The Cordillera Huayhuash Circuit Trek is a route that many keen hikers dream of.
Located in the pristine alpine environment of the Andes, Peru, the trek sees some of the most impressive peaks, glacial lakes and remote Andean communities.
The Cordillera Huayhuash is a 30 kilometre mountain range, and the route circumnavigates the awesome peaks. Among the Cordillera Huayhuash, you will find many peaks of over 6000 meters elevation, including Yerupaja, one of the highest mountains in Peru.
This trek also gives you views of the Nevado Siula Grande, the mountain in Joe Simpson’s survival book Touching the Void.
At 130 kilometres long, this hike is a serious endeavour for those who want to complete the circuit, yet there are alternative routes that can lessen the distance.
You won’t find this trail crowded with tourists. Instead you get high altitude, remote Peruvian wilderness where you can feel connected with your surroundings.
If you want to go on a trek with plenty of adventure, the Cordillera Huayhuash Circuit is for you!
- Alpine hiking in Peruvian wilderness
- Snow-capped peaks
- Turquoise glacial lakes
- Hot springs
- Home to wildlife such as llamas, alpacas and condors
Beginning in the village of Llámac, this trail hugs the around the mountains at an elevation of around 4500 metres.
You can complete a full circuit to finish back in the village, although the most popular route is to finish in Quartelhuain, creating a U shape and reducing the overall length of the trek.
This trek, although in a stunning and tranquil setting, is not without a reputation.
In the past, the region was under the influence of Maoist Shining Path Guerrillas, and there was a chance of hikers wandering into conflict. In the mid-90s, a tourist was killed on the trail.
In modern times, the route is considered generally safe for hikers. However, if you want to do this trek without a guide, it is recommended you have a partner or small group.
The terrain can also be dangerous. The weather in the mountains is changeable, and without preparation and experience, it can be a hostile place. You will need plenty of warm clothing and adequate food supplies.
There are plenty of places to replenish your water supplies along the route, but water must be purified before drinking.
The highest points on the trek are around 5000 metres elevation, so acclimatising to the altitude is essential.
Despite the dangers that can come with trekking in this region, the beauty of the surroundings is something you’ll not experience anywhere else in the world.
The nearest international airport to the trail is Lima.
Huaraz is the gateway town to may treks in the Cordillera region. It takes around eight hours to travel from Lima to Huaraz by bus.
Huaraz lies 107 kilometres north of the trail head, and it is where most hikers stay before taking on this trek. At around 3,000 metres elevation, it is a great place to get used to the altitude.
To get to the trailhead at Llámac, you should head to the small town of Chiquian, about 2.5 hours away from Huaraz. From there, the village of Llámac is a short bus journey away.
If you prefer to do the shorter version, being a U shape rather than a complete circuit, you can still start in either Llámac or Quartelhuain.
Qualtelhuain is a further 20 minutes by bus, however you then have a 12 kilometre hike to get to the village.
The Cordillera Huayhuash Trek is a 130 kilometre circuit.
It takes around 12 days to complete the circuit, but you should add extra days to you overall trip.
There are some options for side trips, you may want to take some rest days. You should spend a few days becoming acclimatised before attempting this trek.
This is a challenging route, but there are several optional routes if you don’t want to do the full circuit.
Grade and difficulty of the walk
This trek is graded at 5.
The terrain is challenging and the altitude can make even the fittest people struggle with exertion. To get used to the altitude, do some day hikes in the region before attempting this trek.
You should be fit enough to hike in an alpine environment for several days. If you are not confident of your fitness, work to build up to this trek by improving your strength and stamina.
You should be an experienced hiker for this trek. You will be hiking for a minimum of 12 days, at altitude, in mountain weather.
The trail is generally easy to follow as it has been a well-trodden route for many years and used by local communities with pack animals.
However, it is important to be able to navigate when hiking in the mountains. Basic navigation skills can save your life should you take a lesser known route.
This trek goes through different community areas. Each area charges a fee to use the trail.
Guided or Self-Guided
If you are not used to hiking in tough conditions, a guided hike is recommended. A guided hike means that you can really enjoy your surroundings and benefit from local knowledge.
It is possible to do the Cordillera Huayhuash Trek self-guided, but you should be extremely experienced.
If you do decide to hike independently, you are able to hire a pack animal to help you carry your supplies for the length of the route if you wish to do so.
May to September is the best time to hike this trail. This is when the weather is driest, however the temperatures are cold and often reach -10°C at night.
As with any alpine hiking, keep a close eye on the weather forecast when hitting the trail, and be prepared to turn back or stay in camp for the day should conditions get worse.
A typical itinerary would be:
Each company that do guided hikes will have their own preferred itinerary. If you decide to hike independently, here is a list of convenient stopping places, each approximately 6-9 hours of hiking distance between each stop.
Llámac to Matachancha/Quartelhuain
Matachancha, along the Cacanapunta Pass, to Laguna Mitaconcha
Laguna Mitaconcha to Laguna Carhuacocha
Laguna Carhuacocha to Laguna Carnicero
Laguna Carnicero to Puscanturpa, and Rio Pumarini Hot Springs
Rio Pumarini Hot Springs to Cuyoc Valley via Cuyoc Pass
Cuyoc Valley to Cutatambo via Santa Rosa Pass
Side trek to ascend Cerro Bella Vista
Cutatambo to Huancho Valley
Huancho Valley to Cashpapampa
Cashpapampa to Jahuacocha
Jahuacocha to Llamac
There is plenty of accommodation options in Huaraz, where you can acclimatise and prepare for the Cordillera Huayhuas Trek.
Once you are on the trail, the only accommodation is camping. There are designated camp sites that have basic facilities such as toilets and water sources.
Take a welcoming dip in the Rio Pumarini Hot Springs. They are located about 20 minutes off of the main track, and there is camping available.
If you feel the urge to conquer a summit, there are peaks of over 5000 metres in the Cordillera Huayhuash circuit. Suerococha is around 5400 metres and Leon Huacanan is 5421 metres.
Take a trip to the glacier basin below the south face of Yerupaja, one of the highest mountains in Peru.
Visit the base camp of Siulá Grande Mountain, where Joe Simpson’s epic survival story began.
|Skills Required||Hiking, Walking|
|Length of route||130 Km|
|Average time to complete||10 - 12 Days|
|Possible to complete sub-sections||No|
|Highest point||5000 metres|
|Equipment needed||Camping equipment, food supplies, Trekking gear, walking boots, Water Supplies|