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.
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.
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 to 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.
There were two spots to pick up some supplies during the trek.
- 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!
- 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.
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.
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.
- 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?
- 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
- 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
- Toiletries (keep it basic but make sure you have enough toilet paper)
- SPF chapstick
- Electrolyte pills
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.
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?
- 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.
- 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.