A Fast & Soiled Information to the Cordillera Blanca Traverse

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In the summertime of 2014, I put collectively a traverse of Peru’s Cordillera Blanca. One of many world’s highest and most lovely mountain ranges, to the very best of my information, 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 filth 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 speeding these items 😉 ). The article consists of GPS information, logistical suggestions, alternates, and trekking notes for the route’s 4 levels.

Views from slightly below Ishinca Go (5,201 m), the very best level on the CBT (Stage 2).

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 levels in 2017 and was sort sufficient to offer data on a few alternate routes. The latter is an outdated pal who, together with a pair of mates (Bobcat and Stef), accomplished the CBT in 2018 and has contributed up to date logistical data, images, and route choices from their journey (Be aware: For extra on Austin and DM see on-line assets beneath).

Contents

Nearing Paso Yanayuca (picture courtesy of Ryan “Dirtmonger” Sylva) (Stage 1)

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)

Complete Elevation Acquire: 25,417 m (83,389 ft)

Highlights:

  • Nevado Alpamayo at sundown
  • Ishinca and Cashan Passes
  • The archeological web site 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

The pyramid-shaped Alpamayo (5,947 m/19,511 ft) illuminated by the late-afternoon solar (Stage 1)

Rising as much as 10 m (33 ft) excessive, Puya Raimondii crops are endemic to the high-altitude areas of the Peruvian and Bolivian Andes. They’re the world’s largest Bromeliad and are referred to as the “Queen of the Andes.” (Stage 4)

Cordillera Blanca Miscellanea

  • 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 lovely mountain by a world survey commissioned by the German Alpine Membership within the Sixties.

Cordillera Blanca Vary Overview Map

One Route, 4 Phases

For the needs of resupply, I cut up the CBT into 4 levels (click on on the hyperlinks beneath for journal entries from 2014). Every of the stage trailheads is accessible by public transport, which means that people that aren’t involved in thru-hiking the CBT may probably do a number of of the levels as stand-alone hikes (Be aware: Distances have been up to date as of 2022, and can fluctuate relying on route decisions):

Cordillera Blanca Traverse – Google Map Overview

Nationwide Park Allow

The CBT takes place in Parque Nacional Huascarán. For any multi-day hike within the park, you’ll have to acquire a trekking allow from their workplace in Huaraz (-9.53203, -77.52984) earlier than setting out.

Season

Cashan Go in late August (5,157 m/16,919 ft) – One of many hardest of the CBT’s 21 passes, Cashan could also be snowbound early within the mountain climbing season (Be aware: The southern facet of the go nonetheless had fairly a little bit of ice/snow when this picture was taken) (Be aware 2: The go is the little notch within the centre of the picture)(Stage 3)

How Lengthy Will it Take?

Laguna Cullicocha (4,620 m) – The primary of many lakes alongside the route (Stage 1)

Pre-CBT Acclimatization Technique

After the preliminary climb out of Hualcallan, virtually all the CBT takes place above 4000 m (13,123 ft). I can’t emphasize strongly sufficient that it is a hike for which you could be well-acclimatized earlier than setting out.

In an effort to keep away from potential 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 brief 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. When you’ve got 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 Mountain climbing.

Snow-capped horizons close to Alto de Pucaraju (4,615 m) (Stage 1)

Transport

  • From the hamlet of Pitec on the finish of Stage 2, you’ll be able to catch a experience down the mountain to Huaraz. Alternatively, stroll west for an extra 4.5 km to Llupa and take one of many common collectivos that go away from there.
  • From the tip of Stage 3 on Highway #110 overlooking Lago Querococha, hitch or flag down one of many common buses that head eastwards to the village of Chavin de Huantar.

The village of Hualcallan is the start line of the CBT. This picture was taken from the switchbacks above the village.

The rapidly-shrinking Pastoruri glacier, the southern terminus of the CBT.

Water & Resupply

Meandering stream in Quebrada Honda (Stage 2)

Tenting & Lodging

On the route itself, you’ll be able to wild camp just about wherever you want. That stated, 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 surprising bonus. Half anticipating a semi-dilapidated backcountry outpost, what I acquired 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 Resort Churup, which I can extremely advocate. Juan Quiros Romero and his household have been wonderful hosts, the breakfasts have been first-rate, the rooms snug, and so they saved my additional baggage after 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 probability that they’re studying this submit, shout-out to my 1996 touring/mountain climbing companions, Sylvia, Fleischy, and Dave.

