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Climbing Huascaran

Huascaran

The most majestic, highest non-vulcanic mountain outside the Himalayas and th, e highest tropical mountain in the world, is the Huascaran. At 6.768m it is looming over Huaraz and from Hotel Santa Cruz you have a perfect view of it. Every year it is attempted by a number of climbers seeking to reach its summit. Actually, Huascaran has two summits, the north and the south, with the south summit being the highest. But they are both impressive and in the recent year, the north summit has been more accessible than the south and therefore seen more ascents.

Climbing Huascaran though, is not a walk in the park, and both technical skills and sufficient acclimatizing are key factors in succeeding. If you are not familiar in steep, icy terrain or of visiting these altitudes, assistance from a climbing company is recommended.

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Panorama view of Huascaran as seen from the valley near Yungay.

A possible itinerary could be (be aware though that the snow conditions can vary between years, so ask when you are in Huaraz what is the preferred route that year):

Day 1: Huaraz – Base Camp, Huascaran

After sufficient acclimatizing and probably a trek and a smaller summit or two, you start your Huascaran adventure by shopping the necessary equipment and food in Huaraz. Hotel Santa Cruz can help you in planning what to bring and with the shopping itself. You then get transport to Musho, a small village at the entrance to the Huascaran National Park. There you register with the National Park guards and load your stuff on some of the four-legged always waiting in and around Musho. Then you start the trek towards base camp at 4.700m. The trek will take you about four hours with vegetation consisting of eucalyptus, flowers, small creeks and some more mountain terrain. In base camp you put up your tent (or if you feel like it, reserve a bed in the refugio), and spend the afternoon relaxing, taking in fluids and having dinner. The view towards Cordillera Negra is excellent from base camp and the sunset likewise.

Day 2: Base Camp – Camp I

If you are not feeling in perfect shape the second day, you use it to bring some of your equipment (today without help from animals) higher on the mountain, preferably all the way to the glacier. You then go back to base camp to spend another night there, and follow the same procedure as the previous day.

Day 3: Base Camp – Camp I

Today you move to camp 1 at approx. 5.100m. The trek today is not too hard as the terrain is not really very steep. Be aware though, walking on the sometimes slippery rocks above base camp. On the glacier, you use the afternoon melting snow and prepare dinner – it will be the last day on this climb you will feel like eating!

Day 4: Camp I – Camp II

The trek towards camp 2 passes some easy ice-terrain with several crevasses (be roped up!). The first section you are zig-zagging to locate the best snow bridges (usually there is a clear path in the snow showing the best way). After 1 or 2 hours you get to the ice fall (Garganta) leading to the ‘valley’ between the north and south summit. Some years this is the crux on the climb, but the level of difficulty varies a lot from year to year based on the snow conditions. When you reach camp 2 at 5.950m, the view is dominated by large glaciers leading from both the summits. You put up your camp and start melting snow. The nights are cold at this altitude, and you need all the rest you can get, so soon you will be inside your sleeping bag.

Day 5: Summit attempt, Huascaran

The big day starts early in order to get the sunrise from the summit. The climb is dominated by large snow fields at 35-40%, but you are high and it is tough work. First you’ll cross the saddle in the direction of the south summit and then you start up a gully. After the gully, you’ll traverse to the right to a group of snow blocks. From there you’ll soon reach the final snow fields and climb south-east directly for the summit. After approx. 8 hours you are on the summit and can enjoy perfect views of both Cordillera Blanca and Negra.

Day 6: Day in reserve

You should probably have a day in reserve (weather, fitness,…).

Day 7: Camp 2 – Base camp

After being on the summit, you are probably ready to get as low as possible. Take your time going down! – most of the accidents happen on the way down. Therefore; one more night in base camp is recommended.

Day 8: Base camp – Huaraz

Back in Huaraz with hot springs, a shower, a cold beer, a pizza, telling your story….., you have deserved it!

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