Huayhuash in the Andean Summer

Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru

After arriving in Huaraz and looking at all the amazing options for trekking in the area we decided to tackle the big daddy of them all, Huayhuash (Why-Wash). And do it without a guide. It usually takes guided groups 8-10 days with donkey’s carrying all the heavy. The trail spends most of it’s time above 4000m/13,000ft and involves a bunch of passes up to 5000m/16,400ft  After all it’s the “Andean Summer” and this is the best time to trek in Northern Peru, as there is never a cloud in the sky.

We paid a visit to the Casa de Guias (House of Guides) and got ourselves a topo map, talked to one of the guides and came up with a rough plan. We would do 9 days, 8 nights with the option for another night if we needed it. It would be our longest self-supported trek to date.

We bought our bus ticket and were on a bus at 5:00am, on our way… our bus turned into a smaller bus, then due to mechanical issues, back into a bigger bus, and then into a cattle hauler… and then we caught a right in the back of a miners pick-up. As we left the mining camp we had to check in with their security officer. From there we walked for the next hour down a rode with a guide that was meeting his group of 17 hikers later that day at the trail head. And we met our unofficial guide, a very furry and friendly puppy dog. 7 hours after we left Huaraz we were officially hiking!

We felt the altitude as we climbed up the first pass that first afternoon. It was tough, and made us question if we were as acclimatized as we thought we were. Our puppy guide would prance up the trail and then turn and look at us to follow suit, and then after watching us struggle up the trail would come back to where we were and sprint back up the trial, as if he was trying to show us how to do it.

As the clouds rolled in we made it to our first campsite and promptly set the tent up behind a hill in an attempt to block it from the freezing wind, rain and snow flurries that were starting to come down. As we cooked dinner, our puppy guide curled up into a little ball, tucked his nose under his tail and went to sleep… outside our tent. After our last animal tent incident I wasn’t about to let him sleep in our tent, lesson learned.

The next morning clouds were still hanging around as we made up the next pass. It wasn’t as high as the previous one, and had a relatively easy grade, so we were at our next camp before 11:00am. Liz made us a quick lunch while we talked with a couple of locals there at the campsite. They said it was only five hours to the next camp, not big deal, right? Except there was a huge pass between us and the next camp, with the steepest approach of the whole trip. We debated and decided to go for it. We pushed on to the next camp. The weather went downhill almost as quickly as the trail went up. The sleet starting coming down on us again pretty hard, and we couldn’t see the approach to the pass for the clouds. When we finally heard a few claps of thunder, we decided we shouldn’t try and make the pass. We had stopped at one of the most beautiful spots of the hike – with three glacier lakes, upclose views of the mountains and huge ice flows falling into avalanches. We made camp in a little depression next to a big rock to protect us from the storm.

This turned out to be one of our favorite campsites to date. Surrounded by towering peaks, the weather broke just in time for sunset and we got to fall asleep to the thundering crashes of the glacier ice falling. A few times they were so loud we had to reassure ourselves there was a lake and a 50m hillside between us and the glacier.

The morning started out with a few clouds and by the time we reached the pass it was completely overcast again… so much for cloudless Andean Summer. We were making good time though, until we lost the trail in a boggy area. We had to leap frog across a swamp from moss island to moss island to make our way back to it. But soon made it into Huayhuash camp to find it already set-up for a few large groups one of which was lead by the guide we hiked to the trailhead with. We talked with him briefly and he said it was only 4 hours to Agua Termales. Again we lunched and debated on continuing or camping…. As we did, the sleet and snow started up again, along with strong winds. It was cold! And it made our decision for us – at least hiking in the sleet and snow keeps you warm, sitting in camp for hours trying to stay warm is way less fun. Since it wasn’t even noon yet and clouds had covered the sky, we decided to push on the Aguas Termales and figured, even if it was snowing, we’d enjoy the hot springs. They were totally worth it and in hindsight, we should have stayed there for two days.

The next day made us both call our navigation skills into question. We started out with an hour detour because I thought the map made it look like we need to back track like 30 minutes to the trail (uphill!), in reality, we should have only back tracked for about 5 minutes. With the sky completely overcast and heading down into a valley our topo map gave us little indication as to where we were. We got turned around and back on the trail, to make the ascent up the highest pass of the hike.

We hit our stride and the climb up wasn’t too bad at all. Unfortunately, the grand views we had hoped for were eaten up by the clouds again. We couldn’t see anything 75 or 100 meters above us as we went over the pass. As we made our way down, we entered a forked valley and somehow blew right past the campsite we had planned on staying at. We were excited about a plan to do a day hike up to San Antonio pass from that campsite, to see the wonderful views of the full Huayhuash Range. But by the time we realized how far past the campsite we were neither of us were pumped about walking back up hill to try and look for it. Defeated, we decided to make our way to the next camp, which happened to be a small town as well.

