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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.

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.

Huayhuash : Day 5 Huayhuash village to Laguna Viconga July 1, 2007

Posted by Cheryl in climbing, culture, Environment, mountaineering, Peru, South America, Travel, trekking, wilderness.
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 Jason with the beautiful remote Cordillera Raura behind

A short day of walking today, so we sleep in, only getting up at 8 o´clock.  Alfonso is already up and perched on a rock warming himself in the sun a little way down the valley.  The weather is perfect with not a cloud in the sky. We set off and the donkeys draw quickly away as we walk at a relaxed pace up the pass.  Leading up to the pass, the ground to the left is barren, rocky and grey, while to the right it´s green and full of life with red patches of sand shining through.  The path divides the contrast of the two.

The Cordillera Raura

At the top the shimmering white peaks of the Cordillera Raura can be seen ahead with the white peaks of the Huayhuash behind.  We lunch at the top of the pass, lingering luxuriously in the sunshine, my head on Jason´s belly, staring up at the crisp blue sky. From there it´s another couple of hours to the camp at the intersection of two valleys, one dropping downwards and the other climbing to the imposing peak of Cuyon ahead of us.

The village of Huayhuash with the Cordillera Huayhuash behind

We make camp early and after a cerveza in the sun (1 between 3 of us – not enough) I head off to the thermal springs nearby.  Hot water pumps out of the bare earth and flows down the slick red rock where it is pooled below.  The water is a delicious temperature and no-one else is about.  I soak the last 5 days grime out of my skin.

Back at camp, the sun has already dipped behind the mountains and the temperature plummets with it.  It´s always a race to cook and get into the tents before the cold grips us.  We make a quick supper and are in bed just after nightfall.

Huayhuash : Day 4 Carhuacocha to Huayhuash village June 30, 2007

Posted by Cheryl in climbing, culture, Environment, mountaineering, Peru, South America, Travel, trekking, wilderness.
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Today we got an unsolicited chaperone who led us around the lake on the other side of the campsite.  At first we didn´t realise he was chaperoning us, but when we slowed down, he slowed down.  When we sped up, he sped up, and he occasionally gestured to us to follow him down the well-trodden and perfectly obvious trail.

Snowy mountains and blue lagoons on Day 4 of the Huayhuash trek

Eventually at the far end of the lake, he pointed the way up towards the pass. We thanked him politely (hoping he would now leave us alone). His mission finally became clear when he asked if we wanted a guide for the pass. We declined, saying we had a map.  We didn´t need a guide, especially one who whistled along to his hand-held radio as he walked.  We walked on again, enjoying the solitude of the mountains once again.

Mountains and blue lagoons, Day 4

The valley toward the pass was lined to the right by mountains sweeping straight up to lofty peaks with glaciers clinging and tumbling off multi-hued lagoons below.  It was very beautiful.  Unfortunately a bit of cloud had swept in, somewhat obscuring where the snow ended and the sky began (not good for the photos). 

Angelo the campesino boy at the top of the pass

The pass was easy enough to find, with a clear trail all the way.  Behind us were the snow-covered peaks just left behind and in front the mountains gave way to countless green valleys carpeted with sparkling blue lagoons.  We stayed a while enjoying the views and solitude when a young campesino boy wandered up alone.  He sat on a rock and eyed us curiously, shy, but happy to answer our questions.  His name was Angelo and he lived “abajo” (down there – pointing to the valley floor far below).  He couldn´t have been more than 6 years old.  He obliged us allowing us to take his photo and we gave him a chocolate bar for his trouble.  He couldn´t hide his glee.  He bounded down the mountain after us (for a while I thought we may have adopted a son) but at the bottom he left us and charged off towards “home”.

The view down the valley with snow capped peaks rising to over 5,000m.

We continued down the valley from a second pass dodging the boggy ground as we went. Finally reaching our campsite at the “village” of Huayhuash (3 houses!). As usual our tent was already up and the sun had already sheltered behind the mountains making the temperature begin to drop.

Not a soul in sight, magnificent! 

Huayhuash : Day 3 Matacancha to Carhuacocha June 29, 2007

Posted by Cheryl in climbing, culture, mountaineering, Peru, South America, Travel, trekking, wilderness.
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With a long day ahead of us (we want to do in 1 day what most people do in 2), we hit the trail early at 8.30am. 

The trail climbs steeply to the first pass, and the cold early morning air is sharp in our lungs.  We can see the campsite far below as the path winds around rocks and outcrops.  Two condors are gliding overhead.  The pass drops away on the other side into a brilliant green valley, a brackish red brown lagoon and sparkling stream. 

We turn off the main trail to head up a side valley to reach a turquoise lagoon with brown reeds waving in the shallow waters against a backdrop of black and grey rocks, snowy white glaciers and lofty mountain tops.  The view is spectacular. We lunch at the lake before heading back down the other side of the valley to pick up the main trail in a slow and steady climb to the second pass of the day.  Again the scenery changes at every turn, wide open grassy valleys giving way to rolling green hills and multi-coloured rocks, scree slopes with snowy tops of the Huayhuash skirting around. 

The top of the pass is a bright yellowy sand, and completely barren. We get a first view of Siula Grande rising imposingly down the valley and the peaks of Yerupaja and Jirishinca rise dramatically straight out of the floor of the valley. 

