Running 180 kilometers (112 mi) from north to south across the Ancash region, the spectacular snow-clad peaks of the Cordillera Blanca provide a natural barrier between the desert coast and the Amazon Basin. Rugged peaks descend toward massive glaciers, dropping into u-shaped valleys where cattle graze among the rich grasslands. After the range of Andes situated along the Chile-Argentina border, the Cordillera Blanca boasts the highest mountains in South America. They are visible throughout the region, and provide a number of challenging trails for intrepid hikers and travelers to explore. From the trekking hub of Huaraz alone, over 23 peaks exceeding 5,000 m (16,400 ft) are visible, most notably HuascarĂˇn (6,768 m or 22,200 ft).
Every year this region receives thousands of trekking junkies eager to get out and test their skills on the nearby paths. Almost the entire chain is protected by the HuascarĂˇn National Park, home to 663 glaciers, 269 lakes, 41 rivers and 33 archaeological sites.
The largest concentration of glaciers found in the worldâ€™s tropical zone is situated here, as is one of Peruâ€™s most important pre-Inca sites: ChavĂn de HuĂˇntar. Because the range is quite narrow, it is easy to access trekking areas from roads. Many of these trails were created centuries before the dawn of recreational hiking, serving as natural highways for Andean inhabitants.
Rural villages line the region and provide trekkers with the opportunity to mingle with locals who continue to maintain many aspects of traditional Andean culture. Agencies in Huaraz can arrange a variety of itineraries, ranging in degree of difficulty and number of days. Most trails are easy to navigate, but include high passes between 4,000 and 5,000 meters (13,120 to 16,400 ft). Proper equipment and acclimatization are essential.
Hiking, Trekking, Climbing