In the summertime of 2014, I put collectively a traverse of Peru’s Cordillera Blanca. One of many world’s highest and most stunning mountain ranges, to the very best of my data, it was the primary time that such a trek had been accomplished.
Starting on the village of Hualcallan and ending at Pastoruri Glacier, the route consisted of a mixture of established trails, cross-country scrambles, and the occasional stretch alongside backcountry grime roads. Measuring roughly 400 km (249 mi) in size, it took 16 days to finish and included greater than 20 mountain passes ranging between 4,347 m and 5,201 m (14,262 ft-17,064 ft). After eight years and fairly a couple of requests, I’ve lastly put collectively a “fast & soiled” information for the route (no level dashing these items 😉 ). The article contains GPS knowledge, logistical ideas, alternates, and trekking notes for the route’s 4 phases.
CBT Shout-outs: Earlier than getting began, I’d like to say two folks in regard to the CBT – Austin Lillywhite and Ryan “Dirtmonger” Sylva. The previous accomplished three of the trek’s 4 phases in 2017 and was form sufficient to supply data on a few alternate routes. The latter is an outdated good friend who, together with a pair of mates (Bobcat and Stef), accomplished the CBT in 2018 and has contributed up to date logistical data, pictures, and route choices from their journey (Notice: For extra on Austin and DM see on-line sources under).
At a Look
Distance: 249 miles (400 km) approx.
Common Length: 16-22 days
Begin / End:
- Northern Terminus: Hualcallan (3,133 m/10,279 ft)
- Southern Terminus: Pastoruri Glacier (5,033 m/16,512 ft)
Highest Elevation: Ishinca Go (5,201 m/17,064 ft)
Lowest Elevation: Hualcallan (3,133 m/10,279 ft)
Whole Elevation Achieve: 25,417 m (83,389 ft)
- Nevado Alpamayo at sundown
- Ishinca and Cashan Passes
- The archeological website of Chavin de Huantar
- Puya Ramondii round Lake Qishqiqucha
- Regenerating swims in bone-chilling alpine lakes
- The friendliness and hospitality of the Cordillera Blanca’s residents
- Located within the Ancash area of Peru, the Cordillera Blanca is a sub-range of the Andes mountains. It’s roughly 13 miles vast (21 km) and 124 miles (200 km) lengthy because the condor flies.
- The Cordillera Blanca incorporates a dozen peaks which are larger than 20,000 ft (6,096 m), with an additional twenty-four topping 18,000 ft (5,486 m).
- There are estimated to be 722 particular person glaciers inside the Cordillera Blanca vary, which is the biggest focus of tropical-zone glaciers on the planet. Because the 1970’s they’ve retreated greater than 15%. A staggering discount, particularly contemplating their hydrological significance to a rising Peruvian inhabitants.
- In 1970, the Cordillera Blanca was rocked by an earthquake (7.9 on the Richter scale) that worn out 95% of Huaraz (the regional capital), utterly destroyed the city of Yungay, and was answerable for the deaths of as much as 70,000 folks. It was the worst pure catastrophe in Peru’s historical past, and the ensuing avalanche is taken into account the deadliest in world historical past.
- For historical past buffs equivalent to myself, a not-to-be-missed facet journey through the CBT is the historic village of Chavin de Huantar. Situated on the jap flanks of the Cordillera Blanca, along with its picturesque plaza and dramatic setting, Chavin is dwelling to a World Heritage-listed archeological website that dates again greater than 3000 years. Chavin de Huantar was the non secular middle of the Chavin folks, one of many main pre-Inca cultures of Peru.
- Legend has it that Artesonraju Peak (6025 m/19,767 ft) is the inspiration behind the well-known Paramount Photos icon. A couple of miles north of there lies Nevado Alpamayo, a pyramid-shaped mountain that was voted the world’s most stunning mountain by a global survey commissioned by the German Alpine Membership within the Sixties.
For the needs of resupply, I break up the CBT into 4 phases (click on on the hyperlinks under for journal entries from 2014). Every of the stage trailheads is accessible by public transport, which means that people that aren’t concerned about thru-hiking the CBT may doubtlessly do a number of of the phases as stand-alone hikes (Notice: Distances have been up to date as of 2022, and can fluctuate relying on route selections):
The CBT takes place in Parque Nacional Huascarán. For any multi-day hike within the park, you’ll must receive a trekking allow from their workplace in Huaraz (-9.53203, -77.52984) earlier than setting out.
