuash under threat of more development.

Much talk is of a new mine opening near Huayllapa and indeed a road being built over what is now a remote pass.

The inevitable problem here is that there is much mineral wealth, but the exploitation of such will bring devestation to a wilderness area and traditional ways of life.

2 children waiting to greet trekkers at the top of a pass

The communities would obviously like to earn more money in a very poor area, and the conflict is between exploiting mineral wealth or developing tourism, which itself brings environmental problems and the invasion of modern life and development. This can already be seen with some areas showing signs of litter and some people polluting rivers by using them as toilet facilities.

Efforts are being made to keep the area clean and long drop toilets are being used.  However, with some ignorance in this area, some of these are far too near the rivers to prevent the pollution.

Cheryl looking over to the mountains of the Huayhuash

Compounding these problems is the fact that politics interferes with certain apparent solutions – why not make it a National Park? The answer is that the Huayhuash is split between 3 different provinces making it politically difficult with so many differing interests.

Maybe, the only answer is making it a UNESCO site of special interest, giving it protection.  But this is a long way off (and would require government cooperation). Indeed the Huayhuash area is not even on the UNESCO speculative list of sites at the moment.

Some in Huaraz are very concerned with the situation and are trying to bring the plight of the region to the attention of UNESCO, Alfredo from MountClimb being such a person.

Perhaps the only way of protecting the area is to make it such a money making trekking destination that the money generated would make mineral exploitation not advantageous to the region? Maybe like a Torres Del Paine? This would obviously destroy the local communities as we know them and the wilderness experience. But would give the area some sort of future without destroying the landscape.

No easy answers to a growing problem. But maybe we worry too much in these fickle times.  A much bigger problem will be facing this area soon which could be far more devastating to the entire region. It is estimated that all the snow and glaciation could be gone within 20 years due to global warming! Yes 20 years. This in itself will devastate the area – glacial meltwater is the bloodline of the local people. With no water from glaciers, agriculture and life in the region will be impossible.

This area is truly one of the most beautiful in the world, I just hope one day I can return to explore this area further and experience the delights of the last 11 days of wonder.

Huaraz : Were finally leaving!! July 10, 2007

Posted by Jason in climbing, culture, mountaineering, Peru, South America, Travel, trekking.
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After what seems like an eternity here we are finally leaving the city of Huaraz!

We have been here since . . . . .wait for it. . . .the 18th of May!! And now we finally have to leave for pastures new.  Time is rapidly running out on our journey around South America. Only 6 weeks left and much to see and do.

We have done many things and it has been somewhat of an interesting experience here in and around Huaraz.

We have done ice climbing, the Santa Cruz trek, climbed Nevada Pisco, attempted to climb Chopicalqui and Tocllaraju (mas o menus!), and seen the ruins at Chavin(pretty amazing). And of course the amazing Huayhuash trek, see the pictures on Flickr, simply amazing!

Its been an exhausting nearly 2 months in and around the Cordillera Blanca.  We have seen some amazing sights and met some wonderful people.

Cafe Andino Huaraz    Chez after too many beers at Pachamama playing table tennis!    Jacal guest house

We have spent (as many gringos do!) much time hanging around Cafe Andino and Califormia Cafe with their wonderful book and magazine libraries, many an hour was spent here!

Not to mention beating Chez at table football in Pachamama, and of course Chez thrashing me at table tennis yet again!

We have found some superb places to eat with Chilli Heaven (great chilli, real curry and great English real ale!) run by Beatriz and Simon, El Horno (the best steak in Peru!) and La Luna.

I´m sure that our guest house we have been stopping at in between our trips will be glad to see the back of us at last! The very friendly Jacal guest house.

Alfredos Mountclimb agency

Much of what we have done here we could not have done without the excellent help of Alfredo from MountClimb. He is a wonderful guy who gives excellent advice and is extremely helpful.  He has provided us with mules, guides, porters and hire equipment for our mountaineering which has been excellent quality. We can fully recommend his services and friendship.

