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.
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 The latter is an outdated pal who, together with a pair of mates (Bobcat and Stef), accomplished the CBT in 2018 and has contributed up to date logistical data, images, and route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).
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)
- 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
- Located within the Ancash area of Peru, the Cordillera Blanca is a sub-range of the Andes mountains. It’s roughly 13 miles huge (21 km) and 124 miles (200 km) lengthy because the condor flies.
- The Cordillera Blanca comprises a dozen peaks which are greater than 20,000 ft (6,096 m), with an extra 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. For the reason that 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 liable 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 throughout the CBT is the historic village of Chavin de Huantar. Positioned 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 web site that dates again greater than 3000 years. Chavin de Huantar was the spiritual 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 lovely mountain by a world survey commissioned by the German Alpine Membership within the Sixties.
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):
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.
- Might to September is the dry season within the Peruvian Andes. Technically talking, that is late autumn/winter within the southern hemisphere, nevertheless, resulting from 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 high quality climate all through a lot of the 16 days. Temperatures ranged between highs round 20°C and lows of -10°C (Be aware: The latter was skilled when tenting slightly below 5,000m).
- What’s too early? What’s too late?: Clearly, situations will fluctuate from yr to yr, however given common annual snow ranges, I wouldn’t advocate beginning the route earlier than early June or later than the tip of September. A living proof is Austin Lillywhite’s Might 2017 hike, the place he was unable to go over Stage 3’s Cashan Go due to snow situations.
- My CBT Expertise: I took 16 days to finish the CBT. A few of these days have been spent route discovering, visiting archeological websites, and usually trying out different factors of curiosity alongside the way in which. I took one full “zero-day” (relaxation day) in Huaraz and one other “nero” (virtually a zero) in Chavin. Pushing a bit bit more durable and with out the diversions, route-finding, and relaxation day, I believe I’d have taken round 13 days to finish the hike.
- Common Length: It is a route that ought to solely be undertaken by skilled long-distance hikers who start the path nicely and actually acclimatized. If you happen to tick these bins, together with turning up in fine condition and carrying a lightish pack, I’d estimate the common time wanted for the CBT can be between 16 and 22 days (together with a relaxation day or two).
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.
- 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 might be organized from Caraz.
- Southern Terminus: Pastoruri Glacier is a well-liked vacation spot for day-trippers from Huaraz. If you happen to arrive earlier than late afternoon, there needs to be no points getting a spot on one of many buses that repeatedly ply the path to and from the regional capital.
- From the tip of Stage 1, you’ll be able to both hitch or take one of many common buses that go by to the close by village of Chacas. Returning to the path, catch a bus sure for Huaraz, and ask to be dropped off at Pompey/Huallin.
- 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.
- Water: Considerable all through a lot 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 greater reaches, the place water was coming straight off the glaciers, I drank straight from the supply. I had no intestinal points on this or some other hike I’ve achieved throughout my journeys to Peru.
- Resupply: From north to south, the primary 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 so on. Decisions are rather more restricted within the villages alongside the way in which. On the cooking entrance, you’ll be capable to decide up a gasoline canister or denatured alcohol on your range in Huaraz.
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.
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).
- Austin Lillywhite’s CBT Video: Cordillera 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.
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:
- 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 go (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) (Various possibility accessible)
- Urus Go (5,040 m/16,535 ft)
- Ishinca/Palcaraju Go (5,201 m/17,064 ft) (Various possibility accessible)
- Choco/Huapi Go (5,073 m/16,644 ft)
- Shallap Go (5,001 m/16,407 ft) (Various possibility accessible, although not advisable)
- 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) (Various 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 decisions, ultimate totals will fluctuate as much as 10 %.
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)
- 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 could possibly 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 levels 3 and 4, the one time you’ll stroll on a paved street throughout 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 street part might be averted by following (generally) faint and sometimes steepish trails that bypass the numerous switchbacks on both facet of the go. These paths have been utilized by locals within the days earlier than the street was constructed.
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)
- The primary go of Stage 2 – Portachuela de Honda (4,763 m) – is bookended by filth street walks in Juitush and Honda Valleys. At Portachuela de Honda, there are a few completely 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 presumably see automobiles touring to and from the mines when you attain the filth street that runs alongside the valley flooring. Neither I nor DM encountered any points with these of us; quite the opposite, they have been uniformly pleasant and nobody appeared bothered by our presence. This was the scenario in 2014 and 2018, I can’t say if the temper has modified within the ensuing years.
- If I needed to decide my favourite part of your complete CBT, it will 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 have been among the many group for which I didn’t have any pre-trip data, and although I used to be pretty certain each would go, I used to be over the moon after they really did. All that zooming out and in from completely different angles on Google Earth wasn’t for nothing………. I could have even achieved a celebratory jig! (Be aware: Each passes had small cairns at or close to the highest, so locals acquainted with this a part of the Cordillera Blanca undoubtedly knew of their existence, even when I didn’t). For anybody studying this submit who’s involved in doing a piece of the CBT quite than the entire trek, that is the stage I’d advocate. It’s difficult, however the rewards greater than compensate. For my cash, one of many most interesting stretches of high-altitude mountain climbing in your complete Andes vary.
- It’s normally potential to catch a experience all the way 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 if you arrive in Pitec, stroll for 4.5 km all the way 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)
Complete 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 presumably probably the most difficult of all of the passes. As talked about above, anybody making an attempt the CBT earlier than mid to late June in a median snow yr 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. If you happen to’re adamant about doing the hike early season, be sure you take microspikes and an ice axe. Perhaps a rabbit’s foot as nicely.
- Descending into Quebrada Rurec after Cashan go, the panorama transitions from rock and ice to pastoral. The next go, which I unimaginatively known as “Rurec”, is mainly only a lengthy grassy slope (see picture beneath). The identical goes for “Pucaraju” close to the tip of the stage (-9.68107, -77.34529).
- Throughout the ultimate 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 street to Chavin. A greater possibility can be to comply with the lake’s western facet after which swing round its southern finish to hitch the street at a lookout (-9.72753, -77.33123). This could lower a couple of kilometers of street strolling off the start of the fourth and ultimate stage.
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)
- Ranging from the Lago Querococha viewpoint, hike for a mile (1.6 km) down the street to the place it passes over the lake’s outlet stream. Go away the street 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 go (-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 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).