Siula Grande, and Yerupaja rise behind our camp site beside lake Carhuacocha

An hour more walking brings us to a viewpoint above Laguna Carhuacocha and the campsite.  The sun has already left us as we descend towards camp.  A young boy greets us and asks “Que pais?”. This is the first question anybody ever asks and means “which country (are you from)?”.  Jason says England and I say South Africa.  He looks impressed.  His name is Xavier.  We ask him if his family sell anything (we are on the lookout to buy some fresh trout).  “Trucha” (trout) he says, “queso” (cheese) and after some more thought “papas” (potatoes).  We ask him how much for a trout.  He yells for his mother.  “Who is it?” she asks.  “The gringoes” he replies.  His mother appears.  “Que pais?” she asks.  We tell her.  She doesn´t look quite so impressed.  She tells us she doesn´t have trout.  Xavier is insistent, but she only has little trout.  We settle for 2 cervezas (beers) instead.  Xavier has produced an English school book and proudly pronounces “two” in English.

10 minutes later we are in camp and Alfonso has erected our tent already and we soon begin cooking the evening meal as the evening draws in and the temperature drops.  The backdrop of the camp site is wonderful, a beautiful lake and 6,000m snow capped peaks. A wonderful day.

Huayhuash : Day 2 Laguna Jahuacocha to Matacancha June 28, 2007

Posted by Jason in climbing, culture, mountaineering, Peru, South America, Travel, trekking.
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We woke early at 7;30am, cooked breakfast hoping for the warming of the rising sun.

We left at 10:00am and began our walk up the valley past the Laguna Jahuacocha.

We climbed steeply up the zig zagging path as it steadily headed for the pass of Punta Rondoy at 4,750m.  There are 2 passes here in quick succession and the view is amazing from both, to the outerlying foothills of the Huayhuash, back over to the snow capped peaks that overlooked our previous nights camp site and then to the east and the incredible rock and snow wall of Rondoy.  1,500m of snow rock and ice rising into the sky to a heady 5,870m, a spectacular peak.

We stopped for a bite to eat and caught up our arreiro who lead us down the slopes into the next valley full of stone corrals and some traditional stone, thatched houses.

The countyside here is beautiful in the valleys, with the backdrop of snow clad peaks, spectacularly pointed and severe as they rise into the sky. 

Eventually we reached the camp site at 4,150m at Matacancha at 3.30pm. But by 4pm the sun had already been hidden by the hillside and the temperature immediately dropped.  Every night in the tent it dropped to between minus 1 and 2 degrees.  Outside the tent it got severely cold while cooking in the dark!

As there were last night, there were a few tents, but it was not crowded.  We have not met any gringos at all on the trails in the last 2 days, total solitude in the mountains.

Not many people go over the pass we have just gone over today, as many shorten the trek by starting at Matacancha.  They don´t know what they are missing!

Huayhuash : Day 1 Llamac to Yahuacocha June 27, 2007

Posted by Jason in climbing, culture, mountaineering, Peru, South America, Travel, trekking.
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We were up nice an early, 4:30am ready with our packs to flag a taxi down in Huaraz to the bus station.

Very un South American, everything went like clockwork as we piled our 2 90 litre rucksacks, 2 holdalls of rations and 2 day packs onto the bus, it left on time at 5:30am!

As light hit the countryside the views were wonderful if rather misty.  After 2 hours we got our first glimpse of the famous Huayhuash mountains.

An amazing view as they stretched across the sky above the village of Chiquian. 

We arrived at 8am before getting our tickets for the next bus to the village of Llamac.  We waited another 30 minutes before a combi van arrived for the next step of the journey.

After 3 quarters of an hour we finally managed to fill the combi with 22 passengers (there is only room for 18 in the van!), the driver and a box of new born ducklings! (makes a change from the usual basket of chickens!)

Crammed in we headed off along a decrepid dusty road, which by the way is the ¨new¨ road!

After a bumpy ride of a couple of hours we arrived at the village of LLamac.

Llamac at 3,300m is a quite beautiful village in its own way, with dusty narrow streets, mud brick houses, and the odd donkey and horse for company.  It received electricity for the first time 6 months ago! 

We were met by our arreiro (donkey driver), who loaded the donkey and horse we had hired and we headed out at 11.30am up the steep slopes for our first days walk.  

The sun was shining brightly as we headed up the track, a steady 1000m climb to our first pass at 4,300m and our first close up view of the Huayhuash mountains.

The view was spectacular.  Simply amazing as the snow capped peaks reached into the sky ahead of us.  We were truly awe struck by the sight.

We continued after a short rest along the side of the hillside above the valley below.  We met only one person on the way, a local on horse back.  Somehow while exchanging pleasantries with us he managed to turn the conversation around to telling us that Peru had beaten Uruguay 3:0 at football!  Somethings are universal!

Eventually we descended to the valley floor and reached a small village scattered in the meadow.

The village looked remarkable, with stone walls and thatched roofs they looked exactly like the old black house type housing that people lived in the highlands of Scotland 200 years ago before the clearances.

People in traditional dress, living simple lives with no road, electricity or water supplies.

A beautiful sight that would become so common on this trek.

Eventually as the sun was going down we reached the camp site at the head of the lake of Yahuacocha.  The mountains were rising up to meet the sky at the other side of the lake and the glaciers falling down into the valley.  What a view!  With the snow capped peaks of Mituraju 5,750m; Jirishanca 6,094; Yerupaja Chico 6,089m; and Yerupaja 6,617m.

We set up camp and cooked our evening meal as the sun went down and simultaneously the moon rose above the mountains on the other side of the lake.

From low light and and the pink shades of the mountains to the sky being lit up by a full moon sparkling off the snow and glaciers of the mountains.

It was amazingly beautiful.