Peru it is. After finding out late last week that the JMT is now entirely snowbound, I bumped the hike in the Cordillera Blanca up a year from next May and I’m booked on a flight into Lima late tonight.
My (hastily concocted) plan is to spend a day or two in Lima gathering topo maps and other trail info at the Instituto Geografico Nacional and the South American Explorers club. Then I’ll head to Huaraz – the closest city to the trailhead – to finish planning the trek. My preference would be to hike solo, but there are some safety concerns for solo trekkers in the region so I’ll likely either join a group already making the trek or hire a local guide.
As this last week has demonstrated, scheduling these hikes has been a serious challenge. Each hike has its own narrow window when conditions are optimal, determined by a variety of factors. What are the temperature ranges? Is there enough water? Is there much snow on the trail? If so, how much do I enjoy postholing through mile-wide snow fields? Is it rainy season? If so, how much do I enjoy being soaked day after day or battling hordes of mosquitos? Are permits required and, if so, available?
Answering those questions leaves a short range each year where a trail offers the best chance for a good experience. Here are the optimal dates* for my hikes:
- Alpamayo (Peru): May – September
- JMT (California): June – September
- Tour de Mont Blanc (Europe): July – September 15
- Annapurna/Mustang (Nepal): Oct. 15 – Dec. 15, March – June
- Te Araroa (New Zealand): November – January
- Kilimanjaro (Tanzania): Jan. – March, Aug. – October 15
- Drakensberg (S. Africa): March 15 – June, Sept. – October
- Antarctica: December – early February
* I’ve used hard dates for the sake of simplicity. The actual dates can be less concrete than this list suggests.
Adding to the fun, these hikes are scattered around the globe. In fact, by design, they are nearly as far apart as possible. To preserve my sanity, I’ve taken the dates above and threaded them into a semi-coherent itinerary running generally west to east. The goal here was to minimize to the extent possible the number of long haul flights from one end of the world to another.
Taking all that into account, here’s my very tentative and still flexible itinerary:
- Alpamayo (Peru): Late May 2014
- JMT (California): August 6-August12
- Tour de Mont Blanc (Europe): Late August 2014
- Annapurna/Mustang (Nepal): Mid-October 2014
- Te Araroa (New Zealand): November – December 2014
- Kilimanjaro (Tanzania): Early March 2015
- Drakensberg (S. Africa): Late March 2015
- Antarctica: January 2016
Now that that’s out of the way, all that’s left is to nail down visas, transportation, permitting, hike plans, provisions, and gear lists. Piece of cake.