Mind. Blown.

Cordillera Blanca – Huascarán Circuit

I will apologise in advance for the lack of creativity in superlatives from hereon in – I’ve run out.

After a few days hanging out in Caraz, I set off to do a loop into the Cordillera Negra, which runs parallel to the Cordillera Blanca (where the really big mountains are) and would offer me the opportunity to get some impressive panoramic views of the Blanca.  However, I hadn’t been feeling 100% that morning and, half-way up the 1500m climb, I hit the buffers – no energy whatsoever and a suggestion of imminent stomach troubles!  Needless to say, I beat a hasty retreat and headed to Yungay and the spartan but welcoming Hostel Gledel, where I then spent the next five days recovering.  All part of the joy of travelling, I guess!

Energy restored, I set off from Yungay to do a circuit into the Cordillera Blanca which would take me on a 6-day loop around the peaks of the mighty Huascarán, Peru’s highest mountain (6,768m).  Thanks to Neil and Harriet Pike for the superb route.

Huascarán certainly loomed ominously above as I climbed out of Yungay…

Fortunately, the gradient was not too bad but I took it fairly easy, not least since Yungay is at 2500m and I had about 1300m of climbing to do to get to my campsite for that evening.  By early afternoon, I made it to the checkpoint into the park (Parque Nacional Huascarán), bought my S./65 ticket (best £15 I’ve ever spent) and pushed on to the first of the spectacular lakes through a fairly narrow valley.

My campsite was a little further along the valley at Yurac Corral, at the head of the second lake.  Having pitched the tent and rustled up some food, I was joined by a few locals…

The next morning I woke at 4:30am so that I could get a headstart on the day-trippers heading up to Laguna 69.  This is a 16km (round-trip) hike up to a spectacular lake and offered a good opportunity to get off the bike for a short while.

Due to the cold (Sally was frost-covered once again) and the humidity from the river (and my breath), the tent was pretty soaking inside and my sleeping bag fairly wet on the outside but I had to pack them away anyway, knowing I ought to be able to dry them later.  The campsite attendant, the friendly Victor, had kindly offered to store my bike in one of the buildings whilst I hiked up to the Laguna.  Leaving at 5:30am, the pitch black was soon punctured by the first light of day on the mountain tops…

I spent much of the walk up totally gob-smacked by the beauty of the scenery – it was truly magical.

12 Comments

  1. Great pix and story line!
    Am I jealous? Would I survive? Would I get lost? Answer definitely “yes” to at least two questions…..
    What temp extremes have you been through?
    Keep going and look forward to next report
    All best wishes

    1. Thanks Chris – it’s been perfect riding weather so far. 20C or so during the day – hot sun but cool in the shade. Can get down to below zero at night but the sleeping bag has performed well so far! Bolivia could be a different matter…

  2. Campbell. this is superb. love reading your blog and the pictures are awesome.
    A shame you don’t have a picture of you holding your bike aloft at the top of the highest peak! but i guess you probably didn’t have the energy to lift 50Kgs or whatever the crazy weight of your bike is?
    The climb over the tunnel looks like great tarmac for road biking?

    1. Thanks Ed! Yep, a little too heavy to lift the bike! After my culling of superfluous gear, I think I’m down to about 43kg now!!
      Yep, it would be a fantastic climb on a road bike too if you went through the tunnel (there is a Strava segment for it!). There are plenty like it too – just quite geographically separated! If you knew the routes/terrain, you could do a great lightweight bikepacking-style tour, staying in hostels every night. Might need a gravel/adventure bike though! Euro 20?!!

  3. Another truly inspiring blog, with even more sensational pics of stunning clarity.
    The scale and steepness of those switchbacks are breathtaking – far surpassing the TdF equivalents.
    After all that effort, I hope you bought an ice cream for Sally too!

  4. Epic Campbell! You look like your having a great time! Those mountains look amazing!
    I defo need to get a theta as well! All about the 360s!

  5. Yikes you are starting to look proper Neanderthal !! Omg to wet tent and dodgy tum, gosh what a story you have every week compared to the 9-5 Groundhog Day slog – amazing and so brave, love your work!

    Stunning pics and hope you found beer on your birthday and had one or five for Ben X

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