Hiking Cordillera Huayhuash – Part 3: Logistics for Huayhuash

Coming from sea level, we had to take some risks in order to complete this high altitude trek in 2 weeks. We made some good decision and got lucky at times. In this post, I want to share some of our logistics for those who are interested in trekking Cordillera Huayhuash in the future.

How to get to Huayhuash?

We used Huaraz as our jump off point. We booked overnight Cruz Del Sur buses between Lima and Huaraz in advance on this website. Both the buses we took had every seat filled so I assume it’s wise to book ahead.

From Huaraz, you need to take a 5am bus (El Rapido or Nazario) to Chiquian where you can find a connection bus to Llamac every day. It’s a 5 hour trek from Llamac to Quartelhuain on a service road. Since Llamac is also the end point of the Huayhuash circuit, some people trek the circuit counter-clockwise going from Llamac to Incahuain (Laguna Jahuacocha) on the first day.

If you are lucky, you can find a ride from Chiquian to Pocpa (a town 10 mins from Llamac towards Quartelhuain) or even to Quartelhuain itself. We found a cement truck that was willing to take us 8 independent trekkers to Quartelhuain for 180 Peruvian soles total. We split it 8 ways and it was a little over 22 soles a person or 7 USD.

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Tricia taking a nap on a park bench in Chiquian. A doggo was very interested in the bag of food she was using as a pillow.

I’ve heard quotes between Huaraz to Quartelhuain by taxi for 300 soles (~100USD) or from Llamac to Quartelhuain for 200 soles. These prices are for your considerations only as neither were verifiable.

When to go on this trek?

Dry season (Mar-Sep) is the best time of the year to trek here. However, I’ve read reports of people going through Huayhuash all year around and experiencing perfect weather. We trekked in July and woke up one morning to find an inch of snow blanketing the ravine. It was also the warmest night on the trek by far.

Water, Food and Fuel

Water was plentiful on this trek with a few exceptions:

Day 1 between Quartelhuain and Mitococha had no water until you were near Janca campsite (Mitococha). There was a river going through Quartelhuain so make sure you fill up your bottles.

Day 7 Gashpapampa campsite sat on a swampy land with stale water looked too disgusting to filter. Rivers ran through Gashpapampa painted the riverbed rocks bright orange. The water was known to have high iron and lead content. Not recommended for drinking. I climbed up a hillside to find a clear stream to collect water that evening.

I read from multiple blogs that water tastes less than desirable here. I don’t know if it has to do with the quality of water filter (we used our platypus filter) or if people used iodine tabs only, but neither of us noticed any foul taste in water.

Food

We packed in a variety of food easy to cook in water at lowered boiling temperature. We found pre-soaking freeze dried vegetables, noodles, dried beans, quinoa and couscous can significantly reduce cooking time to save fuel. I packed a large stick of salami which I used to cook out some grease for a stir fry. I also packed in 5 large carrots which we sliced thinly each day to add to our meals.

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I may appear constipated in this photo, but I was actually pretty proud of my heaping pile of food.

There were two spots to pick up some supplies during the trek.

  1. Huayllapa. A small village most people arrive to on day 6. There was a small shop in town to pick up variety of food items, water and fuel canisters. We found some apples and an avocado in the shop!
  2. Viconga. I didn’t see this mentioned in any other blogs, so either it’s a new thing or people didn’t notice it. There was a shop next to the thermal baths that sold beer, eggs, potatoes, rice, water, soda, etc.

Fuel

We were nervous about fuel availability in Peru. We brought our pocket rocket and there were plenty places to pick up fuel canisters. We picked up three canisters in Huaraz. We paid 20 soles per each 8oz canister. You can also pick up fuel in Chiquian, Llamac and Huayllapa.

Trip Budget

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Our ticket collection from the trip.

Peru is a low cost country overall. Our flights from Seattle to Lima were $2000 for two. After arriving to Peru, we used $600 during the two weeks.

Major items:

  • Lodging (10-35 USD/nt in Huaraz and Lima)
  • Food: set menu in Huaraz cost about 5-7 Soles (2-3 USD) per meal; higher end restaurants in Lima are closer to US prices
  • Bus: LIMA Huaraz 120 soles (37 USD) round trip/person

Huaraz -> Chiquian 10 soles (3 USD)/person

Chiquian -> Quartelhuain 20+22 soles (14 USD)/person

Llamac -> Huaraz 25 soles (8 USD)/person

  • Trek: 320 soles for two people in small bills
    • Seven communities in Huayhuash region offer protection to trekkers traversing their territories. In return, trekkers pay each of the communities a fee to pass through or set up camp. It’s an inefficient system but I was happy to buy a safe journey.

What did we pack?

