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 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 dust 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 just a few requests, I’ve lastly put collectively a “fast & soiled” information for the route (no level dashing this stuff 😉 ). The article contains GPS information, logistical suggestions, 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 offer info on a few alternate routes. The latter is an previous pal who, together with a pair of mates (Bobcat and Stef), accomplished the CBT in 2018 and has contributed up to date logistical info, images, and route choices from their journey (Be aware: For extra on Austin and DM see on-line assets 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)
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 broad (21 km) and 124 miles (200 km) lengthy because the condor flies.
- The Cordillera Blanca incorporates a dozen peaks which can be 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 chargeable 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 corresponding to myself, a not-to-be-missed aspect journey in the course of the CBT is the historic village of Chavin de Huantar. Situated on the japanese flanks of the Cordillera Blanca, along with its picturesque plaza and dramatic setting, Chavin is house 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 stunning mountain by a world survey commissioned by the German Alpine Membership within the Nineteen Sixties.
For the needs of resupply, I cut 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 curious about thru-hiking the CBT might probably do a number of of the phases 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.
- Could to September is the dry season within the Peruvian Andes. Technically talking, that is late autumn/winter within the southern hemisphere, nonetheless, attributable to 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 nice climate all through many of the 16 days. Temperatures ranged between highs round 20°C and lows of -10°C (Be aware: 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 advocate beginning the route earlier than early June or later than the tip 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 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 properly and really acclimatized. If you happen to 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 can be between 16 and 22 days (together with a relaxation day or two).
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 might want to be well-acclimatized earlier than setting out.
With a view to keep away from doable 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 by way of public transport from Huaraz. If in case you have the time, I’d additionally recommend mountaineering the close by Cordillera Huayhuash Circuit earlier than the CBT. For extra info on acclimatization, see Suggestions 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, personal transport/taxi may 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 ought to be no points getting a spot on one of many buses that commonly ply the path to and from the regional capital.
- From the tip 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 depart from there.
- From the tip 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: Considerable 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 straight off the glaciers, I drank straight from the supply. I had no intestinal points on this or another hike I’ve finished 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 out there, corresponding to dried fruit and nuts, cereals, pasta, tuna, powdered milk, chocolate, and so forth. Decisions are way more restricted within the villages alongside the way in which. On the cooking entrance, you’ll be capable to decide up a fuel canister or denatured alcohol in your range in Huaraz.
On the route itself, you may 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 canines).
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 acquired as an alternative was cozy beds, good meals, useful workers, and even a solar-powered bathe!
In City: The regional capital of Huaraz has a mess 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 comfy, they usually saved my further baggage after I was out within the boonies. Double thumbs up.
Concerning 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 positioned. 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/mountaineering 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 mountaineering 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 device when planning these types 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, essential landmarks (each pure and artifical), resupply factors, and alternate routes. Be aware: 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 in the course of the CBT: 1. Alpenvereinskarte (German Alpine Membership): Consists of two 1:100,000 sheets which cowl your entire 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 people planning a CBT hike in 2022?: 1. Import the waypoints from the CBT Google Map right into a mapping app corresponding to GaiaGPS; 2. Obtain the maps for offline use in your smartphone, and; 3. Whereas mountaineering the CBT, complement your digital system 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 kind, whether or not or not it’s a paper map/compass and even an additional cellphone 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 12 months, he and a pal flew to Peru and accomplished many 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 info 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. Nonetheless, in the course of the southern half of the journey, there have been a handful that weren’t, and a few of these represented probably the most difficult facet of the planning section. The passes for which I had no info 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 word that almost all of those names merely mirror adjoining peaks, valleys, or within the case of “Landslide”, a comparatively latest geological occasion, and is probably not 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) (Various possibility out there)
- Urus Go (5,040 m/16,535 ft)
- Ishinca/Palcaraju Go (5,201 m/17,064 ft) (Various possibility out there)
- Choco/Huapi Go (5,073 m/16,644 ft)
- Shallap Go (5,001 m/16,407 ft) (Various possibility out there, 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) (Various possibility out there)
- Huarapasca Go (4,930 m/16,175 ft)
In placing collectively this Q&D Information, I plugged all the info 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, last 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)
- 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.
- Aside from 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.
- Aside from a one-mile (1.6 km) stretch between phases 3 and 4, the one time you’ll stroll on a paved highway in the course of 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 may be averted by following (generally) faint and sometimes steepish trails that bypass the numerous switchbacks on both aspect of the move. These paths have 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)
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 move of Stage 2 – Portachuela de Honda (4,763 m) – is bookended by dust 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 (at the least from what I can collect on the topo maps).
- It’s price noting that the japanese finish of Quebrada Honda has a mining presence, and you’ll presumably see autos touring to and from the mines when you attain the dust highway that runs alongside the valley ground. Neither I nor DM encountered any points with these people; quite the opposite, they have 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 decide my favourite part of your entire CBT, it might 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 truly did. All that zooming out and in from totally different angles on Google Earth wasn’t for nothing………. I could have even finished a celebratory jig! (Be aware: 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 submit who’s curious about doing a bit of the CBT somewhat 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 mountaineering in your entire Andes vary.
- It’s normally doable 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 out there 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 trying the CBT earlier than mid to late June in a median snow 12 months is prone to encounter fairly a little bit of snow/ice on the northern aspect and appreciably extra on the even-steeper southern aspect. If you happen to’re adamant about doing the hike early season, make sure to take microspikes and an ice axe. Possibly a rabbit’s foot as properly.
- Descending into Quebrada Rurec after Cashan move, the panorama transitions from rock and ice to pastoral. The next move, which I unimaginatively referred to as “Rurec”, is principally only a lengthy grassy slope (see picture under). The identical goes for “Pucaraju” close to the tip of the stage (-9.68107, -77.34529).
- In the course of the last 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 can be to observe the lake’s western aspect after which swing round its southern finish to hitch the highway at a lookout (-9.72753, -77.33123). This may minimize just a few kilometers of highway strolling off the start of the fourth and last stage.
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)
- 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 aspect.
- 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, depart 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 unbelievable lakes throughout this stretch, and in nice circumstances, 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 need to 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 attributable to 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 buddies got the inexperienced mild by locals to go over what I dubbed “Landslide Go.” (Be aware: The choice route can be very scenic and gives some unbelievable 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 make sure to ask about present circumstances earlier than making your determination).