Cordillera Huayhuash Circuit

Peru’s Cordillera Huayhuash Circuit is one of South America’s premier multi-day treks. Turquoise lakes, high altitude passes, hot springs, towering snow capped peaks; all packed into a compact range that measures only 30 km (18.6 mi) long and 15 km (9.3 mi) wide. 

The Huayhuash and I have a long history. In September of 1996, three friends and I were all set to hike the circuit, which at that time was relatively unknown. Topographic maps had been found, supplies had been bought, and transport to the trailhead arranged.

The night before we were due to leave Huaraz (the regional capital), news came through to the hotel at which we were staying, that a hiking group had been held up at gunpoint while hiking the circuit. Robbery was not uncommon in the area during the mid-90’s, however, on this particular occasion one of the trekking party resisted (a young Israeli guy), and as a result was promptly marched off and killed at point blank range. The other three members of the group carried his body back to civilization.

As a result of the tragedy, we were informed that the area was “unsafe for foreigners at the present time.” Handing over some cash is one thing, potentially being shot is another matter entirely. After discussing the situation, the four of us decided to postpone the trip and instead do a couple of shorter hikes in the nearby Cordillera Blanca range.

Eighteen years later in 2014, I returned to Peru to hike the Cordillera Huayhuash circuit.

Note: All information has been updated as of December, 2017.

Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru, 2014

Three Lakes view point | Cordillera Huayhuash

Circuit Details

Distance:  130 km (81 miles) approx.

Avg. Time:  

  • 8 – 10 days
  • If you are hiking the Huayhuash independently, the amount of time needed to complete the circuit can vary considerably from person to person. Factors such as pack weight, high altitude experience, fitness, acclimatization and side trips, all need to be taken into account when estimating how long it’s going to take you. For more details, see the FAQ section.

Cordillera Huayhuash Circuit overview map (from summitpost.org)

Start / Finish:

  • I started and finished in the village of Llamac.
  • As of 2017, the majority of folks (more than 90%) hiking the Huayhuash circuit are beginning their hike in Matacancha (also known as Quartelhuain) and finishing in Llamac. This cuts 1.5 – 2 days off the overall time needed to complete a circuit; albeit a partially incomplete one.
  • My suggestion is to begin at the traditional starting point of Llamac and do the full circuit. This means carrying a couple of days extra food, but the payoff is some incredible scenery between Laguna Jahuacocha and the twin high points of Sambuya Punta (4750m) and Rondoy Punta (4750m).

Transport:

  • From your base in Huaraz, first you need to get to the town of Chiquian (2 – 2.5 hrs). Companies that ply the route include Transportes El Rapido, Transportes Nazario and Transportes San Bartolome.
  • From Chiquian it is 1.5 hrs to the village of Llamac. There are one or two departures per day. If you want to do the shorter version of the circuit starting in Matacancha / Quartelhuain, continue on past Llamac for another 20 minutes to the village of Pocpa (Note: As of 2017, this is as far as the bus goes). From there you will need to road walk or hitch the final 12 km to Matacancha.
  • Unless you are in a rush, I recommend overnighting in Chiquian before starting your trek. It’s a great little town with a lovely plaza, friendly people, and lots of delicious street food options. The very affordable Hotel Los Nogales was one of my favourite accommodation stops in Peru (see photo below). If you do decide to stay a night in Chiquian, chances are you won’t see too many other foreigners, as virtually all of the organised groups travel directly from Huaraz through to Matacancha on the same day.
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Llamac Plaza – Starting and finishing point of the Cordillera Huayhuash Circuit.

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The wonderful Hotel Los Nogales

Maps / Guidebooks:

  • Topographic Map: I used the Alpenvereinskarte 1:50,000 Cordillera Huayhuash 0/3c. Along with your compass (and/or GPS), all you need for navigation purposes. It can be ordered online, or alternatively you can pick up a copy when you arrive in Huaraz (Note: Cafe Andino normally has it for sale, but they don’t miss you in regards to price; if memory serves they were charging about double what I paid on Amazon).
  • Guidebook: Cordillera Blanca & Huayhuash: The Hiking & Biking Guide (2015): Contains trekking notes, basic maps and logistical information. If the weather is fine, independent hikers could make do with the maps in this book. That said, even in the May to September “dry season”, storms still do occur. If you are hiking independently, I’d recommend picking up the above-mentioned topographic map (Note: This particularly holds true if you decide not to skip the initial section from Llamac to Matacancha, which the book does not cover).
  • GPS Information: You can download the GPX files for the Huayhuash Circuit (as well as other hikes in the region) from Blancahuayhuash.com.
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Pampa Llamac Pass – First and last pass of the Circuit.

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Looking back towards Punta Rondoy.