We must also mention our guide for Chopicalqui William Beltran who is an excellent international guide and speaks excellent English; and of course Alfonso our Arreiro for the Huayhuash trek who was excellent and very knowledgable about the area and its people. Both William and Alfonso can be hired through Mountclimb or you can ask for William at the Casa de Guias.

But now Ecuador beckons and we must move on to the last leg of our trip.

It seems that this will be another place we will have to come back to! We still have to climb Huascaran, Alpamayo, Quitaraju and Artesonraju which are now on the ¨must do¨list ever growing!    

Our affection for this area has grown since we have been here, I just wish we had more time.

Hasta luego Huaraz!!

Huayhuash : Day 11 Laguna Jahuacocha to Llamac July 7, 2007

Posted by Cheryl in Peru, South America, Travel, trekking.
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We had to get back to the village of Llamac to get the bus back to Huaraz by 11am, so it was an early start in the bitter cold.  We didn´t worry with breakfast, just swallowing a hot coffee to get us going and were on the trail at dawn.

It was easy to go quickly in the early morning cold and we made good progress on the same route as Day 1, only in reverse.  The journey back was the usual game of “how many can you squeeze into a single minibus?” (23 I think it was – and a box of ducklings).  We witnessed an unpleasant incident between a group of Israelis who were refusing to pay the community´s charge at Llamac.  It´s hardly a surprise when you see the way certain Israelis act, and the lack of respect they have for the local people, that they have such a bad reputation across South America.  Many of the agencies we have come across refuse to deal with them at all as a result.  I would hate to be this sort of embassador for my country.

Having covered many a mile on foot across South America now, I can truly say this is one of the nicest treks I´ve ever done.  The scenery is intensely beautiful from start to finish and the area is still wonderfully remote despite becoming increasingly popular.  The area is wide-open for exploration and there are so many different routes you could take.  I would love to think one day I might be back to explore it further.  Well, we can dream.

Huayhuash : Day 10 Quebrada Huancho to Laguna Jahuacocha July 6, 2007

Posted by Cheryl in climbing, culture, mountaineering, Peru, South America, Travel, trekking, wilderness.
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We woke early this morning, knowing we had a long day ahead and hoping to get away early.  We were up, packed and had the hot water on before the sun hit the tent, which meant it was bitterly cold.  There was an icy wind to make matters worse and our hands were freezing up packing the tent and making sandwiches.

The water was boiled and the eggs were fried, but there was still no sign of Alfonso, which was unusual.  I checked his tent but he wasn´t there.  We´d heard him get up at around 6am to go and fetch the animals which he usually left grazing in the hills high above camp.  Eventually at 8.30am Alfonso appeared over a rise chasing the horse who he´d been looking for for 2 and a half hours!  The horse had done a runner in the night and Alfonso had a difficult job finding him again.  So much for an early start!  Wish I´d stayed in bed for another hour!

We left Alfonso loading up the animals and started the climb to the top of the first pass Punta Tapush.  Once again the scenery was gorgeous.  It was the only time in the entire 11 days that we actually saw any other gringoes on the trail.  They were German and we chatted to them at the top of the pass, but they were heading off into another valley and we didn´t see them again after that.  Leading down from the relatively flat pass were a couple of beautiful turquoise lagoons offset against the reddish brown copper colour of the earth and the Diablo Del Mudo and with its small glaciated peak.

Another beautiful valley with grey slabs of rocks to one side and to the other multi-coloured striations of grass, rock and earth.  The second pass of the day (4,850m) loomed above us and I doubted (incorrectly) that it was only a 300m altitude gain.  At the top of the pass we were once again treated with a beautiful view towards the major peaks of the Central Huayhuash and the views all the way down the valley to Laguna Jahuacocha were beautiful.  We stopped and rested in the last rays of sunshine as the sun dipped below the horizon, but were pleased to find that there was still sunshine over the campsite when we arrived there.  We cracked open the carton of wine we´d picked up in Huayllapa in a small celebration for completing the trek.  The wine must have worked  wonders for our Spanish as we managed to have a quite involved discussion with Alfonso about the changing environment, politics and exploitation of the people of the Huayhuash!