Campsite (Stage 2 – Shallup Go Alternate)

Chacas Village

Refugio Ishinca

Photogenic llama at Chavin de Huantar archeological web site (semi-obligatory facet journey between levels 3 and 4).

GPS & Maps 

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 beneath). When mountain climbing the route, I used stated 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: Consists of greater than 270 waypoints, indicating junctions, vital landmarks (each pure and artifical), resupply factors, and alternate routes. Be aware: The principle route is denoted by crimson markers, resupply cities are denoted by yellow markers, and alternate routes by blue markers.
  • Maps: I used two mapsets throughout the CBT: 1. Alpenvereinskarte (German Alpine Membership): Consists of two 1:100,000 sheets which cowl your complete vary – 0/3a Cordillera Blanca Nord & the 0/3b Cordillera Blanca Sud, and; 2. Skyline Adventures: Additionally, two maps cut 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 advocate for folk 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).

Old-fashioned assets for CBT planning.

On-line Sources

  • Austin Lillywhite’s CBT VideoCordillera Blanca Traverse YouTube video (10 min). Austin was the primary particular person to investigate in regards to the CBT in 2016. The next yr, he and a pal flew to Peru and accomplished a lot of the CBT, the lone exception being Stage 3, which they have 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 wonderful hikes such because the Cordillera Huayhuash Circuit, Wind River Excessive Route, and the Sierra Excessive Route.

Lago Akilpo (Stage 2) / Picture courtesy of Ryan “Dirtmonger” Sylva

Trekking Notes: The Passes 

The collective crux of the CBT are the passes. Relying on route decisions, 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 have been marked on the above-mentioned topo maps. Nevertheless, throughout 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 part. 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 the majority of those names merely replicate adjoining peaks, valleys, or within the case of “Landslide”, a comparatively current geological occasion, and might 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:

    1. Osoruri Go (4,848 m/15,906 ft) 
    2. Vientunan Go (4,760 m/15,617 ft)  
    3. Gara Gara Go (4,840 m/15,879 ft)  
    4. Mesapata go (4,450 m/14,600 ft)  
    5. Yanacon Go (4,601 m/15,095 ft)  
    6. Tupatupa Go (4,347 m/14,262 ft)  
    7. Alto de Pucaraju (4,615 m/15,141 ft)  
    8. Punta Yanayuca (4,790 m/15,715 ft)  
    9. Punta Olimpica (4,909 m/16,106 ft) 
    10. Portachuelo de Honda (4,763 m/15,551 ft) (Various possibility accessible) 
    11. Urus Go (5,040 m/16,535 ft) 
    12.  Ishinca/Palcaraju Go (5,201 m/17,064 ft) (Various possibility accessible)
    13.  Choco/Huapi Go (5,073 m/16,644 ft)
    14.  Shallap Go (5,001 m/16,407 ft) (Various possibility accessible, although not advisable)
    15.  Cashan Go (5,157 m/16,919 ft) 
    16.  Rurec Go (4,350 m/14,272 ft)
    17.  Pucaraju Go (4,583 m/15,037 ft)
    18.  Maraytaca Go (4,611 m/15,128 ft)
    19.  Punta Raria (4,801 m/15,751 ft)
    20.  Landslide Go (4,951 m/16,243 ft) (Various possibility accessible)
    21.  Huarapasca Go (4,930 m/16,175 ft)

Osoruri Go (4,848 m)………one down, twenty to go.

Wanting again in the direction of Urus Go (5,040 m) from its southern facet (Stage 2)

Descending from Ishinca Go (5,201m)(Stage 2) – Picture courtesy of Ryan “Dirtmonger” Sylva.

Trekking Notes – The Phases

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 decisions, ultimate totals will fluctuate as much as 10 %.

CBT  Stage 1 – Hualcallan to Pompey/Huallin

Distance: 152 km (94.4 mi)

Complete Ascent: 10,517 m (34,504 ft)

Max. Elevation: 4,911 m (16,112 ft)

Min. Elevation: 3132 m (10,276 ft)

Notes: 

A cruisy stretch of path alongside the ground of Quebrada Alpamayo (Stage 1)

Campsite in Quebrada Alpamayo (Stage 1).

View from Gara Gara Go (4,840m) (Stage 1)

Dawn from Quebrada Jancapampa (Stage 1)

Lago Huecrococha (Stage 1)

Laguna Sactaycocha (Stage 1) – (Picture courtesy of Ryan “Dirtmonger” Sylva).