- Could to September is the dry season within the Peruvian Andes. Technically talking, that is late autumn/winter within the southern hemisphere, nevertheless, because of the truth that the Cordillera Blanca is located so near the equator, temperature fluctuations are comparatively minor all year long. I hiked from late August to early September and had fantastic climate all through many of the 16 days. Temperatures ranged between highs round 20°C and lows of -10°C (Notice: The latter was skilled when tenting just under 5,000m).
- What’s too early? What’s too late?: Clearly, circumstances will fluctuate from 12 months to 12 months, however given common annual snow ranges, I wouldn’t suggest beginning the route earlier than early June or later than the top of September. A working example is Austin Lillywhite’s Could 2017 hike, the place he was unable to go over Stage 3’s Cashan Go due to snow circumstances.
- My CBT Expertise: I took 16 days to finish the CBT. A few of these days had been spent route discovering, visiting archeological websites, and customarily trying out different factors of curiosity alongside the best way. I took one full “zero-day” (relaxation day) in Huaraz and one other “nero” (nearly a zero) in Chavin. Pushing just a little bit more durable and with out the diversions, route-finding, and relaxation day, I think I might have taken round 13 days to finish the hike.
- Common Length: This can be a route that ought to solely be undertaken by skilled long-distance hikers who start the path effectively and actually acclimatized. For those who tick these containers, together with turning up in good condition and carrying a lightish pack, I’d estimate the common time wanted for the CBT could be between 16 and 22 days (together with a relaxation day or two).
Pre-CBT Acclimatization Technique
After the preliminary climb out of Hualcallan, nearly the entire CBT takes place above 4000 m (13,123 ft). I can’t emphasize strongly sufficient that this can be a hike for which you must be well-acclimatized earlier than setting out.
With the intention to keep away from attainable points with AMS (Acute Mountain Illness), plan to spend on the very least two or three days in Huaraz (3640m / 11,942 ft) earlier than starting the CBT. Throughout your keep within the regional hub, do some quick excursions such because the Laguna 69 (-9.01074, -77.61178) and Laguna Churup (-9.48503, -77.42871) trails, each of that are simply accessed through public transport from Huaraz. If in case you have the time, I’d additionally counsel mountain climbing the close by Cordillera Huayhuash Circuit earlier than the CBT. For extra data on acclimatization, see Ideas for Excessive Altitude Mountaineering.
- Northern Terminus: Hualcallan Village. I took a collectivo (minibus) from the city of Caraz to the village of Cashapampa, from which I walked 9 kilometers to Hualcallan. If you wish to go on to Hualcallan, non-public transport/taxi could be organized from Caraz.
- Southern Terminus: Pastoruri Glacier is a well-liked vacation spot for day-trippers from Huaraz. For those who arrive earlier than late afternoon, there ought to be no points getting a spot on one of many buses that usually ply the path to and from the regional capital.
- From the top of Stage 1, you may both hitch or take one of many common buses that move by to the close by village of Chacas. Returning to the path, catch a bus certain for Huaraz, and ask to be dropped off at Pompey/Huallin.
- From the hamlet of Pitec on the finish of Stage 2, you may catch a experience down the mountain to Huaraz. Alternatively, stroll west for an additional 4.5 km to Llupa and take one of many common collectivos that go away from there.
- From the top of Stage 3 on Street #110 overlooking Lago Querococha, hitch or flag down one of many common buses that head eastwards to the village of Chavin de Huantar.
- Water: Plentiful all through many of the hike. Typically talking, I handled with Aquamira within the low-lying areas and/or wherever there was livestock or human settlement. Within the larger reaches, the place water was coming immediately off the glaciers, I drank straight from the supply. I had no intestinal points on this or every other hike I’ve carried out throughout my journeys to Peru.
- Resupply: From north to south, the principle resupply factors are Huallin, Chacas, Pitec (Huaraz), and Chavin de Huantar (see Transport above). The regional hub of Huaraz has a variety of “conventional backpacking” meals accessible, equivalent to dried fruit and nuts, cereals, pasta, tuna, powdered milk, chocolate, and many others. Decisions are way more restricted within the villages alongside the best way. On the cooking entrance, you’ll have the ability to choose up a gasoline canister or denatured alcohol to your range in Huaraz.
On the route itself, you may wild camp just about wherever you want. That mentioned, I’d keep away from establishing too near villages or shepherd encampments (which can be patrolled by territorial guard canine).
There’s one full-service mountain hut alongside the route – Refugio Ishinca. Located within the shadows of Toclarraju (6,032m) and Polcaraju (6,110m) peaks, Refugio Ishinca was an sudden bonus. Half anticipating a semi-dilapidated backcountry outpost, what I obtained as a substitute was cozy beds, good meals, useful employees, and even a solar-powered bathe!
In City: The regional capital of Huaraz has a large number of choices to swimsuit all budgets. Throughout my time on the town, I stayed on the Lodge Churup, which I can extremely suggest. Juan Quiros Romero and his household had been wonderful hosts, the breakfasts had been first-rate, the rooms snug, and so they saved my additional baggage once I was out within the boonies. Double thumbs up.
Relating to the opposite cities alongside the route, in Chacas, I arrived late and ended up staying at a dodgy place whose solely redeeming characteristic was that it was centrally situated. As for Chavin de Huantar, I stayed on the characterful Hostal La Casona on the Plaza de Armas. I’m 99% sure that this was the identical place I stayed at in 1996, and for the sake of nostalgia, I couldn’t resist returning 18 years later. On the distant likelihood that they’re studying this put up, shout-out to my 1996 touring/mountain climbing companions, Sylvia, Fleischy, and Dave.
I put collectively the CBT route in 2014 with the assistance of the below-listed topo maps, Google Earth, and Jim Bartles’s basic Cordillera Blanca textual content (see under). When mountain climbing the route, I used mentioned maps and a Suunto M-2 compass for navigation. I additionally took alongside a Garmin Foretrex, with which I took waypoints of notable spots alongside the route.
FWIW, since 2015, Gaia GPS (along with Google Earth) has been my go-to mapping software when planning these kinds of journeys, although I’ve periodically used Caltopo when placing routes collectively within the States.
- Cordillera Blanca Traverse – Google Map: Contains greater than 270 waypoints, indicating junctions, vital landmarks (each pure and artifical), resupply factors, and alternate routes. Notice: The primary route is denoted by crimson markers, resupply cities are denoted by yellow markers, and alternate routes by blue markers.
- Maps: I used two mapsets through the CBT: 1. Alpenvereinskarte (German Alpine Membership): Consists of two 1:100,000 sheets which cowl the whole vary – 0/3a Cordillera Blanca Nord & the 0/3b Cordillera Blanca Sud, and; 2. Skyline Adventures: Additionally, two maps break up into north and south. Each are 1:75,000. The Skyline maps don’t cowl probably the most southerly a part of the Cordillera Blanca vary (i.e. Stage 4).
- What do you suggest for people planning a CBT hike in 2022?: 1. Import the waypoints from the CBT Google Map right into a mapping app equivalent to GaiaGPS; 2. Obtain the maps for offline use in your smartphone, and; 3. Whereas mountain climbing the CBT, complement your digital machine with a compass and one of many above-mentioned overview mapsets (Tip: With this type of route, all the time carry a navigational backup of some type, whether or not it’s a paper map/compass and even an additional telephone that additionally has the maps downloaded).
- Austin Lillywhite’s CBT Video: Cordillera Blanca Traverse YouTube video (10 min). Austin was the primary individual to investigate in regards to the CBT in 2016. The next 12 months, he and a good friend flew to Peru and accomplished many of the CBT, the lone exception being Stage 3, which they had been unable to complete due to early season snow/ice on Cashan Go. Right here’s a hyperlink to his web site, which incorporates data and movies for different superb hikes such because the Cordillera Huayhuash Circuit, Wind River Excessive Route, and the Sierra Excessive Route.
The collective crux of the CBT are the passes. Relying on route selections, there are between twenty-one and twenty-three in whole, ranging between 4,347 m and 5,201 m. By any standards, it’s a rollercoaster of a visit, with a lung-busting, knee-wobbling whole elevation acquire and lack of round 50,000 m (164,000 ft).
When placing the route collectively, the vast majority of the passes had been marked on the above-mentioned topo maps. Nonetheless, through the southern half of the journey, there have been a handful that weren’t, and a few of these represented probably the most difficult side of the planning section. The passes for which I had no data on the time included Urus/Akilpo (5,040m), Ishinca/Palcaraju (5,201m), Shallap (5,001m), Cashan (5,157m), Rurec (4,350 m), Pucaraju (4,583 m), Maraytaca (4,611 m), Landslide (4,951 m), and Huarapasca (4,930 m). Please notice that almost all of those names merely replicate adjoining peaks, valleys, or within the case of “Landslide”, a comparatively latest geological occasion, and will not be the names utilized by locals for a similar excessive factors.