It got very cold again very quickly after the sun had gone down for the last time, so after a quick dinner rounded off with tinned peaches and dulce de leche (yum!) we dived for the tents.  Needless to say, the horse got his front legs tied together tonight so he couldn´t do a disappearing act!

Huayhuash : Day 9 Cutatambo to Huatiaq July 5, 2007

Posted by Jason in climbing, culture, mountaineering, Peru, South America, Travel, trekking.
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Still tired from yesterdays day walk we left camp at about 9:30am and headed for the long journey down the valley.

Mostly down hill we dropped to 3,500m and the village of Huayllapa after 3 hours.  Much has changed in this village in the last 15 years.  The houses still look pretty quiant with the stone and mud brick houses and some with thatched roofs.  But now many have corrugated iron roofs and the village gets its electricity from hydro electric power with the river nearby and has had electricity  for about 8 or 9 years.  Traditional dress is little in evidence here and even supplies can be bought here with 2 well stocked stores.

We took advantage of these and bought some bread and wine! Essential supplies you understand!

Then after a short stop we headed up the stepp valley for a climb to 4,265m to our next camp spot below more snow capped peaks, if less dramatic certainly no less beautiful of Anocancha 5,450m and Diablo Mudo 5,350m.

This time there were 3 tents we had to share the site with, a small group we had caught up with.

Unbelievably, there was yet more evidence of people using the river banks as a toilet here, where there is a toilet long drop provided. Some people really are unbelievable.  We have come across this on 3 different camp sites.  It really is unbelievable that people can be so ignorant.

   

Huayhuash : Day 8 Siula Grande and Touching the Void! July 4, 2007

Posted by Jason in climbing, culture, mountaineering, Peru, South America, Travel, trekking.
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Today we would stay the day at this campsite at Cutatambo at 4,265m and Alfonso would have a day off, not to mention Triste and Tranquilo our trusty donkey and horse!

We wanted to do a day walk onto a mountain ridge and pass on the opposite side of the valley to Siula Grande the famous peak climbed by Joe Simpson and Simon Yates on the west face.

The ¨Touching the Void¨story has actually brought much publicity to this area of the Huayhuash, and many watch the film at Pachamama in Huaraz before coming here. An amazing survival story in a remote area on one of the most beautiful mountains in the world.

So we headed off at 10am up the valley, the sun was shining as usual and we reached the laguna of Sarapacocha and began climbing.

This ended up being an extremely steep climb to over 5,100m up a steep sided valley, of grass, scree and rocks until finally reaching the top of the ridge.

The views from here are simply amazing.

We could see into 2 valleys, the adjacent valley of Segya and into the heart of the mountains of Yerupaja 6,515m; Siula Grande 6,344m and Sarapo 6,127m.

Wow what a view!

Many photos were taken! the view is just breathtaking from here.

We stayed on the ridge for an hour and 20 minutes or so taking in the view and having lunch in the blazing sunshine as the clouds slowly came into the range and began to swollow Siula Grande and its west face.

The west face looks much different now with less snow and much more rock on the face than when Joe Simpson and Simon Yates climbed it back in 1985. The face has not been climbed since.

Eventually we took leave of the ridge and headed back down the steep slopes and valley and finally got back to camp at 5pm.  We had the whole valley to ourselves tonight, not a soul to disturb the peace as the sun went down.

We were pretty tired after this climb and looked forward to a nights sleep! 

Huayhuash : Day 7 The San Antonio pass and the ¨Killer Cattle¨! July 3, 2007

Posted by Jason in climbing, culture, mountaineering, Peru, South America, Travel, trekking.
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 View over to the massife of Siula Grande from the San Antonio Pass

The sun hit our tent early this morning greatfully warming our tent and our bones as we cooked breakfast.

