The Cordillera Blanca: the other Peru - The360 Travel

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  • Sunday, December 15, 2019

    The Cordillera Blanca: the other Peru

    The Cordillera Blanca: the other Peru

    When we think of Peru, we usually think of the Incas, Machu Picchu, the lamas. There is, however, another Peru, a Peru of sharp white peaks, narrow gorges, a spectacular Peru. This is the Cordillera Blanca, in the north of the country, a popular Peruvian mountaineers and trekkers.

    The base camp of all this beautiful world is mostly Huaraz. The city, it is said, has already been pretty, picturesque. Alas, a tragic earthquake shaved everything in 1970, killing about 70,000 people in the region. We rebuilt the city, but in an emergency, without paying much attention to aesthetics. We are rebuilding the cathedral, but the work is far from over. Meanwhile, you can admire its monumental copper doors.

    The main attraction of the city is its site, at the foot of large snow-capped peaks. The trekker and mountaineer have only one desire: go see them a little closer. That's good, there are several good trekking and mountaineering agencies in Huaraz (although it is obviously better to organize your expedition before leaving Canada). There are also some outdoor equipment shops to buy or rent the essential item that has been forgotten at home.

    Huaraz also has good restaurants, enough to eat before leaving for the mountain.

    Finally, there are nice excursions to do just outside Huaraz to begin the work of acclimatization.

    It is not a good idea to immediately embark on a trek that can reach 4750 m altitude: mountain sickness can be sneaky.

    The only remedy that really works is the time: go up gradually, take days off. Already, spending a few days in Huaraz, at about 3050 m altitude, gives a good boost.

    Mountaineers and trekkers also enjoy a short excursion to Laguna Churup at 4450 m altitude. The trail is particularly pretty. There are some passages a little steep, but fortunately, we can help a fixed rope. The site of Laguna Churup is spectacular. A lake with emerald waters nestled at the bottom of glaciers certainly contributes.

    Treks to fully enjoy it

    But to really appreciate the Cordillera Blanca, you have to embark on one of the famous treks of the region, like those of Ishinca, Santa Cruz or the tour of the Alpamayo. The ideal season is the austral winter: June, July and August. It is cold in altitude, but the sun is abundant.

    The trek of Santa Cruz is a short hike of three to four days, so ideal for those who have little time, but who still want to admire panoramas out of the ordinary.

    Approaching Cashapampa, one of the starting points of the trek, the landscape is already promising. Behind a buttress stands an all-white pyramid, Mount Santa Cruz. The buttress seems an impenetrable barrier. There is, however, a narrow cleft, as if a colossus had struck a sword: it is the narrow valley of the Santa Cruz River, the gateway to the great peaks of the interior.

    The first day of trek takes place in this parade. At midday, the heat is intense. The valley opens gradually, revealing giants like Quitaraju, at 6036 m, or Artesonraju at 6025 m. The latter may seem vaguely familiar. This is not surprising: Paramount was inspired by Artesonraju for its famous logo, which is seen at the beginning of each of his films.

    It's worth a detour to spend a night at the base camp of the Alpamayo, a mountain of 5947 m. Several white giants form a semicircle around a small green valley. The Alpamayo, in particular, overlooks the camp. But for its most aesthetic face, you have to make the whole tour of the massif, which requires an extra week. As long as you are in the area, why not?

    Mountaineering and Ice Climbing

    It is better to have notions of mountaineering and to hire a good guide to attack the peaks of the Cordillera Blanca. Some are more accessible, like Ishinca, a summit of 5530 m above sea level. The base camp is a day's walk from the road, the advanced base camp requires an extra day, then it's the day of the summit. However, it is necessary to know how to use an ice ax and crampons and to know how to evolve, roped, on a glacier where conceals crevasses.

    The Alpamayo is more technical and requires a good knowledge of ice climbing techniques, in addition to requiring a physical form foolproof. However, it is a classic mountaineering world: Alpamayo is considered one of the most beautiful mountains in the world.

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