Clothing:

  • Long sleeve hoodie base layer (hoodie was good for both cold and sun protection)
  • T shirts x2
  • Thin hiking pants x1
  • Wool long underpants x1
  • Undies x3
  • Waterproof jacket +pants x1
  • Hiking boots
  • Puffer Jacket x1
  • Fleece long sleeve layer x1
  • Winter hat + baseball cap x1
  • Gloves
  • Socks (1 heavy for night, 2 medium for hiking)

Camping and hiking:

  • 4 season tent
  • Winter sleeping bag (20F rated)
  • Inflatable sleeping pad/pillow
  • Pocket rocket stove/fuel canisters
  • Foldable bowls/spoon/fork
  • A knife
  • Food (calculate your meals carefully or you either carry a bunch of dead weight or wind up starving)
  • Water filter (you want to have a fast and reliable filter)
  • 3L water bladder
  • 1L foldable bottle specifically for electrolytes
  • Headlamps
  • Toiletries (keep it basic but make sure you have enough toilet paper)
  • Sunscreen/Sunglasses
  • SPF chapstick
  • Electrolyte pills
  • contacts/solution

Other essential stuff:

  • Small bills (320 soles for two in July 2018)
  • Phone + charger
  • Camera + extra batteries
  • Altitude meds (diamox, decadron, ibuprofen)
    • We started taking 125mg diamox (i.e. acetazolamide) once every morning two days before arriving to Huaraz. We continued to take diamox until day 7 in Huayhuash when we were both sure to have acclimatized.
    • Decadron (i.e. dexamethasone) is a life saving medication if you develop symptoms of cerebral edema.
    • Ibuprofen decreases inflammatory pain but it can mask some altitude sickness symptoms. It does NOT treat altitude sickness.
  • Other meds:
    • Laxatives and anti-diarrhea meds (e.g. loperamide)
    • Pepto Bismol pills

Guided Group or Independent?

For a challenging trek like this, I think it is very reasonable to join a guided group. Good food and light packs make a huge difference in a difficult, high altitude trek. Most of the hikers in groups that we encountered were happy with their decision. However, if you are an independent spirit– and the fact you are reading my posts– you are probably interested in taking ownership of this trip. It is doable as long as you set your expectations right that this is a very challenging trek.

Safety

Viconga of Huayhuash used to be the base for a Maoist guerrilla force called Sendero Luminoso until mid 90s when the government forces finally swept the region. However, sporadic robberies still occur in this region. We heard that a couple of New Zealand trekkers were robbed on the trail in Oct 2017. We had no way to verify the source, but it’s always prudent to stay vigilant.

We felt very safe on our hike. We encountered a guided group on our first day and we banded with several other independent trekkers along the way. It was comforting to know that we weren’t totally alone. And it was kind great to have community dinners at the end of a tough day.

What Else Do I Need?

  1. Spanish: the more remote you get, the less likely you will find people speaking English to you. You will be thankful to have learned some basic Spanish for this trip.
  2. Read about altitude sickness: this is the trek where you can get into serious trouble. As soon as you get over the first pass, it becomes very difficult to evacuate you to a lower altitude. Know your body and learn to recognize bad signs can save your life.

Did I miss anything here? Do you have any other questions? Feel free to leave me a message below.

Peru

Part 1

Part 2: Day 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

 

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22 Comments Add yours

  1. Jason says:

    Awesome write-up, thanks for posting! Doing the Huayhuash Circuit this May and all this info was very helpful!

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    1. Thanks, buddy! Good luck, be safe, and absolutely enjoy the hike.

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      1. Jason says:

        Thanks! Quick question: did you bring all of your food with you from the States? I plan on bringing all the food I will need for the trek with me (Peanut Butter, Trail Mix, protein bars, mountain house meals, etc.). Doesn’t appear that people have had issues bringing this into the country. Any thoughts?

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      2. You won’t have trouble bringing those stuff, not to Peru anyways. I don’t think they cared at all what we brought. We did buy fresh fruit, vegetables, and a stick of salami in Huaraz.

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      3. Jason says:

        Great to hear! Did you get anything at Huayllapa along the trek? I have read that they sell some basic things there.

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      4. There was one shop in Huayllapa. It had surprisingly useful stuff for being in such a remote location. We picked up a large fresh avocado and a liter of bottled water. You can also get canister fuel, food, TPs, batteries, etc. It’s also a restaurant. A couple fellow trekkers ate lunch there, fried eggs and potatoes.

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    2. Nate says:

      Greetings Jason, my name is Nate. Myself and two friends will also be doing the Huayhuash this May, we will be doing the circuit in 8 days, hiking the 13-20th. We don’t really have any flexibility on those dates, but was curious when you would be hiking?

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      1. Jason says:

        Hey Nate! My friend and I will be doing it over 10 days and will be starting around May 22nd so right after you. Save some views for us! Hopefully the weather will be good when we are there. Also trying to find some epic side trips/areas to explore given we will be spending 10 days out there. Cheers!

