Huaraz and the Cordillera Part I

After three consecutive night buses I finally arrived in Huaraz. Situated directly beneath the Cordillera Blanca it is the main base for climbing, mountaineering and trekking activities.
It also lies at 3000m altitude making it ideal to acclimatize for the surrounding peaks which all are above 5000m.
Several day hikes to altitudes above 4000m help with acclimatization. My first and only acclimatization hike was to Laguna Churup at 4400m. Starting in Huaraz it takes about 5h to reach the Laguna.

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Laguna Churup with Nevado Churup in the background

After the day trek it was time for some rock climbing. First in a small area just outside Huaraz and later in Hatun Machay, Peru’s prime rock climbing area. Over the next weeks I ended up visiting Hatun Machay three times. Climbing at Hatun Machay requires to spend the night at 4300m which helped tremendously with getting acclimatized. It was also at Hatun Machay where I met my climbing partners for the following climbs in the Cordillera Blanca.

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Hatun Machay refugio

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Hatun Machay aka The Rock Forest

After returning from Hatun Machay our group of 6 decided to go mountaineering. With only 3 of us having mountaineering experience we set our eyes on Yanapaccha, a beginner peak with a glacier that allows to practice basic mountain skills. Still, the mountain lies well above 5000m and the base camp at 4600m.

We hired a combi to take us to the trailhead from where it was another 2h hike to get to base camp.
4 of us decided to wait for another day before attempting to summit and use the day for practice.
Ed and Hugh wanted to go up to the summit in the same night but with Ed being sick from food poisoning, none of us got up in the first night.

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Llanganuco valley seen from the trailhead

One more of our group would fall sick with altitude sickness so only 4 of us were left to climb in the second night. Wake up call was midnight which would put us on the summit around sunrise. For traversing the glacier all 4 of us roped up. For the steeper parts, about half-way up, we split up in two teams. Tom lead Sarah up while I lead the climb with Hugh following. Conditions on the mountain were freezing cold and I had to wear all my layers including softshell, hardshell and down-jacket.

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Hugh on the Yanapaccha glacier after self-arrest practice

But finally after 6h of climbing Hugh and I reached the summit, shortly after Tom and Sarah. Although offering spectacular views the freezing wind prevented us from staying on the summit for long.

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Hugh and I on the summit of Yanapaccha

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Starting our descent along the summit ridge

The descent took another 4h so we finally returned to base camp at midday. We quickly packed all our stuff and started to hike to the trailhead hoping to get a ride back to town. Needless to say after having been on the mountain for most of the day the hike back was gruesome.

Just before sunset a truck would stop and offer us a ride. Surprisingly all 6 of us plus our gear fit into what felt like a squaremeter of space on the truck’s cargo area. The ride reminded me of a rollercoaster ride. But still we safely arrived at the next bigger town after 90 minutes or so. From here we got a combi back to Huaraz.

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The chicken truck

Back in Huaraz we returned our gear, had dinner and checked back into our hostel. All in all we were up for 24h. Next day we decided to summit Ishinca next. So after just two rest days Sarah, Hugh and I set off again. Tom and Ed went to Hatun Machay in the meantime.

This time instead of carrying our gear to base camp we hired two donkeys. Without backpacks the 3h hike turned out to be quite relaxing.

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Sarah, Hugh and our two donkeys

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Hiking through Quebrada Ishinca to the Ishinca base camp

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The base camp at the base of Tocllaraju

Wake-up call was at 00:30 this time and after breakfast we started our approach to Ishinca. It took 3h to reach the base of Ishinca and the start of the glacier. After gearing up we started our ascent which took another 3-4 hours and we reached the summit around 10 in the morning.

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Summit of Ishinca

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View from Ishinca

We spent about an hour on the summit before starting our decent via the easier south side of Ishinca and after just one hour we already left the glacier behind us.

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Descending via the Ishinca-Ranrapalca col

After a couple of more hours we returned to base camp, packed our stuff and hiked to the trailhead where arrived just after sunset. In total we were up for 24 h again.

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Sunset over the Cordillera

After those endevours it was time for a rest. Instead of just sitting in Huaraz I decided to do a dayhike to Laguna 69. This beautiful Laguna sits just below Chacraraju.

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Laguna 69 with Chacraraju in the background

Now it is time to rest for a while before attempting to climb the next mountains.