Artesonraju Peak (6025 m/19,767 ft) as seen from Quebrado Huaripampa. That is the height that’s stated to be the inspiration behind the Paramount Photos brand. I’m not too certain in regards to the veracity of this declare, although, for film buffs, it makes for a great story.

Strolling by way of the Punta Olimpica Tunnel (4,735 m), which is the very best vehicular tunnel on the earth (Picture courtesy of Ryan “Dirtmonger” Sylva).

CBT Stage 2 – Huallin to Pitec

Distance: 108 km (67.1 mi)

Complete Ascent:  5,978 m (19,613 ft)

Max. Elevation:  5,201 m (17,064 ft)

Min. Elevation:  3,416 m (11,207 ft)

Notes:

“Chester” – an area canine that adopted me by way of the enchanted forest of Quebrada Akilpo, which was the longest woodland stretch of the CBT (approx. 8 km lengthy) (Stage 2).

Laguna Akilpo (4,690m) (Stage 2)

Descending from Ishinca Go (5,201m) in the direction of Quebrada Cajup (Stage 2).

Descending into Quebrada Quilcayhuanca from Choco/Huapi Go (Stage 2) / Picture courtesy of Ryan “Dirtmonger” Sylva.

Campsite sundown in Quebrada Quilcayhuanca (Stage 2) / Picture courtesy of Ryan “Dirtmonger” Sylva.

Bucolic stretch to complete the second stage / Quebrada Quilcayhuanca.

CBT Stage 3 – Pitec to Chavin

Distance: 65 km (40.4 mi)

Complete Ascent:  4,520 m (14,829 ft)

Max. Elevation:  5,157 m (16,919 ft)

Min. Elevation:  3,747 m (12,293 ft)

Notes:

Lago Shallap (Stage 3)

Lago Shallap on the way in which as much as its namesake go / Picture courtesy of Ryan “Dirtmonger” Sylva (Stage 3)

View from the slender notch of Cashan Go (5,157 m) (Stage 3) / MLD Exodus pictured (Be aware: As with MLD’s Burn and Prophet fashions, the unique Exodus is notably smaller than the present iteration).

Exterior a shepherd’s hut in Quebrada Rurec (Stage 3)

Wanting again in the direction of Quebrada Rurec from the slopes of Rurec Go.

Heading up in the direction of Rurec Go (4,350m) (Stage 3).

Lago Querococha (finish of Stage 3)

Historical underground tunnel / Chavin de Huantar archeological web site.

Chavin de Huantar archeological web site / Picture courtesy of Ryan “Dirtmonger” Sylva)

CBT Stage 4 – Chavin to Pastoruri Glacier

Distance:  72 km (44.7 mi)

Complete Ascent: 4,402 m (14,442 ft)

Max. Elevation:  5,040 m (16,535 ft)

Min. Elevation:  3,865 m (12,680 ft)

Notes:

  • There are some unimaginable lakes throughout this stretch, and in high quality situations, I’d extremely advocate 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 selection perspective, the ultimate determination you’ll should 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 resulting from a current 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 pals got the inexperienced mild by locals to go over what I dubbed “Landslide Go.” (Be aware: The choice route can also be very scenic and provides some unimaginable views to the east of the Cordillera Blanca. Nonetheless, assuming it’s secure to take action, I’d advocate taking the route over Landslide Go. There all the time appears to be locals floating about in Quebrada Puchua, so be sure you ask about present situations earlier than making your determination).

Puya Raimondii above Lago Qishqiquch (Stage 4)

Overnighting in a shepherd’s hut throughout a stormy night time (Stage 4) (Be aware: The quilt within the picture is my trusty Katatabatic Sawatch, which I’ve had because the 12 Lengthy Walks journey of 2011/12, and which continues to be going robust greater than a decade later).

Lago Qishqiqucha (Stage 4)

Lago Acococha (4,594 m) / It was right here I took my third and ultimate swim of the CBT (Stage 4).

Heading in the direction of Punta Raria (4,801m)(Stage 4).

Descending Landslide Go (4,951m) (Stage 4) / Picture courtesy of Ryan “Dirtmonger” Sylva.

Yours actually at Pastoruri Glacier (5,033 m) – the southern terminus of the Cordillera Blanca Traverse. The Finish.

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