The view in the morning of the enormous mountain Cuyoc 5,550m at the head of the valley was superb as the sun rose.

We left the camp site at 4,500m to climb steeply over a little used pass for more spectacular views.  The trail is not suitable for donkeys so we will meet the arreiro later in the day in the next valley.

We gradually climbed up the scree slopes until a plateau was reached with grass lands and a lake.

We noticed that there were cattle higher up the slopes but as usual took no notice as Peruvian cattle are usually so docile.

Then one of the bulls started taking notice of us, staring at us.

Then he started running down the hill towards us.  Then his mates followed earnestly after him.

This started to get slightly worrying!

Cheryl was fidling with her bag on the floor and I asked her to get up as the cattle began running down the hill towards us!

Beautiful Laguna

One of the bulls got within 15 metres or so and stopped with his mates behind him.  Then he put his head down and began to charge! He stopped again at about 5 metres away, he again put his head down and began to charge! His mates close behind.

Surely this is bullying if ever I saw it!

We picked up stones and began throwing them at the bull and the other cattle.  He came to a hault and shyed away before charging again.  This was getting beyond a joke!

We threw more stones as they charged several times and Cheryl began making loud noises and after throwing several stones started running towards the bull (I always thought she was mad!).

The Bull thankfully backed off, but Chez wasn´t finished yet and continued to run towards the bull brandishing her treki lecki sticks in the air making loud noises and throwing stones.  This was too much for the head bull and his mates and they backed off being content with a staring contest instead!

We briskly walked up the rest of the valley to safety.  We could see the cattle huddled together in a group as if discussing their tactics!  Obviously the ring leader bull was not impressed with the support he got from his fellow conspirators!  

After this excitement we trudged up the final leg of the pass to above 5,050m and managed to see the next valley.

The view was simply amazing.  The snow capped mountains and tumbling glaciers were amazing with the glacial lakes in the valley.  Wow what a view! So worth the steep climb(and being attacked by bulls!)

The peaks of Carnicero 5,960; Sarapo 6,127; Huaraca 5,537m; and Quesillo 5,600m.  So beautiful.

View from San Antonio Pass

We continued down the other side of the pass and finally had lunch above the laguna Jurau below the snow capped peaks.

We chilled out for over an hour and chatted to a local woman hearding her cattle and then we continued down the valley to the campsite where our arreiro Alfonso had just arrived.

We helped put up the tent and chilled out in the sunshine enjoying the warmth before the sun would dissappear.

Only one other tent shared the valley with us that night.

For once as the sun went down and we watched the sky turn its familiar pink, we were able to stay out in the dark as the temperature was just about bearable! 

Huayhuash : Day 6 Laguna Viconga to Guanacpatay July 2, 2007

Posted by Cheryl in climbing, culture, mountaineering, Peru, South America, Travel, trekking, wilderness.
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I was awake before light, but we stayed snuggled in our sleeping bags till the sun hit the tent at about 8 o´clock.  After breakfast and packing up we set off with Cuyon in front of us and climbed the pass to its left.  Cuyon became increasingly more impressive as we got closer, with it´s icy summit giving way to glaciers defying gravity and clinging to its sides before plunging into a glacial lagoon below.  The strange rock formations and sparse vegetation gave the last part of the climb a barren other-worldly feel.  Approaching the top of the pass (5,000m), the Cordillera Raura once again came into view behind us, bright, snowy and untouched.  The mountains to the North of us looked tremendous – the big giants of Yerupaja, Serapo and Siula Grande and Cuyon, closer by, breathing down our necks.  On the other side of the pass the path dropped away steeply through a tumble of rocks that ended in a flat open plane dotted with occasional sheep on the valley floor far below.  We camped on this plane enjoying a few hours of sunshine before the sun went in and the cold crept up.