For us and many other travellers who want to complete the Huayhuash trek, the prospect of having to hire a guide was unappealing and simply not in the budget. We scoured the internet for route information and trip reports beforehand until we felt sufficiently prepared and the trip ended up panning out almost perfectly in our opinion. Below is a summary of our Cordillera Huayhuash experience and we hope it is useful to anyone planning their own trek.
Our route was more or less the typical circuit, with a few popular deviations, but we combined a few of the days in order to shorten the overall duration. We completed the trek in 7 days from November 15 – 21, which is typically rainy season but 2016 has been a very dry year for the Andes and we didn’t get any significant rain. The trail was generally easy to follow and there are downloadable GPS routes available online if you can’t get your hands on a copy of the topo map. If you have any questions about the trek or our route feel free to leave them in the comments, we would be happy to help!
Elevation gain: 4,790m
Duration: 7 days
Cost: 237 soles per person (95 CAD)
- Fees: 115 soles per person (46 CAD)
- Transportation: 60 soles per person (24 CAD)
- Food: 62 soles per person (25 CAD)
- To Pocpa: 5am bus from Huaraz to Pocpa via Chiquian and Llamac (Turismo Nazario, 30 soles, ~4.5 hours, 1 bus transfer). Departs from Catac, Chiquian bus station
- To Huaraz: 11am bus from Llamac to Huaraz (Turismo Nazario, 25 soles, ~5 hours with stop Chiquian, able to grab lunch/snacks there). Departs from Turismo Nazario office. You’ll stop at it on the way to Pocpa, there is really only one main street in Llamac
- Start/End Point: Matacancha campsite to Laguna Mitococha (direct from Qaqananpunta)
- Distance: 9km
- Elevations: 4,170m Matacancha – 4,750m Qaqananpunta – 4,230m L. Mitococha
- Time: 5h 45m / 2 breaks
- Difficulty: 3/5
- Fees: Pocpa – 10 soles per person
- Route: Followed path over Qaqananpunta then followed a faint at times path, which stays high, direct to L. Mitococha. This trail breaks away from the standard donkey trail through Janca just as the descent from the pass levels out.
Comments: Planned on starting in Popca and hiking road to Matacancha camp site, after an hour we were able to hitch a ride to camp site. Was only 11:30am so we decided to push for Laguna Mitococha
- Start/End Point: Laguna Mitococha to Laguna Siula (Tres Lagunas)
- Distance: 14km
- Elevation gain/loss: 4,230m L. Mitococha – 4,650m P. Carhuac – 4,140m L. Carhucocha – 4,290m L. Suilacocha
- Time: 6.5h / 2 breaks
- Difficulty: 2/5
- Fees: Janca/L. Carhuacocha – 40 soles per person, Quishuarcancha (Tres Lagunas) – 25 soles per person
- Route: Met up with trail from Janca and followed to Laguna Carhuacocha via Punta Carhuac. Veered right above laguna and crossed boggy flood plain to trail up towards Tres Lagunas, instead of following trail around south end of Laguna Carhuacocha. Camped midway along second lake next to a giant boulder.
Comments: Section from above Laguna Carhuacocha towards Tres Lagunas was direct but required us to remove boots and cross a few streams. Camp spot was great, got to listen to and watch ice break off the glacier above Laguna Siulacocha.
- Start/End Point: Laguna Siula to Viconga Campsite
- Distance: 18km
- Elevation gain/loss: 4,290m L. Siulacocha – 4,800m P. Siula – 4,330m Huayhuash – 4,750m Portachuelo – 4,410m Viconga
- Time: 9.5h / 4 breaks
- Difficulty: 3/5
- Fees: Viconga – 20 soles per person, Huayhuash – 15 soles per person (we weren’t approached by anyone so didn’t have to pay this)
- Route: Easy route finding all day. When descending from Siula Punta we chose to stay left of the large laguna and met up with donkey trail. It is possible to follow trail along right hand shore as well, both meet up with donkey trail before descending further to Huayhuash.
Comments: Once we reached Viconga dam, we didn’t make the extra 20 minute walk to the hot springs since it was late and too windy for a dip. Not many sheltered camp sites unless you continue up the valley for 10-15 minutes, closer to a moraine.
- Start/End Point: Viconga to Cujutambo camp site via Punta San Antonio
- Distance: 11km
- Elevation gain/loss: 4,410m Viconga – 5,000m P. Cuyoc – 4,480m Guanacpatay – 5,000m P. San Antonio – 4,260m Cujutambo
- Time: 9.5h / 6 breaks
- Difficulty: 5/5
- Route: Followed the trail to the first Guanacpatay camp spot then headed directly across the valley to the start of the San Antonio pass route, very steep path up a scree slope for the first bit. Route down from Punta San Antonio is challenging, starts off as a very steep scree descent with no distinct trail before cutting left before the narrow drainage. Do not descend the drainage, it will not end well. Look for cairns on your left and follow the trail around to the front side of the mountain and then follow more cairns down a steep trail to valley bottom. Camp is back up the valley towards Laguna Jarua.
Comments: Views from Punta San Antonio were our favourite from the entire trek, the descent down was a little technical at times and could end poorly in adverse conditions.
- Start/End Point: Cujutambo campsite to Incahuain
- Distance: 17km
- Elevation gain/loss: 4,260m Cujutambo – 3,500m Huayllapa – 4,570m Incahuain
- Time: 9.5 hours – 4 breaks and 45 lunch/restock in Huayllapa
- Difficulty: 4/5
- Route: Easy downhill trail following the river to the Huaitiac junction. Steady uphill climb to Incahuain.
Comments: We continued into Huayllapa to restock at one of the bodegas, there is one soon after entering town but it wasn’t open when we passed it. Keep walking along the main road to find two more bodegas with enough food options to complete your trek (pasta, instant noodles, crackers/cookies, sweets, limited fruit/veg selection). The walk back up to the Huaitiac trail junction took us 15 min. We got to the Huaitiac campsite at 4pm but we were eager to finish the day at Incahuain so we pushed on after speaking with a local who told us it would only be an hour more. We got worried along the way when we couldn’t see any running water or signs of water on our map. Luckily there is a deep slow moving stream running through the campsite.
- Start/End Point: Incahuain to Laguna Jahuacocha
- Distance: 13km
- Elevation gain/loss: 4,570m Incahuain – 4,800 P. Tapush – 4,500m L. Susococha – 4,800m P. Yaucha – 4,070m L. Jahuacocha
- Time: 6.5 hours – 1 short break and 45 min lunch
- Difficulty: 2/5
- Fees: Laguna Jahuacocha – 20 soles per person
- Route: Trail is easy to follow up and over two easy passes compared to previous days. Steep descent down to Laguna Jahuacocha.
Comments: We camped on the far side of the bridge. You can find lots of awesome flat spots back there but not a lot of shelter from the wind.
- Start/End Point: Laguna Jahuacocha to Llamac
- Distance: 14km
- Elevation gain/loss: 4,070m L. Jahuacocha – 3,300m Llamac
- Time: 5h / 2 breaks
- Difficulty: 1/5
- Route: Followed path leading away from camp along right side of valley (facing away from lake). Then followed the aquaduct from the settlement of Jahuacocha all the way to Llamac. It more or less follows the river while maintaining elevation and descending rapidly once above Llamac, this avoids having to follow the standard donkey route up and over Punta Llamac.
Comments: Left Jahuacocha at 5:15am in order to catch the 11am bus and made it with plenty of time to grab drinks and snacks in Llamac.