Characterized by rugged snow-capped peaks and wide alpine pastures dotted with tranquil blue lakes, the Cordillera Huayhuash is one of the most beautiful and least-known mountain ranges in South America. Although it is only 30 kilometers (18.6 mi) long, this cordillera packs a strong panoramic punch. Composed of one jagged ridge that gives way to rippling snow faces and massive glaciers, the Huayhuash is a physically challenging and visually rewarding trek. With seven peaks exceeding 6,000 meters (19,685 ft), including the highest peak, YerupajÃ¡ (6,634 m or 21,765 ft), and another seven just over 5,500 meters (18,000 ft), the 12-day loop around the entire range is sure to keep the heart pumping and legs pounding.
Unlike the Cordillera Blanca, which is characterized by broad U-shaped valleys, the Cordillera Huayhuash is composed of rocky ridges that force trekkers to climb up and over a succession of passes between 4,500 and 5,000 meters (14,760 to 16,400 ft). To navigate these high-altitude obstacle courses, most trekkers use arrieros (horsemen) and burros (donkeys), both of which can be hired at the start of the excursion. Another factor setting Huayhuash apart from its more well-known siblings of Cordillera Blanca and Cordillera Negra is its remoteness. Compared to the highly-traveled ranges in the Cordillera Blanca, the trails blazing up, over and around Cordillera Huayhuash are remarkably quiet. Despite a network of new roads, getting into the region still takes one or two days. Consequently, the area remains an isolated, wild placeâ€”the perfect playground for solitude-seekers. Hikes in this area usually begin in the city of ChiquiÃ¡n (3,400 meters or 11,155 ft), about 111 kilometers (69 mi) south of Huaraz. Guides and trekking routes can be arranged at agencies in Huaraz. In 2002 the Peruvian government declared the range a protected area, a decided attempt to protect the zone from such deleterious enterprises as the Mitsui Mining and Smelting Company, which has managed to deposit industrial wastes in the wetlands on the rangeâ€™s west edge.
Hiking, Trekking, Climbing