The Cordillera Huayhuash is one of the most incredible things I’ve ever done. Eight days of trekking across 130 kilometers of brutal terrain, high altitudes, and exposing yourselves to whatever mayhem Pachamama wants to throw your way. It isn’t easy. It’s even less easy if you get awful weather. During the dry season, many travelers flock to the hiking mecca of Huaraz to take on the Cordillera Huayhuash. Once the rains start to come, not so much. I did the Cordillera Huayhuash towards the end of October, nearly a month into Peru’s rainy season.
And while there is no controlling the weather, my personal experience was unforgettable. I had almost perfect weather throughout the entire trek, only dampened by a bit of rain on the first day before clear cruising throughout the rest of the way. Even the first day of rain was only a light, manageable drizzle for about two hours. Ponchos on, you can hardly feel a thing.
Can You Do The Cordillera Huayhuash in Rainy Season?
The rainy season in Huayhuash typically begins at the end of September or the beginning of October. I spoke with many trekking agencies and it seems like most of them start shutting down towards the end of October. Others go by demand, often pooling their clients into a big enough group to send out at least every few days. When we set off on October 22nd, there were two other groups doing the circuit with us and about 4 or 5 people doing it solo. Our group had 13, the other had about 8, and the other had 7 before 4 of them returned to Huaraz after only doing the half-circuit.
So in late October, there was still a significant number of people doing the trek. And those were only the people doing it the same day as us. There could have been 20 or so people spread out at each campsite ahead or behind us. The demand was still there late October, which means that if you wanted to go on Huayhuash, you could definitely go for it. I can imagine that that means there will still be groups going even in late November or even beyond.
Now that we’ve answered the can you?, let’s get to the should you.
Should You Do The Cordillera Huayhuash in the Rainy Season?
This answer really depends on a few things. How comfortable are you with overnight backpacking in oftentimes inhospitable conditions? If you have a lot of experience and are comfortable with your physical fitness, then it makes the trek a whole lot easier. Even going with a trekking group that carries all of your equipment, food, and sets up and takes down your tents for you, it is important to have good levels of physical fitness and even mental fortitude.
You will be trekking at altitudes of over 5,000 meters and oftentimes for up to 8 hours a day. It is physically grueling and mentally draining if you begin to struggle or doubt yourself. My friend got painful blisters after only one day of hiking. My other friend had food poisoning for the first few days of the trek. A lot can go wrong over the course of 8 days and you have to ask yourself whether or not you would be prepared to take on whatever road block you might face.
Of course, the forecast is another thing you should consider. The Cordillera Huayhuash is about a six hour drive from Huaraz. It rained four days in a row in Huaraz, which caused three of my friends to back out from the Huayhuash trek. No matter how hard I tried to explain to them that the conditions in Huaraz are wildly different than the conditions in Huayhuash, there was no getting through to them after the rains rattled them. Preparing for Huayhuash is as much a mental task as a physical task. I spent over three weeks in Huaraz hiking and acclimatizing before deeming myself maybe ready to take on Huayhuash. I felt physically fit but will admit that every minor roadblock steered me away from Huayhuash until I finally booked it myself.
You can use mountain-forecast.com to get an idea of what the weather will be like at some of the Cordillera’s peaks, although, even then, the weather in the mountains is as fickle as it gets. In short, there is really no telling what the weather is going to be like throughout all 8 days. I decided to take on the challenge and ended up with flawless weather, even a month into the rainy season. The thing about the rain in the mountains is that it typically doesn’t start until the afternoon. Every day, we would get up at around 5:30 to set off by 6:30. Our group was extremely fast, often finishing 1 or 2 hours quicker than the estimated time. We’d be at camp by noon or 1 PM and be relaxing by the time the rains set in. There was only one day where we actually had to hike in the rain, and even that cleared up to reveal a magnificent sunset after just an hour or so.
Trust your gut. If you want to take on the Cordillera Huayhuash, it is one of the most rewarding challenges you could take on. I trusted my gut and although science would not recommend it, I knew deep down that no matter what the weather was, taking on the Cordillera Huayhuash trek was something that would stick with me for as long as I lived.