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      2. Jason says:

        Nate, getting excited for the trek?!?! Any last minute changes/tips you guys have encountered? Thanks, Jason

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  2. So happy to have found this post! I am hiking the circuit independently in August and I was surfing the web just to see if anyone had recently posted about the campsite fees they paid, but it didn’t even occur to me that there might be fuel available at Huayllapa. Absolutely great news for my back, I always seem to carry about 3x as many fuel canisters as I end up using, just to be overly cautious.. So thank you for the info, it has been extremely helpful!

    -Brooke

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    1. Thanks for the encouraging words, Brooke! Stay safe, I hope you have a great trip!

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  3. Sawyer c soucie says:

    Very helpful article! I appreciate you taking the time to write it. My wife and I are hiking the trail this may, and I have read some unsettling things online about the safety. Did you feel safe because you were with a large group or did you feel safe because of the remoteness and the lack of nonhikers you encountered?

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    1. Thanks for visiting my site. The hike take you through regions that used to be controlled by bandits and guerrillas. Fortunately they were cleared up by the government over a decade ago. That’s not saying that I wasn’t worried. My wife and I definitely kept an eye out during our trip. We were mostly on our own during the day with few people in sight except at scenic passes where people tend to linger. At night we’d reunite with other hikers at designated campsites. I think the fellow hikers definitely helped with the sense of safety whereas the remoteness added enjoyment. How long do you plan to be on this trail?

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  4. Santiago Creixell says:

    This is an amazing blog! You mention a lot of the logistics, but don’t mention how fir you were before starting the trek. I do triathlons and long distance running, with a some experience in mountain climbing (mostly in Mexico), some multi-day hiking in Assiniboine (in Canada) and Iceland. How much did you prepared prior to the trip? I’m specially worried with all the weight, which was a pain in Canada, not that much with elevation as Mexico City is pretty high up.

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    1. Thanks buddy. It sounds like you are a great shape. Trekking in Assiniboine is definitely on my to do list. My wife and I live in Seattle, which is surrounded by mountains, so- fortunately- we have no shortage of places to hike. We didn’t particularly train for Huayhuash but we hike 8 to 10 miles with 3-4000 feet elevation gain on the weekends fairly regularly. We don’t usually hike with weights unless we are out on an overnight trip. I guess all I’m saying is that you are likely in much better shape than both of us. I think you will enjoy this trek tremendously as long as you do your homework before heading out there. When are you thinking of going? and for how many days?

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      1. Santiago Creixell says:

        Any thoughts on my reply?

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  5. Santiago Creixell says:

    Thanks! We want to do it in 8-9 days. We are going exactly in five weeks. Have started to hike on weekends, with some weight added just for the sake of it. We’ve also read extensively about the hike in different blogs, we bought the same guide you recommend as we saw it in other place, and are in the last stages of planning and reading as much as possible. I also speak Spanish natively, so that’s always a plus.

    The only other thing we’re not sure is if we should buy one of this emergency satellital beacons, but as we are going in the start of high season, I think we’ll meet enough people in the road.

    Assiniboine is super nice, but fairly easy compared to Huayhuash. I really want to go to Seattle, we met a couple from there in Assiniboine a recommended different hikes around the area and my bf went to Mt Rainier a couple of years ago.

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    1. I think your timing will be great. You should see many fellow trekkers in late June to early July that I don’t think you need a satellite phone, imho. Especially if you speak Spanish, you should be able to find help– remember there will always be people patrolling and ticketing trekkers.

      Definitely make a training plan and stick to it to ensure you have enough stamina to finish the trek. And finally, make sure you give yourself plenty time to acclimatize. Spending a few leisure days in Huaraz (10k feet) will be very helpful.

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  6. Santiago says:

    Thanks a lot for the blog! The recommendations where incredible!
    We’ve just returned to Mexico after 9 days in Huayhuash and some days in Cusco. We did the trek in 9 days, very similar to your hike (without the GI stop in Gashpampa!). We had no acclimatization stop in Huaraz, but went directly to Chiquian for one night and started in Llamac the morning after. We had no luck hitchiking to Cuarterlhuain so had to walk that extra leg, weren’t thrilled about it.
    We found a little bit too many people in the hike, we thought it was going to be a little bit less crowded, but had a truly amazing time!
    Thanks once more for putting up the blog!

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    1. You are totally welcome! I’m glad it all worked out. I think having to do the extra leg from Llamac, while less than ideal, probably afford you an extra day of acclimatization.
      Did you see a lot group hikers (with or without guides) or independent hikers? It’s too bad that the hike got crowded.

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      1. Santiago says:

        We saw a couple of independent, but many group hikers with very big groups (specially one of them, very big and with a very weird idea of what trekking is, one Huayhuash Camp at least had a “party tent” with loud music until the super late hours (like 9 pm, haha)).

        As we live in Mexico City, which is pretty high, we felt well acclimatized, but surely starting in Pocpá helped to acclimatize further.

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      2. Party tent? Yikes. That makes me sad. I can’t imagine people interested in party tents really have a good time in a hike like this though. But what do I know 😦

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