Peru’s Cordillera Huayhuash In A Nutshell: The Crash Course Guide

Peru’s Cordillera Huayhuash is one of the best things you can do in your life, ever. If you love travel, mountains, and the great outdoors, then even better. The Cordillera Huayhuash deserves to be bumped up to the top of your bucket lists. Immediately.

Day 1: Let’s Have Some Fun

No trekking today. You leave Huaraz at a reasonable time in the morning and arrive at the campsite by the mid-afternoon. If you are going with a trekking company, then camp is already set up and you just chill, get to know your trek mates, and prepare for the next seven days.

  • Trekking Distance: 0 kilometers
  • Altitude Gain: 1100+ meters (all driving, though)
  • Trekking Time: 0 hours
  • Difficulty out of 10?: 0/10

The long drive will have you itching to get going but take it slow today. Try to use today to get your breathing right and your mindset prepared for the next seven days of trekking. You’ll be doing plenty of walking over the next few days so there’s no need to rush into the action right away. Tonight felt like the day before a very long Christmas, and it was hard to sleep with all of the excitement. However, that 5:30 AM wake up call will come sooner than you think.

Day 2: Let’s Chase Some Views

Your legs are fresh and you can finally release the energy stored up from the bus ride yesterday. You’ve got two mountain passes to face but your spirits are still high and you’ll easily breeze through both. It is a long day and you cover a lot of ground before getting to the second campsite.

  • Trekking Distance: 18 kilometers
  • Altitude Gain: 1100+ meters
  • Trekking Time: 7 hours
  • Difficulty out of 10?: 6/10

However, there is a lot of gradual incline and flat ground. The first mountain pass came really quick and I was able to do it with relatively little struggle. Between the first and the second pass, there is a lot of downhill and a lot of flat ground. As far as the second pass goes, I don’t think anyone even realized we were at it. It doesn’t feel like a mountain pass at all. Although I struggled a bit at the beginning of the incline, it went by quite quickly.

Day 3: Feelin’ Wild and Free

The third day is filled with views. It is one of the most beautiful days of the entire trek, taking you deep into the mountains and to viewpoints overlooking stunning lagunas and an epic mountain pass.

  • Trekking Distance: 16 kilometers
  • Altitude Gain: 600+ meters
  • Trekking Time: 6 hours
  • Difficulty out of 10?: 7/10

This day starts off easy. You start out walking around the lake next to the stunning campsite from the night before. Once you turn the corner, the vastness of the Cordillera really comes to view. You can make a quick side trip to a gorgeous mirador over the first of the three glacial lagunas.

Then, the incline comes in. To me, this was among the hardest inclines on the whole trek. The brief break at the Mirador de las Tres Lagunas was the only respite in a steep and steady incline up to Paso Siula and 4,800 meters. Although the descent was not difficult, it felt long and never-ending.

Day 4: Startin’ To Feel Sore

Another day. Another mountain pass. And another mountain pass. This is arguably the hardest day of the trek, taking you up to 5,041 meters above sea level, the highest point of the entire trek. After a quick lunch break, you go back up to 5,000 meters. This time, there’s no breaks and no flat ground. Take your time here but basically, you’ll be going up 600-700 meters in 90 minutes or so. This is one of the most iconic views of the entire Cordillera Huayhuash. Take your time but whatever you do, don’t skip it. It might be tough to drag yourself up here after the exhausting El Trapecio Pass just hours before but you aren’t going to want to miss this.

  • Trekking Distance: 15 kilometers + 5 km if you do San Antonio Viewpoint
  • Altitude Gain: 700 meters + 600 meters if you do San Antonio Viewpoint
  • Trekking Time: 5 hours + 2.5 hours if you do San Antonio Viewpoint
  • Difficulty out of 10?: 10/10

Today is the hardest day. There’s no doubt about it.

Day 5: Just Tryin’ To Survive

If this trek had any breaths of fresh air, Day 5 would be it. We breezed through this entirely downhill day, crushing our way through 14 kilometers and arriving at our campsite at 11:00 AM. Consider this the calm before the storm, though. You’ve gone down from 4,350 meters to just under 3,500 meters.

  • Trekking Distance: 16 kilometers
  • Altitude Gain: -900 meters
  • Trekking Time: 4 hours
  • Difficulty out of 10?: 3/10

Today is an easy day. Enjoy it. Tomorrow? You’re going back up to 4,800 meters. By my calculations…

Day 6: This Sucks Dicks

Enough said. You climb back up to 4,800 meters in the span of a few hours. The first two hours, you’ll feel superhuman after having your “rest” day and starting off at a “low” altitude. I crushed the first couple hours of incline before the altitude caught back up to me and my bad cough grew even worse. I went from the leader of the pack to the caboose real quick.

  • Trekking Distance: 13 kilometers
  • Altitude Gain: 1300+ meters
  • Trekking Time: 6 hours
  • Difficulty out of 10?: 9/10

Today is no joke. But just like the rest of the trek, you just have to put one foot in front of the other over and over again. My friend who struggled with stretches of the trek did not stop walking the entire way. The rest of us would take breaks, and even though he would usually be towards the end of the group, he tortoise and the hare-d that ish and made it without stopping. Meanwhile, I sprinted towards the front of the pack at the beginning before wobbling my way to the pass dead last after absolutely having no idea how to pace myself. Keep a steady pace and remember, just one foot in front of the other, over and over again.

Day 7: Chasin’ Heaven

Today was one of the most beautiful days of the entire trek. After day 4, I didn’t think it could possibly get any better. But day seven absolutely gives the rest of the trek a run for its money. There’s no comparing the diverse and varying views along the way, but day seven definitely made my jaw drop a few times.

  • Trekking Distance: 16 kilometers + 4 km if you do the laguna
  • Altitude Gain: 500 meters + 100ish if you do the laguna
  • Trekking Time: 5 hours + 2 hours if you do the laguna
  • Difficulty Out Of 10?: 5/10

After day six, you can do anything. By day seven, crossing a high altitude mountain pass is just another walk in the park. I’d consider day seven to be one of the top three most rewarding days in terms of stunning views. You finish pretty early so take it slow at the beginning if you need to. Not just for pacing reasons but because there are plenty of places to stop and take in a stunning view.

Day 8: We Did It, Mates.

The final day. It’s all downhill from here. Literally and figuratively. As you leave the Huayhuash range in the dust behind you, it is nothing short of bittersweet. While every second of actual trekking might have felt like a lifetime, the actual eight days themselves flew by.

  • Trekking Distance: 15 kilometers
  • Altitude Gain: -700 meters
  • Trekking Time: 5 hours
  • Difficulty Out of 10?: 4/10

This is arguably the easiest day, especially since your spirits are re-motivated to finish this absolute banger of a trek. You’re on the home stretch of this high altitude, high difficulty marathon and you’re only hours away from being able to say you absolutely f*cking crushed it.

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8 thoughts on “Peru’s Cordillera Huayhuash In A Nutshell: The Crash Course Guide

    1. Not too bad, surprisingly. Apparently despite it being the rainy season, it’s actually warmer in the mountains than in the dry season.

    1. Hopefully going to loop back up to Colombia once I’m done with the southern part of the continent! Would love to do some trekking up there as well!

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