The Alpamayo Circuit, the first of the 7 trails, is done. I just got off the trail and now I’m back in Huaraz. Recovering…otherwise known as eating anything I can get my hands on.
This hike was one of the best experiences of my life. The Alpamayo Circuit has some of the most varied and interesting landscapes I’ve ever seen. I’m still thinking it through, but I might rank this one higher than Huayhuash. No matter what the Peruvians think.
Whereas Huayhuash started high and mostly stayed high, this hike started and ended all the way down in Cashapampa at 2,800 meters. In addition to a whole lot of work, this meant that the trail covered a range of Peruvian environments as it marched all the way up to Punta Osoruri at 4,800 by the middle of the second day.
The rest of the trail continued this theme of rising and falling through different temperate zones, resulting in amazingly varied experiences from valley to valley. Longer treks can sometimes have a sameness and regularity to them that could almost verge on boring if one were so inclined to think so (I’m looking at you Appalachian Trail, at least the Virginia and West Virginia sections). Alpamayo was impressively interesting and different from start to finish.
Another big difference was the sunsets. There’s almost nothing I enjoy more than a good sunset. Maybe it comes with being the complete opposite of a morning person, but my favorite time of day is always that hour or two before sunset when the light gets soft and colorful, and the world starts to slow down. In Huayhuash, the sunsets were lacking. Almost sterile. Alpamayo put on a great show nearly every night.
I know you’re out there thinking that this is because Huayhuash is higher and more remote, and therefore removed from the pollution and particles that create the refraction that causes the pretty sunsets. And you may be right. But I have standards, and they include pretty sunsets on my hikes. Point for Alpamayo.
A final major difference between this hike and Huayhuash (and every other big trek I’ve ever done) was that I did this 7-day trek solo. I’ve done long weekends solo before, but never anything this long. I wasn’t totally sure of what I was getting myself into. As it turns out, I enjoyed it.
Mostly for the very obvious reasons, too. Throughout the hike, the entire hiking party wanted to hike, rest, eat, sleep, and wander around taking pictures on the same schedule. Rarely happens when there’s more than one person involved. Again, that’s not bad. Just different.
The most significant impact of hiking solo was on the distance I was able to travel. I covered the entire Circuit, including day trips to the northern Alpamayo basecamp, southern Alpamayo basecamp, and Laguna Safuna, in 7 days. It typically takes a few days longer. That meant longer hiking days than I’m sure most people would like, and resulted in a couple less than optimal camp sites as well.
Despite entirely enjoying the solo experience, it is definitely the people you encounter that make trekking the most fun. There is something about being in the backcountry that makes people extremely generous and giving. Each time I head out, it seems that I see the best side of the people that I meet. Last trip it was Jolien attending to the kid with the broken arm. It was Carmel with her amazing trail cooking skills and never ending food supply. And it was Hector, the agency guide we met in the Huayhuash hot springs who patiently answered our hundred questions about the trail with a smile and offered a cup of tea and a few games of chess in return.
This trip it was Gerry from Alice Springs, Australia, the tourist on an agency trek who brought over a cup of coffee and a couple oranges (and his daughter, who offered a pancake) the first morning out. It was Alfredo, the teenage son who left his dad and their two donkeys loaded to the sky with firewood so he could help me and my bolsa grosso cross the river (even though I wanted not help, but confirmation that before I go to the trouble of taking off my shoes, and regardless of what the map said, there was in fact no bridge). And it was Hector again, the guide I first met in the Huayhuash hot springs that I met again atop Punta Union with a new group of tourists, who now offered a package of cookies and a few good laughs.
More hike details to come, but for now: