Huayhuash trek in Northern Peru is considered one of the two most beautiful alpine-style treks in the world (the other one is the Annapurna Circuit, which I covered earlier). The trek has gained fame following the Movie “Touching the Void“, which describes the successful but disastrous and nearly fatal climb of the 6,344-metre (20,813 foot) Siula Grande in 1985 by Joe Simpson and Simon Yates.
Access and Logistics
It is actually easy to arrange a private or shared Huayhuash Trek: I used Active Peru, but there are many other agencies to choose from, and prices are very reasonable if you use a Peruvian-based agency. Most trekking companies are based in the city of Huaraz, which is considered to be the mountain climbing capital of Peru, and surrounded by the Cordillera Blanca Mountain Range (Huascarán at 6768 meters, the highest peak in Peru can be seen from town). Huaraz can be reached from the Capital, Lima by an 8 hour bus ride (many of the buses have reclining beds which make the trip comfortable), or by a short 50 minuet flight in 20-seat plans run by LC Peru. The best hiking season are the dry months of June-September, but with recent climate changes, one can encounter rain and snow even during these months.
The Huayhuash Trek is a much tougher trek than the Annapurna in Nepal, Routeburn in New Zealand or other treks that I experienced. The trek is mostly at heights between 4000 and 5000 meters and every day involves a climb over a pass. The unpredictable weather can bring sun, rain and even snow, so one needs to be prepared, physically and mentally. Lodging is in tents, and a typical trip includes a guide, cook and donkeys which carry the supplies. It is common to spend in Huaraz at least two nights for acclimation, and during this time, go on short and medium hikes to places such as Laguna 69.
The Huayhuash trek can be completed in as short as 8 days, though it is common to take a more leisurely pace of 10-12 days which include rest days and extra days for bad weather. The trek usually starts at Llamac or Mantacancha and continues in a clockwise direction around the range, a total of over 100km. For me, the highlights include the high route that provides beautiful views of a hidden valley and Laguna Siula and Laguna Quesillacocha, both lakes sitting beneath the east face of Yerupaja and Siula Grande. In the middle of the trek one finds the Huayhuash hot springs, which gives you an opportunity to soak your body after several days in the cold without a shower. In summary, for those who love the beauty of the mountains and can cope with high altitude hiking, the Huayhuash trek is a must.