The Peruvian Andes are even more of a hiker’s paradise than I’d imagined. Fortunately, I have a flexible schedule.
In Lima, I visited the South American Explorers club in Miraflores (Pro tip: Confirm the address online before you go. Both of my guidebooks had old information). I came away with a stack of maps, a massive list of acclimatization hikes, and the realization that it would be a missed opportunity not spend time in the Cordillera Huayhaush (pronounced “Whywash”), the higher and more rugged range south of the Cordillera Blanca.
As a result, I added to the menu a 8-day, 90-mile appetizer trek on the Cordillera Huayhuash Circuit before the main course in the Cordillera Blanca. I’ll be hiking with a Dutch/Belgian couple I met at the Andes Camp Lodge in Huaraz. We leave Huaraz early Saturday (5/23) for the trailhead in Pocpa, located about six hours south.
I’ve been in Huaraz (3,100m/9,842ft) four days to make sure I adjust to the high altitudes. The first of several acclimatization hikes was to Laguna Wilcacocha, a small lake in the Cordillera Negra nestled between small Quechua villages at 3,800m/12,467ft. The lake had stunning views of the peaks of the Cordillera Blanca.
The next prep hike was part of day trip into the Park Nacional Huascaran. The trip included visits to a carbonated thermal spring and a field of Pulla de Raimondii, a species of massive endangered flower endemic to the Andean highlands.
The highlight of the trip was a short hike to a pair of glacial lakes in Pastoruri (5,000m/16,400ft). It was amazing place. According to the local guides, however, the glacier has receded dramatically in recent decades and is now only a shadow of its former self. They estimated that the glaciers would be gone in 5-10 years. Not exactly the most rigorous of estimates, but it adds local color to the projections that most low altitude Peruvian glaciers in the country will disappear within 20 years. As a former climate change attorney, this hit home. It looks like Pastaruri is destined to be another casualty of the warming that has already seen the Cordillera Blanca lose nearly 30 percent of their glacial surface area over the last 40 years.
Which brings me back to Lima. I’d heard that the city was not the world’s greatest tourist city and was not lead astray. What was impressive, though, was the sheer size of the place. Located in a coastal desert, Lima is a sprawling city that is home to over 8 million people. It feels every bit that large. That huge population gets the vast majority of its water and energy from the runoff of those disappearing Andean glaciers. Millions of others throughout the region face the same problem. Faced with that reality, it’s going to take some serious planning for Peru to successfully adapt. Better cross our fingers.
Ahh to be young and out there. I wish you great experiences
Hi, Kevin, this is Margie Ono Jones, your Mom and Aunt Monie’s friend since junior hs. Your Mom gave us the link to follow your blog. I think it’s great that you are following your heart to explore the world. My husband and I will be arriving in Lima on June 9. We will visit Ayacucho, Cuzco, and Machu Picchu. We will be in Machu Picchu on June 18. If there’s any chance to meet up with you, that would be fun for us and I know your Mom would love that. We fly to Buenos Aires on June 19 for four nights there before returning to L.A. I will follow your blog with great interest. Your photographs are stunning, and your writing is superb!
Margie – Thanks for the note. My schedule is a bit up in the air but there is a good chance I will be in the Cuzco area around that time. I’m heading out for the Alpamayo Circuit and then will spend a week or two in Ecuador before heading south toward to Cuzco area. I would enjoy meeting up with you. I’ll keep you posted as the time gets nearer. It would be great if we could meet up.
It looks like I won’t be able to make it down south in time to meet up with you. I’m still in northern Peru and will head to Ecuador for a week or so before I turn south. I hope you have a great trip and sorry we didn’t get a chance to meet up.