Right here’s the checklist of passes (from North to South), with their respective elevations in parentheses. Stage 1 passes are in black font, Stage 2 in blue, Stage 3 in crimson, and Stage 4 in inexperienced:
- Osoruri Go (4,848 m/15,906 ft)
- Vientunan Go (4,760 m/15,617 ft)
- Gara Gara Go (4,840 m/15,879 ft)
- Mesapata move (4,450 m/14,600 ft)
- Yanacon Go (4,601 m/15,095 ft)
- Tupatupa Go (4,347 m/14,262 ft)
- Alto de Pucaraju (4,615 m/15,141 ft)
- Punta Yanayuca (4,790 m/15,715 ft)
- Punta Olimpica (4,909 m/16,106 ft)
- Portachuelo de Honda (4,763 m/15,551 ft) (Different possibility accessible)
- Urus Go (5,040 m/16,535 ft)
- Ishinca/Palcaraju Go (5,201 m/17,064 ft) (Different possibility accessible)
- Choco/Huapi Go (5,073 m/16,644 ft)
- Shallap Go (5,001 m/16,407 ft) (Different possibility accessible, although not beneficial)
- Cashan Go (5,157 m/16,919 ft)
- Rurec Go (4,350 m/14,272 ft)
- Pucaraju Go (4,583 m/15,037 ft)
- Maraytaca Go (4,611 m/15,128 ft)
- Punta Raria (4,801 m/15,751 ft)
- Landslide Go (4,951 m/16,243 ft) (Different possibility accessible)
- Huarapasca Go (4,930 m/16,175 ft)
In placing collectively this Q&D Information, I plugged all the information I had into Gaia GPS, created a route, and got here out with the next up to date figures for distance and whole elevation. For these doing the hike sooner or later, relying on route selections, remaining totals will fluctuate as much as 10 %.
CBT Stage 1 – Hualcallan to Pompey/Huallin
Distance: 152 km (94.4 mi)
Whole Ascent: 10,517 m (34,504 ft)
Max. Elevation: 4,911 m (16,112 ft)
Min. Elevation: 3132 m (10,276 ft)
- The primary stage of the CBT was totally on established trails. The preliminary couple of days coincided with the Alpamayo Base Camp Trek, and later the route intersected briefly with the area’s hottest multi-day hike, the Santa Cruz Trek.
- Throughout stage 1, the route goes up and over 9 passes, all of that are marked on the topo mapsets listed above.
- Other than the beginning and ending villages, you might be able to complement your provisions within the blink-and-you-miss-them hamlets of Huaripampa, Colcabamba, and Yanama.
- Other than a one-mile (1.6 km) stretch between phases 3 and 4, the one time you’ll stroll on a paved highway through the CBT is on the finish of Stage 1, from the Punta Olimpica tunnel to the villages of Huallin and Pompey. Each earlier than and after the tunnel, a lot of the highway part could be averted by following (generally) faint and infrequently steepish trails that bypass the numerous switchbacks on both facet of the move. These paths had been utilized by locals within the days earlier than the highway was constructed.
CBT Stage 2 – Huallin to Pitec
Distance: 108 km (67.1 mi)
Whole Ascent: 5,978 m (19,613 ft)
Max. Elevation: 5,201 m (17,064 ft)
Min. Elevation: 3,416 m (11,207 ft)
- The primary move of Stage 2 – Portachuela de Honda (4,763 m) – is bookended by grime highway walks in Juitush and Honda Valleys. At Portachuela de Honda, there are a few totally different excessive factors from which to decide on; each DM in 2018 and myself in 2014 took the blue route, which is shorter, steeper, and (maybe) much less well-defined than the crimson route (not less than from what I can collect on the topo maps).
- It’s price noting that the jap finish of Quebrada Honda has a mining presence, and you’ll probably see autos touring to and from the mines when you attain the grime highway that runs alongside the valley flooring. Neither I nor DM encountered any points with these of us; quite the opposite, they had been uniformly pleasant and nobody appeared bothered by our presence. This was the state of affairs in 2014 and 2018, I can’t say if the temper has modified within the ensuing years.
- If I needed to choose my favourite part of the whole CBT, it could be the roughly 50-55 km (31-34 mi) stretch between the western finish of Quebrado Akilpo and the northeastern reaches of Quebrada Quilcayhuanca. Starting with the “enchanted forest”, the route goes up and over three 5,000 m plus passes – Urus/Akilpo, Ishinca/Palcaraju, and Choco/Huapi. The primary two of those excessive factors had been among the many group for which I didn’t have any pre-trip information, and although I used to be pretty positive each would go, I used to be over the moon after they truly did. All that zooming out and in from totally different angles on Google Earth wasn’t for nothing………. I could have even carried out a celebratory jig! (Notice: Each passes had small cairns at or close to the highest, so locals accustomed to this a part of the Cordillera Blanca positively knew of their existence, even when I didn’t). For anybody studying this put up who’s concerned about doing a piece of the CBT quite than the entire trek, that is the stage I’d suggest. It’s difficult, however the rewards greater than compensate. For my cash, one of many best stretches of high-altitude mountain climbing in the whole Andes vary.
- It’s often attainable to catch a experience right down to Huaraz from the tiny village of Pitec on the finish of the stage. Pitec is the beginning/ending level for one of many space’s hottest day hikes – the path to Laguna Churup (4,480 m). If nothing’s accessible whenever you arrive in Pitec, stroll for 4.5 km right down to the neighboring village of Llupa, the place common collectivos run up and down the mountain to Huaraz.
Distance: 65 km (40.4 mi)
Whole Ascent: 4,520 m (14,829 ft)
Max. Elevation: 5,157 m (16,919 ft)
Min. Elevation: 3,747 m (12,293 ft)
- The third stage traverses 4 passes, particularly Shallap (5,001m), Cashan (5,157m), Rurec (4,350m), and Pucaraju (4,583m).
- Cashan is the final and probably probably the most difficult of all of the passes. As talked about above, anybody trying the CBT earlier than mid to late June in a mean snow 12 months is more likely to encounter fairly a little bit of snow/ice on the northern facet and appreciably extra on the even-steeper southern facet. For those who’re adamant about doing the hike early season, you’ll want to take microspikes and an ice axe. Possibly a rabbit’s foot as effectively.
- Descending into Quebrada Rurec after Cashan move, the panorama transitions from rock and ice to pastoral. The next move, which I unimaginatively known as “Rurec”, is mainly only a lengthy grassy slope (see photograph under). The identical goes for “Pucaraju” close to the top of the stage (-9.68107, -77.34529).
- Throughout the remaining few kilometers of the third stage, you’ll attain Laguna Querococha, the biggest lake on the route. Each DM and I skirted the lake’s northern shore earlier than making a beeline to the highway to Chavin. A greater possibility could be to comply with the lake’s western facet after which swing round its southern finish to affix the highway at a lookout (-9.72753, -77.33123). This might minimize a couple of kilometers of highway strolling off the start of the fourth and remaining stage.
CBT Stage 4 – Chavin to Pastoruri Glacier
Distance: 72 km (44.7 mi)
Whole Ascent: 4,402 m (14,442 ft)
Max. Elevation: 5,040 m (16,535 ft)
Min. Elevation: 3,865 m (12,680 ft)
- Ranging from the Lago Querococha viewpoint, hike for a mile (1.6 km) down the highway to the place it passes over the lake’s outlet stream. Go away the highway right here, and start descending WSW alongside the watercourse’s true left facet.
- After a pair extra kilometers, ascend the ridge you’ve been paralleling and drop into Quebrada Pamparaju. Head south till you attain Quebrada Maraytaca, which you’ll ascend to the SW. After simply over 4 km, go away the valley and climb steeply SSE to an apparent move (-9.80422, -77.30218). You’ve now entered the Puya Raimondii zone, the botanical spotlight of the route.
- There are some unimaginable lakes throughout this stretch, and in fantastic circumstances, I’d extremely suggest taking a dip within the crystal clear Lago Acococha. Round its perimeter, there are many flattish rocks upon which to soak within the solar’s warming rays after your swim.
- From a route alternative perspective, the ultimate choice you’ll must make comes upon arrival in Quebrada Puchua. In 2014, the plan was to move over a col I’d recognized on the valley’s southern finish between Nevado Gajap (5,208 m) and Nevado Huayacu (5,418 m). Taking off in that route, I quickly encountered a bunch of native shepherds who knowledgeable me that it was unpassable because of a latest landslide. I continued to press them about its viability, however they remained adamant. I in the end accepted their recommendation and ended up taking an alternate route (see blue markers on Google Map). Issues clearly stabilized within the ensuing years, as in 2018, Dirtmonger and mates got the inexperienced mild by locals to go over what I dubbed “Landslide Go.” (Notice: The choice route can also be very scenic and gives some unimaginable views to the east of the Cordillera Blanca. Nonetheless, assuming it’s secure to take action, I’d suggest taking the route over Landslide Go. There all the time appears to be locals floating about in Quebrada Puchua, so you’ll want to ask about present circumstances earlier than making your choice).