As we followed the river down the valley in a straight line we still managed to get so far off trail that a kid on a horse had to show us where to cross the river and ended up escorting us all the way into town. We were unsure at first if he planned to mug us, extort us, or just follow us all of the way to town so we didn’t get lost. But he ended up just wanting to help us and even got us into a hospedaje. Harley was our hero of the day! We were reward for our troubles with a stay in the community hospedaje, where we also restocked on food and treated ourselves to a beer.

In the morning the skies were clearer, and we were prepared to spend a lot more time looking at the map. We made it over our sixth pass without to much trouble and then down to the campsite. It was a little disappointing, no real view to speak of. No wind breaks. And the grass lumpy and spikey. Like when we sat down on the ground to look at the map it poked through our pants. So after looking at the map we thought about decided to see what was around the next bend. We came to a little house, where we paid our fee and we were told it was only 4 hours to the next camp. We just had to push ourselves up another 500m over the pass and then it was an easy hike down to the lake. We made it over the pass and then down to our final campsite next to a lake just in time for sunset.

In the morning after a few false passes and being told by a donkey driver that we had taking the old donkey trail up over the mountain instead of the new easy tourist trail down around the mountain, we finally made it over our eighth and final pass and down to Llamac to catch the bus back to Huaraz… 3 days early!

If you want to see the technical trip report with times and heights etc, it’s here.

Trekking Huayhuash Independently

Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru

These are the technical details from our trek in July 2015 for anyone looking for info on Trekking Huayhuash Independently. If you’re looking for the color commentary and all of our pretty picture you can find those here.

Our original plan was for 9 days 8 nights was something like this:

  1. Huaraz – Pocpa – Janca
  2. Janca – Carhuaccocha
  3. Carhuaccocha – Huayhuash
  4. Huayhuash – Agua Termales
  5. Agua Termales – Nevados Valley Camp
  6. Nevados Valley Camp – up to San Antonio Pass and back – Huayllompa
  7. Huayllompa – Gashpampa
  8. Gashpampa – Lago Jahuacocha
  9. Lago Jahuacocha – Llamac

Here is what we actually did:

Day 1

Huaraz – Chiquian Llamac – Pocpa

Bus: 5:30 am bus from the corner of 28 de Julio and Internacional.

Notes: We switched buses in Chiquian about 7:30-8:00am and had enough time to grab breakfast there. We had some mild bus mechanical issues which put us about an hour behind. Then it was on to Llamac where we paid our first “fee” and switched to a cattle hauler truck (run by the bus company, no less) which we road on top of to Pocpa where we paid our second “fee.” We started hiking from Pocpa and with in 5 minutes we got a ride to the mining camp in the back of a pick-up truck which saved us another ~45-hour of walking. Overall we probably started walking a little after noon. And then another hour or so walking down the road to the Quarterhuain campsite.

Quarterlhuain – Cacanunpunta Pass – Janca

Quarterlhuain (4170m) to Cacanunpunta Pass (4690m) ~2 hours

Cacanunpunta Pass to Junca campsite (4150m) ~1.25 hours

Notes: Not a lot of wind protection at Junca but not a bad campsite.

Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru

Day 2

Janca – Carhuac (Yanapunta) Pass – Incahuain/Carhuaccocha – Tres Lagos

Junca (4150m) to Carhuac Pass (4640m) ~1.5 hours

Carhuac Pass to Carhuaccocha camp (4150m) ~ 1 hour

Carhuaccocha to Second Lake (Lago Siula) (4290m) ~ 1.5 hours

Notes: Because it wasn’t even 11:00am yet when we got to Carhuaccocha we decided we would head towards Ciula Punta but the weather was rapidly depreciating (light rain/sleet/snow and then thunder and lightening). Our map showed the trail going along the East side of the first lake. We followed that and it appears that hasn’t been the trail in a while… a far amount of bushwhacking was involved while we could look across the lake and see a nice clear trail on the West side of the lake. Take the West trail and then cross back over after the first lake. We ended up camping in a nice depression with a big rock for wind protection next to the second lake (Lago Siula). It was also just about the only place to camp between Carhuaccocha and the Pass.
This turned out to be our favorite campsite of the trek.  


Day 3

Tres Lagos – Ciula Punta Pass – Huayhuash – Portachuelo de Huayhuash Pass – Atuscancha (Aguas Termales)

Lago Siula (Second Lake)(4290m) to Ciula Punta Pass(4834m) ~2 Hours

Ciula Punta Pass to Huayhuash camp ~2 Hours

Huayhuash camp to Portachuelo de Huayhuash Pass (4750m) ~1.75 Hours (moving pretty quickly)

Portachuelo de Huayhuash Pass to Atuscancha (Agua Termales) (4365m) ~2 hours

Notes: There were a few big groups at Huayhuash camp when we got there ~noon and the weather was not the best so we figured we’d push it to Agua Termales. Agua Termales was another great camp and the Hot springs are perfect, should have stayed there for 2 days!

Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru

Day 4

Atuscancha (Agua Termales) – Punta Cuyco Pass – Huayllapa

Notes: This is where we really started having navigation issues. We lost an hour walking all the way back to the dame (which is what our map made it look like we should do) in reality you don’t have to back track very much at all, the trail is on the Agua Termales side of the rocks/hill that the trail and the river cuts between.