General Information:

  • Trekking Companies: The vast majority of people hiking in the Cordillera Huayhuash organize their trips through Huaraz based trekking agencies. These businesses provide transport, guides, cooks and pack animals. In fact, I only saw one other solo hiker during the course of my time in Huayhuash – an American guy by the name of Mike, whom I hiked with on the first day of the circuit. If you would prefer to go with an agency, see Besthike.com’s Huayhuash Circuit page for a list of recommended companies.
  • Season: The dry season of May to September is ideal for trekking. Nights can be chilly (-10°C is common), but days are generally clear.
  • Gear: It’s possible to purchase or rent backpacking equipment in Huaraz, but the quality is not always great. You are better off bringing everything you need from home. Click here to see the gear list from my 2014 trip to the Peruvian Andes (which also included a traverse of the Cordillera Blanca). For a rundown of what I would take if I did the Huayhuash Circuit again in 2018, see the table at the bottom of the article.
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Trail along the Rio Achin towards Laguna Jahuacocha.P1000367Campsite close to Laguna Solteracocha (Day 1). In 2014, I took a prototype of the Tarptent ProTrail on the Huayhuash Circuit.

  • Supplies: Bring what you need from Huaraz. The only place to purchase supplies on the actual circuit itself is in the tiny village of Huayllapa. If you’re hiking solo and in a clockwise direction, I highly recommend carrying just enough food to get you to Huayllapa (situated about 2/3 of the way through the circuit). Pick up the remaining two days worth of food when you pass through. This will save you carrying the extra weight from the start of your trek. There is a small restaurant and hotel attached to the store. I didn’t overnight, but I did stop in for a breakfast of eggs, bread and coffee.
  • Supplies 2: In Huaraz you can find dried fruit, nuts, pasta, rice, chocolates, cereals, etc. However, chances are you won’t have the range of options available in many western countries. If you are a bit on the picky side when it comes to your backcountry diet, you are probably better off bringing any specialty-type foods from home.
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Yours truly at Laguna Carhuacocha.

  • Acclimatization: Spend at least a few days in the Huaraz area acclimatizing before beginning the Huayhuash circuit. This is very important, as the trail reaches an elevation of some 4300 metres within a few hours of leaving Llamac. In addition to a day wandering around town, I’d suggest doing a couple of short hikes to Laguna Churup (4450 m) and Laguna 69 (4604 m). For information on these walks, see Cordilleras Blanca & Huayhuash: The Hiking & Biking Guide. For general advice on trekking at altitude, check out Tips for High Altitude Hiking.
  • Water: There are ample water sources throughout the Huayhuash area. I didn’t carry more than 1-1.5 litres at any one time. Be sure to bring means of purification, as livestock can be found in all of the valleys.
  • Fees: During the course of the circuit you will need to pay a series of fees to local communities. In 2014, I forked out a total of around 190 Peruvian Soles (US$66) over six payments. It all seemed a bit haphazard, but as of 2014 there didn’t appear to be much in the way of fiscal trust between the neighbouring peoples. For the time being, this seemed to preclude a more convenient “one time regional fee.” Be sure to ask for a receipt after each and every payment. (Note: In 2015, the combined fees had gone up to 205 Soles. If there are any readers that have hiked the circuit in the last year that have an update in regards to the payment situation, please drop me a line in the comments section).
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Chilly Campsite | The morning of Day 3.

FAQ’S:

  • Do I need a guide?: No. If you have the above-mentioned topographic map, guidebook and GPS info, a guide is not necessary. Indeed, if you’re a proficient navigator, all you really need is a compass and the map.
  • What about pack animals?As I mentioned above, the vast majority of folks organise their trek via an agency. This is often the case when foreigners go hiking in the Andes and Himalayas. I wrote an article about this subject for the website a few years ago. Ultimately it’s a personal choice. If you’re fit, well acclimatized and don’t mind the idea of carrying 4 to 7 days worth of supplies (pick up the last couple of days worth at the shop in Huayllapa), there is no need to have guides, cooks and pack animals (Note: If you want to go sans agency but would like a little help on the pack carrying front, arrieros (muleteers) can usually be arranged in Llamac or Pocpa).
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Llamas chilling out in the snow.

  • Impact – Independent Vs Guided: As the Huayhuash circuit increases in popularity, issues such as garbage disposal (or lack thereof) and trail erosion are increasingly in evidence. From an environmental perspective, this is perhaps the biggest plus of hiking without pack animals. A team of donkeys causes considerably more damage to paths (not to mention the trail of poo they leave in their wake) than does a hiker sporting a pair of Vibram soles and possibly wielding a hiking pole or two. In regards to the subject of trash, if you do choose to go with an agency, before setting out double check with those in charge in regards to their environmental policies. If you are hiking solo, “pack it in, pack it out.
  • How long do I need?: Generally speaking, groups take about eight or nine days for the abbreviated circuit starting from Matacancha, and 11 to 12 days for the full circuit from Llamac. Note that these folks are carrying day packs and generally hike about six or seven hours per day. If you are reasonably experienced, well acclimatized and your pack doesn’t weigh the proverbial tonne, I think eight or nine days is a conservative estimate for how much time it should take your average solo hiker to do a full circuit. For stronger folks with lightish packs who enjoy hiking longer hours, the full circuit can comfortably be done in five to seven days (including alternates).
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Lake Jahuacocha, as seen while descending from Punta Yaucha (4850 m).

Route / Conditions:

  • The trail is very well trodden. Located entirely above tree line, when the weather is clear navigation is simple. That said, if you find yourself walking in inclement conditions (and storms regularly happen even in the “dry” season), basic navigation skills are essential if you choose to hike independently.
  • Over the course of a full circumnavigation, there are 12 passes (including Punta Llamac twice) all of which are 4300 metres (14,108 ft) or higher.
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Laguna Susococha (4740 m)

During the Circuit, there are various route options available to hikers. These are the ones I recommend, described in a clockwise direction starting from Llamac. For details, see both the topo map and guidebook listed above:

  • Llamac to Matacancha –  This is the initial section of the full circuit, which 90% plus of hikers now bypass (both with agencies and independent). I get why folks choose not to do it; the alternative is shorter and easier. That said, the initial segement passes by the gorgeous Lagunas Yahuacocha and Solteracocha, as well as going over the impressive Punta Rondoy. My advice is to grab a couple of days extra food, bite the bullet, and do the full circuit. You won’t regret it.
  • Cacanapunta to Laguna Mitaconcha (High Route): A higher, less trodden and more visually impressive alternative to the mule route. Some of this alternate is off-trail, so basic routefinding skills are recommended. I didn’t see anyone else on this section.
  • Laguna Mitaconcha to Laguna Carhuacocha (High Route)Once again, most folks tend to take the lower, easier and less scenic route. This segment is also a combo of cross-country and paths; some vague, others clear. The up close and personal views of Rondoy and Jirishanca peaks are impressive. The route links up with the main trail about 20 minutes north of Laguna Carhuacocha. I saw two groups doing this particular section, and it seemed like a more popular option than the one mentioned immediately above.
  • Laguna Carhuacocha to Laguna Carnicero (via Laguna Siula):  This actually used to be an alternate, however, these days pretty much everyone takes it. And with good reason. The vistas are amongst the best not only on the Huayhuash circuit, but of anywhere in the Peruvian Andes. The “Three Lakes” picture at the top of the article was taken on this section.
  • Rio Pumarini Hot Springs: These hot springs are not to be missed. It is only a short detour to access them (about 20 minutes), and the water temps are ideal. There is good camping nearby, however, if you want to avoid the crowds try to time your arrival for mid-morning. I lobbed up about 9.30 am and had the place to myself for the best part of an hour and a half.
  • San Antonio Pass (5050 metres/ 16,568 ft) –  If you are comfortable descending steep scree slopes, I highly recommend including San Antonio Pass in your trek. The views are amongst the best on the Circuit (see photo below). For an easier option with similar scenery, try Paso Jurau, which is situated just east of Paso San Antonio. Unless you are injured, don’t even consider the low route alternative via the Quebrada Huanacpatay.
  • Laguna Sarapococha – The only alternate on this list that I didn’t do, but I think it would make for a great out-and-back side trip from Cutatambo. The Sarapococha valley gives the hiker an up close view of Siula Grande peak, which was the setting for Joe Simpson’s classic survival tale, Touching the Void.
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Rio Pumarini hot springs

The view on the descent from San Antionio Pass.

Final Observations:

  • If you are experienced, fit, well acclimatized, and carrying a light pack with appropriate gear for the conditions, I would recommend doing the circuit independently. If you don’t tick all of the aforementioned boxes, you are probably better off going with an agency. Either way it’s a fantastic trek!
  • A shout out to Sylvia, Diamond Dave and Fleischy, my three hiking and travelling partners from 1996. On the remote chance that any of you ever read this blog post, I hope you are all well and I can definitely say that the Huayhuash was well worth the 18 year postponement!
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Llamac village – starting and finishing point for the Huayhuash circuit.

Gear List

Below is a list of what I would take if I was to do the Cordillera Huayhuash Circuit again in 2018:

ITEM WT. (OZ) SUB (oz) SUB (kg) COMMENTS
BACKPACK
MLD Burn 13     Frameless, simple design, slim profile. I’ve been using the Burn since 2009.
Pack Liner (Trash Compactor Bag) 2     Cheap & effective
    15  0.43
SHELTER  
MLD SoloMid XL 12     Very quick set up / Holds up well in a storm / Ideal amount of space for 6’1″ guy.
Guylines – Kelty Triptease  1     Guyline of choice for many years.
Stakes – Mix of sizes & styles (8) / Mostly MSR Groundhogs 2.8     Groundhogs are great; in addition to their durability, the red colour makes me less likely to lose them than the generic silver.
  15.8  0.45
 
SLEEPING SYSTEM    
Pad – Thermarest NeoAir XLite (Small) 8     Very comfy / Doubles as makeshift framesheet for pack / Put feet on backpack when sleeping.
Quilt – Katabatic Sawatch 15 24     Conservatively rated 15°F / Best quilts/bags I have used.
Groundsheet – Polycro plastic 1.3
    33.3  0.94  
KITCHEN  
LokSak 20×12 (Food Bag) 1.2     Hundreds of nights in the boonies using LokSaks. Never had a critter problem / Seals usually start to go after about six weeks of regular use. 
Gatorade Powder Container 1.8     For many years my rehydrating vessel of choice when going stoveless. 
Toaks Titanium Spork 0.3     Top end wrapped in orange tape so I won’t lose it.
Bic Lighter 0.2      
Reconstituted sports drink bottles (2) 2.4      
Platypus Hydration Bladder (2 LT) 1.2      
    7.1 0.2  
FIRST AID / HYGIENE  
Sunscreen (repackaged in tiny btle.)        
Hand Sanitizer (repackaged in dropper btle.)       I haven’t had a case of the backcountry trots since 1999…….I think a big reason is diligent use of hand sanitizer.
Aquamira (repackaged in dropper btles.)        
Mini Toothbrush        
Toothpaste (mini tube)        
Dental Floss       Doubles as sewing thread
Antiseptic Wipes (2)       Clean cuts / wounds
Gauze        
Triple Antibiotic Cream (tiny tube)        
3M Micropore Medical Tape       Breathable, paper tape / Adheres well.
Ibuprofun (8)       Vitamin “I”
Toilet Paper        
Sewing Needle       One armed blind folks can sew better than me.
Duct Tape, Mini Tube Super Glue (repairs)       To compensate for lack of sewing skills
Nivea Lip Balm SPF 30       Kept with sunscreen & hand sanitizer in shoulder pocket. 
   5  0.14  
CLOTHES  
Rain Pants – Montbell Tachyon 1.9     Featherweight, dry in an instant, and a surprising amount of warmth for something that weighs less than 2oz.
Rain Jacket – Dri Ducks Ultralite 2 6     Light and breathable | As the entire hike is above treeline (i.e. no bushwhacking), its fragility is a non-issue.
Base layer – Montbell Merino Wool L.W. Tights 4.8     Not too thick, not too thin. Thumbs up.
Insulation – Montbell Superior Down Parka 8.6     Very warm for the weight / Snug hood / I’ve used this and it’s predecessor, the UL Down Jacket, for the past eight years.
Insulation –Montbell UL Thermawrap Vest 5.5     Synthetic insulation / Combine with merino base and rain jacket for hiking in freezing rain / Adds versatility to system.
Extra Socks – Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew 2.6     Three years old and still going strong.
Bandana (1) 0.5     Towel, neck/face protection, condensation wipe, convenience store holdups when low on cash.
Outdoor Research PL Sensor 400 Mittens 2.9     Great mittens. Combined with the inner gloves and rain mitts, hands are fine down to -15°C 
Warm Hat – Montbell Chameece Beanie 1.2     Excellent beanie / Not too thick / Stretchy enough to fit my big noggin / Don’t think it’s available in the US at the moment.
     34  0.96  
MISCELLANEOUS  
Phone – Samsung Galaxy S7 (Unlocked)  5.4     Good photos & Video / Have used an unlocked phone in recent years, to avoid heavy roaming charges when overseas. Just pick up a different SIM in each country and pay local rates.
Stuff sacks – HMG Cuben Fiber (3) 2.5      
Montbell Power Head Lamp 2     This headlamp has grown on me | Lightweight, double-click, four settings, good battery life, 160 Lumens max | No longer miss my old Black Diamond Spot.
Wallet/Credit Cards/Passport 0.7     Used thin plastic card holder as Wallet
Swiss Army Classic 1.3      
Suunto M3 Global 1.6     Lightweight, adjustable declination; heir to my long-time compass of choice, the Suunto M-2.
 Wall charger, cover, cord  3      
Small LokSaks for Valuables (2)  1     Protection for phone, charger, wallet
17.7  0.5  
 BASE WEIGHT  TOTAL 7.9lb   3.6kg   
 ITEMS WORN    
Shorts – Patagonia Baggies (5″ seam)  8.1 Thumbs up | Very similar to long time favourites, Macpac Cross Terrains (no longer made).
Windshirt – Montbell Tachyon Anorak   1.9     On my third model / Each has lasted around 8 to 10,000 miles / Surprisingly durable & warm for something so featherweight.
Base layer – Montbell Merino Long Sleeve Zip Neck  5.9     Great baselayer / Not too thin, not too thick / Spot on for shoulder season conditions. 
Montbell Chameece Inner Gloves  0.9      Double thumbs up. Most durable liner gloves I’ve used; and I’ve used a lot over the years. 
Smartwool PhD UL Min Socks  1.6 These were a freebie from Winter OR, 2015 / Previously I’d never had much luck with thinner Smartwool models, but I have to say this pair has been very durable. 
Hat – Adapt-a-cap 2.5 Back from the dead. Had it repaired and sewed up. Not as good as new, but still functional / From what I’ve seen, the latest models have a different design, and aren’t in the same league as the old ones.
Shoes – Brooks Cascadia 12   24
 Fizan Compact – Hiking Pole (1)  5.6     Tent setup / Fencing practice during breaks; Tokyo 2020 here I come. 
Timex Ironman Watch  1.5      Light, cheap, durable, reliable. 
 Sunglasses  2     Polarized lenses / Wrap around lenses / 100% UVA and UVB Protection.
 54  1.53
 TOTAL WEIGHT  11.4lb   5.16
   

 

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Comments

Cordillera Huayhuash Circuit — 63 Comments

  1. Hi, do you know what the common rates for a guide are? I plan on heading to Peru in May, and am finding it hard to find prices. I am an experienced backpacker but as I am alone, wish to have a guide for safety and help carrying weight due to high elevation.
    Any suggestions appreciated. I do prefer a local guide, versus a big trekking company.

    Thanks.
    O

    • Check with Hisao at Peruvian Andes Adventures (info@peruvianandes.com), a local Huaraz company founded by the first native family in the area to lead international climbers in the Cordillera Blanca! They have great rates and use local donkey drivers to support the remote villages. And their food is fantastic if you use them!

      • Thanks! I waited till I got here, which is the best bet. Better prices and you get to meet your agency and guides. I went with Huracan adventures across from the Churrp hostel. Paulino is owner. Excellent agency, amazing experience. He offers 3 packages. We paid 50US a day. I definitely don’t recommend on line purchases.

        I also think Andean Peru is quite expense. Although if I am not mistaken they own an excellent restaurant too where our incredible cook on the Huayash has worked before 🙂

        • Glad you found someone you like! I didn’t find Peruvian Andes Adventures online – they were recommended to be by locals and I had used them for a previous trip. The owners were one of the first guiding agencies in Huaraz and they run a little guesthouse (Morales Guesthouse) but not a restaurant.

          I have been bringing groups of friends to trek and we don’t like to wait till the last minute after we arrive and then end up in a rush where we risk someone who might be cheap but don’t have reliable equipment or the best guides. Sounds like you might have found a combination of both, well done!

    • Want to join me?
      I’m going to do this circuit beginning around August 26, 2016. I’m a pretty strong hiker, having done 6 weeks on the PCT a couple years ago. I’ve been traveling South America for the past 8 months (from MT, USA) and you can read more about me at lotomojo.blogspot.com.
      Thanks for the great info, Cam!

  2. We used Peruvian Mountains Trekking (Rodolfo Reyes Oropeza owner)in Summer 2013 for a 10 day trek (4 trekkers, all over 65 years of age). Completely satisfied with his arrangements and crew. Approximate cost with tips for crew was about $900 per person. Included 2 days acclimatization hikes from Huaraz. Food was excellent; transport was without a hitch (including bus travel arrangements from Lima/Huaraz). Memorable.

  3. Hey Cam,
    I am so glad to see that you made it back to this area of Peru. I remember that night when we heard that the Israeli guy had been killed.
    -Sylvia

  4. Hello! I’m going to be doing this circuit in August of this year. How did you get to Chiquian? From Lima?

    I look forward to hearing back.

  5. Hi, I am experience and fit hiker I will be in Huaraz next week.
    For personal safety I like to meet an independed walker/s to walk Huayhuash circuit with
    Any idea where about I can meet these independed walkers in Huaraz (this means which hostel or guest house, lodge etc. ) ?
    Appreciate any advice.

    • I hiked by myself, so I can’t really give too much advice on this subject.

      I stayed at the Albergue Churup, which I thought was excellent.

      In addition to the hostels/guesthouses, you may want to try some of the more popular traveller hangouts in Huaraz such as the Cafe Andino. Maybe even take a look online at the Lonely Planet/Thorn Tree travel forum for Peru.

      Good luck.

      Cheers,

      Cam

    • Hi Mohammad, I will be in Huaraz from the 15.6 onwards and looking for the same. I got a recommendation from a friend that Hostel El Tambo is a great place to stay and meet other Hikers/Backpackers , so thats where I ll stay. Maybe just drop by 😉

      • Hi Fabian,

        Thanks for reply , I be in Huaraz 22 June staying at Ebony hotel.
        Tried to locate Hostel El Tambo on web but no luck. I can drop by to see how you going.
        Pls post any info bout how to independly do Huayhuash cct.

        • Hi Mohammad, El Tambo has a Facebook page with their address, else i can also drop by the Ebony. I also posted a buddy request on the Lonely Planet Forum, if you are interested comment there. I would than do some short hikes (e.g. Santa Cruz) and wait for you to do the Huayhuash together …
          I will also post further info there if i get the necessary WiFi to do so 😉
          Looking fwd bearing from you.

  6. Hey Fabian and Mohammad.
    I’ll be in Huaraz on the 11th of July and would love to join you guys on this hike if you plan to leave anytime after I arrive.
    James

    ps. good read thanks Cam

    • Hey James,

      I’ll also be in Huaraz from the 15th of July onwards and am searching for trekking partners to do the Huayhuash circuit with… I’ve only got limited time and would therefore be up for the 8 day option. Have you already found a group?

      Cheers,
      Sarah

  7. Hi Cam!

    This was a really amazing blog to read and so helpful. I’m a very inexperienced hiker from Australia, is it easy enough to join a hiking group. I really want to reach the San Antonio Pass, but is it feasible, having never hiked in such altitude/conditions? I’ve done hikes in NZ, Hawaii and Australia, but they would not compare I’d imagine. I’m 20 and reasonably fit, and would do the Cordillera Huayhuash region with friends (and with a hiking tour definitely).

    Well done on the hike – the blog was a pleasure to read!

    • Hi Zoe,

      Thanks for the message. Yes, it’s easy to join up with a trekking group for the Huayhuash circuit once you reach Huaraz. From what I can gather there are quite a few options.

      In regards to San Antonio Pass, because that’s not part of the standard route, I’m not too sure whether the guided hikes will go that way. Best to check before you start.

      As for the Three Lakes viewpoint, yes it is easily accessible.

      I should tell you that the time you are going to be in Peru, namely from December to February, is not ideal for the mountains (i.e. wet season). If you really want to do some hiking in the Andes at that time of year, you are better off doing so further south in Patagonia (i.e. Chile & Argentina)

      Cheers,

      Cam

  8. Hi Cam

    Also – the Three lakes Viewpoint – is that reasonably accessible? I forgot to mention that I’d be travelling to Peru between December 2016-February 2017. I just want to see as much as possible, but unfortunately must bear in mind my inexperience in serious hiking.

  9. Hi Cam, what a flash from the past!
    I done pretty much the same trip back in 2007 and I was the only independent hiker there – got many weird looks from locals and hikers alike.

    I was just mixing routes with off trail climbs and hikes for 16 days and it was amazing, including some really stupid pass scrambles (grade 3). All and all it was similar to what you done but I finished at Huayllapa. I do recommend the hot springs (stayed around for 2 days there) as a camping spot – still the best bath I ever had.

    Great post and a great memory recall for me.

    Cheers

  10. Hi, Thanks for this blog!

    I am a solo hiker, will be arriving huaraz at around 28-29 april 2017 and do acclimitization day hikes until 7th May where I plan to start the huayhuash ~10 days. Looking for partners to share the price of the guide / donkey etc. I have done the EBC and a few other multiday treks in the past.
    if interested you can reach me at shay.sherb@gmail.com

  11. Hey!

    I’ve done solo hikes and multi day hikes at altitude and I’d be fine doing this alone, but I’ve had some serious push back in South America as a woman hiking alone. Any thoughts? I’ve gotten used to, “where’s your boyfriend?” And park rangers gently telling me I can’t possibly go alone. But I don’t really want tent visitors. So far, it’s been fine, but I haven’t really been making much contact with locals mid trek.

    Also open to partners and flexible with dates between May 2 and June 20.

  12. Hi all, we are traveling from the U.K on the 16th July 17, and got everything planned already, starting our trek on the 18th, if you see us around come say hi nice large crowd of 15. Enjoy your adventures

  13. Hi all,

    This blog looks very helpful, thanks for the information Cam.
    I have a question regarding the maps and guidebooks you used. You are talking about the “Alpenvereinskarte 1:50,000 Cordillera Huayhuash 0/3c”. Does it have clear maps of the route? Moreover, I can only find it in German on Amazon which is a bit of a shame as I don’t speak German at all.
    Also, would the guide “Cordillera Blanca & Huayhuash: The Hiking & Biking Guide” be helpful even if it’s a biking guide.
    I think it is better if I buy a proper map as well.
    If any of you have any other guides of the route it would be very helpful 🙂

    Thanks a lot!

    Paul de Tilly

    • Hi Paul,

      The map (along with navigational instrument) should be sufficient on what is a relatively easy to follow trail. If you’re looking for more details, from what I can gather, the Trailblazer guide you mentioned also contains notes on the circuit. Failing that, the information contained in the 2003 Lonely Planet Guide is still relevant.

      Note, that’s it’s also possible to pick up maps when you arrive in Huaraz, though the prices can be a little steep.

      Best of luck,

      Cam

  14. Cam,

    Question in regards to your first few days.. I take it you hiked Llamac -> jarococha -> rondoy ->matacancha? Most accounts I have read have independent hikers just walking the road from Pocpa to Matacancha on the 1st day. The way I described above sounds more interesting.

    Also -did you cross via Paso San Antonio or Paso Jurau? and.. how was the decent from that pass?

    Thanks! We are planning on doing this May 2018!

    • Hi Andy,

      Yes, I hiked the Llamac/Jarococha/Rondoy/Matacancha route. That’s the traditional circuit and the scenery is beautiful. Not sure why independent hikers would take the road; perhaps because it’s shorter and they are looking to save time?

      Yes, I went over Paso San Antonio. One of the highlights of the hike. The descent is steep, but nothing too challenging.

      Cheers,

      Cam

  15. Cam –

    Any insight as to how the trout fishing may be? Wondering if I should bring a rod, fished on the Santa Cruz Circuit in 1988 and had success… hitting the trail late May! Also – what kind of lows were you experiencing at night?

    Cheers!

    • Hey Andy,

      I’m sorry but I don’t know much about fishing in the area. In regards to night time temps, your generally looking at between low single digits to -10°C. All the best for your hike in May!

      Cheers,

      Cam

  16. Hello and thank you for the wonderful and detailed article! I am planning (everything is already booked) to do the trek independently in August. I have a couple of questions for you:

    1. On the map you attached, on the second optional route, after hiking up the Siula grande base camp, you return to the lake and head west basically in a straight line towards Huayllapa. I bought a topographic map with the trails, and there appears to be no trail there. Did you walk it? I am concerned I’ll get stuck in some bushes…
    2. You say you pay fees to local communities along the way. How do I know where and how much to pay?
    3. If there is no regulation about where one may camp, how come there are designated campgrounds on the map? Is it okay to really pitch your tent anywhere?

    It would be of great help if you could answer any of my concerns, thanks in advance!

    • In answer to your questions:

      1. I didn’t walk up to Siula Grande base camp. However, if you want to go up there, there shouldn’t be any issues. Organized groups go up there all the time because of the “Touching the Void” story.
      2. You will see places along the way where you can pay, or the people may approach you themselves.
      3. The main camping areas are where all the organized groups traditionally stay. Yes, you can pitch your tent practically anywhere else.

  17. Hi.

    I just to say a big thank you for your blog about the HuayHuash circuit. I’ve just finished it 10 days ago and it has been really usefull.

    I also want to give you update on the fees other people will encounter in the circuit as of late April 2018. It cost me a total of 215 Soles of “entrance fees” spread out between all the different communities on the track.

    Also want to point out that the map around the thermal bath is a tiny bit misleading. It is actually right, but the “side hike” part which is pretty much a 20-30 minutes hike to the actual camping most hiker will already camp on was confusing to me. I clearly saw the thermal bath on the campsite but was expecting other thermal bath down the road. But they just never happen. That is all.

    Thank you once again

    • Hey JP – we are starting on May 30th.. it appears the weather has been very rainy, can you give me an idea of what you encountered on your hike as far as rain, snow, etc?

      Thanks!

      • Hi Andy.

        Yes it was same for me, looking at the forecast before I left made me perplex. The weather was certainly a mix of all the conditions, but just not only rain as advertised.

        There was rain pretty much everyday, but it usually started later in the day, lets say 3-4ish pm so in most cases I was already setting up camp, but the rain wasnt really heavy downpour, sure it will make you yet, but just overtime, not in 30 seconds. It also snowed on two occasion, even had hail. So just be prepared for everything. It get sunny too. And its super strong.

        As far as cold go. Being Canadian, ive dealt with much worst before, but be sure to figure out a way to have dry-warm clothes for the night, with all this rain, you wouldnt want to spend the night in a wet outfit.

        Enjoy the track, it truly is Amazing!

  18. Great info on here.
    I spent 3 months out here in the Cordilleras 19 years ago and only took a wee peg dependant tent with me…I managed.
    BUT…now we have so much choice out there and can get bogged down in Shelter/tent choice.
    I feel the cold much more now and was wondering whether a Copper Spur 2 might end up being a bit chilly and it may also have to cope with a dump of snow…I do love this tent though.
    Free Standing and can pitch anywhere.
    My other choice, which will be warmer is the Tarptent Scarp 1…could cope with anything thrown at it but a bit more ‘picky’ regarding pitch choice as peg dependant…cant decide which to take….any comments?

    3rd choice, but heavier, but a palace, is the Hilleberg Niak.

    Many thanks…

    • Hi Catherine,

      Thanks for the message. I think you would be fine with any of those three. Save a bit of weight and go with the Copper Spur 2, or even the Scarp 1. You might receive a bit of snow, but a large dump is unlikely during hiking season; at least at the altitudes where you will most likely be camping. I’ve never found getting pegs in to be an issue on my trips in the Blanca and Huayhuash. Have a great return journey!

      Cheers,

      Cam

  19. Thanks Cam, comments appreciated.

    I own the Copper Spur HV 2 and a Scarp 1 is winging its way to me now..(.”Thanks Henry”!!).
    I’ll spend the next month deciding which to take.

    Other than fully supported expeditions in my past life, I prefer to hike/trek independently now…however, increasing age means I can’t carry so much.
    My present kit is as light as possible but still maintaining comfort and warmth.

    I have studied the Huayhuash map intensely and accept I can’t carry more than 7 days food.
    Thinking of trying to divide it up into shorter section routes and don’t mind linear where I have to backtrack to a base to resupply.
    Can bus to a different base also as an option.
    Is there a section that could be missed out on thats pretty much the same scenery to reduce days trekked.?

    I have travelled all the continents and Big Ranges, so used to amazing sites.
    5/6 day sections I could manage easily.
    Was thinking of using both Chiquian and Cajatambo as bases to trek from.

    I have gathered that the first section out of Chiquian is top Topnotch.

    Its just to trek the best spots of the Huayhuash whilst missing out on a few bits that would enable me to go independently.

    BTW, did you see many US tents whilst you were out there?..e.g. Big Agnes etc?

    Many Thanks.

    • Hi Catherine,

      Thanks for the message. The first section from Llamaco to Matacancha is pretty nice, but by bypassing it (see Transport details in post), you would save yourself a couple of days. That way you could probably make it from Matacancha to Huayllapa in six days, and buy what you need there for the rest of the hike.

      In 2014 I didn’t see too many US tents. I think mainly because most folks were trekking in organized groups. I suspect you probably would see more now as the independent option seems to be growing more popular every year.

      All the best on your trip.

      Cheers,

      Cam

  20. Thanks Cam..great advice on this site..really helps.

    Will hopefully do as you suggest but hike the first 2 days as a separate trip as starters, return to Chiquian, to ‘get the feel of the place’…got plenty of time…then do the 6/7 day section to Huayallapa as a second section hike.

    Many thanks,

    Catherine.

    • That’s a good idea. Hope you stay at the Hotel Los Nogales. The garden there is beautiful. Best of luck!

      Cheers,

      Cam

      • Hi Cam,

        Thats the plan just hope he’s not fully booked.
        Heard so many good reports of that place…..

        Thanks for all your help.

        Catherine

  21. Hi,

    I love your article and the details provided! I have a question about trekking this self guided. Is it possible to camp at the Suila lakes, at the vista point? It seems like such an obvious choice, yet I haven’t seen anyone do it so I’m wondering if there are rules against that. Thanks!

    • Hi Vanina,

      Thanks for the kind words. I have a friend that camped there without issue a few years ago. Unless something has changed in the meantime, it should be fine as long as you practice LNT principles and leave the area as you found it (as you can imagine, it’s a heavily frequented spot).

      Cheers,

      Cam

  22. Hi Cam

    You may not know this but I thought id ask anyway just incase that its possible to hire a local in llamac for just carrying equipment.

    I dont want a guide but not keen to carry a full pack on such a demanding trek.

    cheers

    • We were just there in June – there does not appear to be much happening in Llamac, upon our arrival we only saw a few people in town, same upon return. I saw no livestock around. Another idea would be to contact the hotel Los Nogales de Chiquian (in Chiquian) – they seem to know a lot about the doings in the area.

  23. Hey Cam,

    Thanks so much for such a thorough and interesting blog! This looks amazing and I definitely am planning on doing this, hopefully sooner rather than later.

    I have hiked Mt. Misti near Arequipa, Peru, but haven’t done much multi-day trips outside of the continental US. What other favorites do you have?

    Thanks,

    Micah

  24. Hey Cam! Just wondering what kind of food was available to cold soak/rehydrate without cooking when you were in the area. Little bit leery of going stoveless in colder weather, but considering it for the weight savings/eco-impact

    Thanks!
    Eric

    • Hi Eric,

      I took some dehydrated beans down to Peru for that particular trip (and the subsequent hike in the Cordillera Blanca). I didn’t see any available in Huaraz, but there are other foods that you can soak such as porridge and noodles. It can get chilly at nights (-10°C), so a small alcohol stove may not be a bad idea.

      Cheers,

      Cam

  25. hi Cam,

    we were wondering if the circuit is advisable in dec end. We are very comfortable hiking/camping in low temps (-25 deg centigrade) but were not sure about the snow conditions in the passes etc.

    any advice is appreciated.

    -Sid

    • That’s the middle of the rainy season, so in an “average” year (not sure how many of those they have had lately), there will be considerably more snow on the high passes, and your chances of catching a window of clear weather will be considerably less.

  26. Hi, thanks a lot for all the info.

    I am planning to go there from Oct 25th to Nov 7th(13 days) and I need to be in Lima Nov 8th to take my flight Nov 9th.

    I plan to do a couple days of acclimation from Huaraz then starting from Matacancha to have a bigger time margin.

    Hope the weather won’t be too bad at this time of the year.

    1) Do you recommend a website for weather forecast?

    2) I am planning to do it stoveless. Only eating cold food. What do you think?

    • In answer to your questions: 1. You could try Peruvian Andes at mountain-forecast.com; 2. It’s definitely possible. Personally I would take a small stove, as due to the often rainy weather at that time of year, you may be spending quite a bit of time in camp. Best of luck on your trip.

      • Thanks a lot for the info! Ok I’m going to look for a stove. I’ll let you know how it went.

        I live at 2700m altitude and usually hike and ride my bike between 2600m-3200m altitude so I hope I will acclimate myself quickly.

        Adrien

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