Agua Termales (4365m) to Punta Cuyco Pass (~5000m) ~1.75 Hours (not included detour)

Punta Cuyco Pass to Huallapa (3500m) ~5.25 Hours (lots of map checks and errors)

Notes: Coming down the pass we ran into another couple that gave us some advice to “stay left when you get to the swamp… it’s a lot shorter than the right side that the donkeys go.” Hindsight, something was probably lost in translation and this added to our next error. We completely missed the campsite in the Nevados Valley and the trail to San Antonio Pass. Looking back it was probably where the trail split and the left trail went over a little rocky finger that sticks out into the valley and the right trail goes way out around it. Never the less, we never say it and by the time we realized we had completely missed it we were so far down the valley we figured we’d just keep going as the weather was crap and you couldn’t really see any of the awesome mountains we assumed were there.

The trail crisscrosses the river as it goes down the valley and at one point it crosses the river at a little house and it looks like you’re walking up to someone’s house and not the trail. THIS IS THE TRAIL! We didn’t think it was and stayed on the north side of the river and the trail eventually disappears. A nice kid on a horse showed us a bridge and got us back on the trail and basically escorted us all the way to Huayllapa. (Thanks Harley!).

I would not recommend going all the way to Huayllapa.

Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru

Day 5

Huayllapa – Huatiaq – Tapush Punta Pass – Gashapampa – Yaucha Punta Pass – Jahuacocha

Huayllapa (3500m) to Huatiaq camp (4253m) ~2.5 hours

Notes: We never saw official second camp (Incahuain)

Huatiaq camp – Tapush Punta Pass (~4750m) ~2.5 hours

Notes: There is a mining road (wide enough for a truck and tire tracks) that starts big switch back to the left steeply up the hill and there was a small cairn at the corner of the first one with a very small trail heading straight (towards the Tapush peak). We debated a bit and ended up taking the mining road, but at the top they meet up again, I would suggest taking the smaller trail as it looked like it would be prettier thought maybe a bit more challenging.

Tapush Punta Pass to Gashpampa Camp (4625m) ~40 minutes

Notes: Gashpampa was a pretty ugly campground, a couple of out houses (and old outhouse holes) lumpy, spikey grass and not much of a view (especially when it’s over cast).

Gashpampa to Yaucha Punta Pass (4847m) ~2 hours

Notes: As we made our way around Mitishccocha we came to a little house, nice guy and we probably could have camped there much prettier and better camping that Gashpampa. But we wanted to make it to Jahuacocha Lake.

Yaucha Punta Pass to Jahuacocha Lake camp (4075m) ~ 1.5 hours

Notes: Jauacocha was a pretty developed camp but the view is pretty epic.

Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru

Day 6

Jahuacocha – Llamac – Huaraz

Jahuacocha (4075m) to Marash Punta Pass (7272m) ~2.5 hours

Notes: We followed the sign to Llamac (one of the only trail signs we saw on the entire circuit) and on about the 3rd falls pass a donkey driver passed us and asked us why we went the hard way and not the easy tourist way that doesn’t climb the mountain and just follows the river down to LLamac. Apparently the high road, over the pass is the old way and only donkeys do it now.

Marash Punta Pass to Llamac (3500m) ~1.5 hours

Notes: The bus back to Huaraz stops in LLamac on it was to Pocpa about 10:30am and then passes back through headed towards Huaraz at 11:00am. We also had another delay on the way back as a truck was broken down blocking the road so we waited about 2 hours for it to be fixed. All in we were back in Huaraz about 4:30pm.  

Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru


We used the Skyline 1:75,000 topo by Aonek’er. It was a source of constant frustration on the trail as it didn’t really have enough detail (we couldn’t see the peaks because it was overcast). It’s a bit outdated lot of trails (mining roads, donkey trails etc) aren’t really marked so there are a lot of forks that aren’t very obvious which way to go (as there is no fork on the map). They also put icons right on top of major intersections obstructing the trail. There is a better 1:50,000 “German made” map that got a green cover. Bring a compass for sure.

The Trails:

There are LOTS of trails, People trails, Mining trails, Donkey Trails, Cow trails, game trails. And there are almost not trail markers or signs (apart form designating camp sites) and the one trail sign we saw pointed us the wrong way. You get the feeling they really want you to have a guide, because they aren’t marking anything. We spent a lot of time trying to decide which trail to take and often we made the wrong choice and ended up on the donkey trail.

Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru


There weren’t a lot of people out on the trail we only ran into a couple a day (usually collecting fees) they were friendly and helpful if you asked. ALWAYS ASK to confirm you’re on the right route.


Plenty of water all the way, we never carried more than a liter a piece at any given time. But it’s all needs to be cleaned. 


All in we paid about 195 Soles per person for our 6 days of trekking (about 2 billetes a day).



We were expecting “Andean Summer” with perfectly clear skys and perfect weather. We unfortunately got pretty misserable weather for the first 3 days. Rain/sleet/snow flurries and lots of clouds kinda killed all the views.  

Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru