The spectacular Cordillera de Huayhuash is located south of the Cordillera Blanca, in the Central Peruvian Andes. Despite being only 40 km long, it has become one of the favorite places for fans of trekking and adventure walks.
It was declared a National Tourist Reserve for the conservation of ecological and archaeological resources in the area.
Huayhuash is the southern section of the western chain of the North Andes, it is located between the departments of Ancash, Lima and Huánuco, to the SE of the Cordillera Blanca. It is located 111 km (68 miles) from Huaraz. The geographic coordinates of this mountain range are 10º 16 ’01 «south latitude and 76º 54′ 09» west longitude.
It has a length of 40 km (24.85 miles), and is made up of eternal snow-capped peaks, among which the Yerupajá (6,617 masl – 21,709 feet) the second highest in Peru, Siulá (6,536 masl – 21,443 feet) and Sarapo (6,143 feet) stand out. masl – 20,154 feet). It has characteristics similar to the Himalayan mountains.
Heres we present you our Huayhuash Guide with all the information you need if you want to visit this incredible Reserve.
The departments of Lima, Ancash and Huánuco, in the central highlands of Peru, 50 km south of the Cordillera Blanca
Conservation of high mountain ecosystems contained in the Huayhuash mountain range, as well as its exceptional scenic beauty.
On December 20, 2002, through Ministerial Resolution No. 1173-2002-AG.
67 589.76 hectares.
Cordillera de Huayhuash Reserved Zone
The State has named it the Cordillera Huayhuash Reserved Zone and it has more than 67,589.76 hectares. It is a protected area in whose territory you can see more than 20 snow-capped mountains 6000 meters high or more, 100 that exceed 5000 meters and 46 lagoons.
The Cordillera Huayhuash Reserved Zone covers part of the territories of the provinces of Bolognesi (Ancash), Lauricocha (Huánuco) and Cajatambo (Lima) and has an area of ??67589.76 hectares. This protected natural area protects the massif of the Huayhuash mountain range, which is a conglomerate of 21 peaks dominated by the Yerupajá that is 6,634 m high. The rivers Pativilca and Huaura, tributaries of the Pacific basin, and rivers of the eastern slope such as the Marañón are born on the western slope of the Huayhuash mountain range. Its glaciers give rise to 46 lagoons.
The area is dominated by puna grassland habitats interspersed with montane scrub, Polylepis forest patches and wetlands. Fishing is practiced in the wetlands. The area is visited by fans of high mountain sports and ecotourism. This place has also been considered an Important Area for Birds by BirdLife International.
The Cordillera de Huayhuash contains great beauty and is considered one of the most beautiful in the world. In its 30 km long it concentrates a remarkable amount of high peaks. Although it has less influx of tourists (compared to the Cordillera Blanca), the interest in visiting it and climbing its snowy peaks increases day by day. Huayhuash has the second highest summit in the country, which is also the highest in the Amazon basin (Yerupajá) and another five above 6,000 m.a.s.l.
In the Cordillera Huayhuash Reserved Zone, the concentration of relict queñual forests stands out, the same ones that allow the existence of endemic bird species. The human presence in the perimeter of the area, rich in customs and culture, preserves an important representation of native crops, as well as traditional knowledge about medicinal plants.
Observation of Flora and Fauna
Among the most outstanding birds are the Zárate cotinga (Zaratornis stresemanni), the ash-chested bull (Anairetes alpinus), the giant honeydew (Oreomanes fraseri), the high Andean bluebird (Xenodacnis parina), (Leptashenura yanarencis) and the torrent duck (Merganetta armata). You can also see the Andean condor (Vultur gryphus), the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) and the giant coot (Fulica gigantea). Among the mammals, the wildcat (Leopardus jacobita), the Andean cat (Leopardus colocolo), the taruca (Hippocamelus antisensis) and the vicuña (Vicugna vicugna) stand out.
Queñual species (Polylepis spp.) Predominate in the area, such as (P. racemosa, P. incana and P. weberbaueri) and alder (Alnus acuminata), which can be seen in the wild.
What to do?
The Cordillera de Huayhuash is considered one of the 10 most spectacular circuits in the world for trekking. You can make various routes that require between 2 to 12 days of travel. This activity is practiced over 4,000 m.a.s.l., crossing diverse landscapes of singular beauty. The length of the trek varies according to the travel time, the averages being between 45 and 165 kilometers.
Another activity that has a large number of followers is mountaineering. This sport is in great demand in the area, especially if one considers the amount of mountains that still have to be conquered. The Siula route (Carhuacocha – Huayhuash) and the Mirador de San Antonio stand out.
Likewise, the great landscape value of Huayhuash is crystallized in the famous 165-180 km walking circuit that completely surrounds the mountain range. The time required for this tour ranges from 12 to 18 days. In turn, it is considered one of the most spectacular in the world, since it requires overcoming five high abrass with 4,300 m.a.s.l. as average on the route.
The climate is predominantly cold and dry due to the influence of glaciers. It drops below zero at night, over 4,000 meters above sea level. In the valleys where the towns are located, the climate is more temperate, with an average temperature of 20 ° C during the day and 5 ° to 15 ° C at night.
It is better to avoid the months between September and April, since they are the rainy season and this can affect the visibility of the landscape and increase the difficulty of trekking.
How to get?
There are many trekking routes of different difficulties and durations to travel this mountain range. Most of them begin in the town of Chiquián, located in Huaraz. From Lima to Huaraz the bus price is 40 soles on average, while the trip takes about 8 hours.
Once you have reached the center of Huaraz, it is possible to take a colectivo, taxi or bus to Chiquián for about 15 soles (the journey takes 3 hours). Buses also leave from there to the center of the Pacllón district, the starting point for most tourist agencies.
According to the National Service of Natural Protected Areas by the State (Sernanp), the Cordillera Huayhuash is one of the 10 most impressive hiking circuits in the world. Trekking routes can vary between 4 to 12 days in length, with an average distance of 45 to 165 km. In addition to hiking, adventure mountaineering is one of the preferred activities for travelers, with various snow-capped mountains that represent a great challenge to conquer.
Trekking in the Cordillera Huayhuash
Several rivers, crystal clear lagoons and biodiversity in different ecosystems represent this mountain range. To choose one of these routes, we present you this Huayhuash Guide, because you need to take into account various factors. For example, the time available you have for your trip, your physical stamina and the places you want to visit.
The Ichik Huayhuash path (four days)
Ichik means «short» in Quechua. It is a route aimed at those travelers who wish to visit some of the most beautiful places in the mountain range in the shortest possible time. For example, the Solteracocha and Jahuacocha lagoons, among others; in addition to the Rasac or Rondoy mountains. In some of these lagoons you can go sport fishing, boating and bird watching. The highest point on the route is the Zambunnya mountain, at 4750 meters above sea level. From there you also have a wonderful view of the famous Yerupajá snow-capped mountain, the second highest in the country.
The Munay Huayhuash journey (five days)
This route comprises about 35 kilometers of trekking and has a moderate difficulty. It starts in Llámac and ends in Rondoy.
Munay means «the most desired» in Quechua. This is the name of the route because it is the path most taken by travelers, since a large number of natural attractions can be seen, including the snow-capped Diablo Mudo, at 5350 meters high. This mountain is special for those who do not have much experience in mountaineering, as its difficulty is only moderate. From the Diablo Mudo you will be able to see the landscape made up of the Yerupajá snow-capped mountains and the Jahuacocha and Solteracocha lagoons.
Huánuco Marka Route (seven days)
The distance covered here is approximately 74 kilometers and the difficulty is advanced. It is a special route that begins in Huánuco Marka, also known as Huánuco Viejo, located 220 kilometers south of Huaraz, at 3900 meters above sea level, in the Dos de Mayo province.
The route includes sightings of various archaeological complexes of Inca ruins. It is a tour that combines adventure, history and cultural wealth. There it is possible to travel more than 2.5 kilometers of Inca vestiges that reveal the lifestyle of our ancestors. In addition, the lagoons of Carhuacocha, Jahuacocha, Mitucocha, among others, are also visited.
The Achalau Huayhuash journey (eight days)
Achalau means “how beautiful!” In Quechua. An excellent description for a route that covers mostly all the lakes and snow-capped mountains as if it were the longest circuit of 12 days. The difficulty is advanced and demanding, since shortcuts are taken to reach destinations more quickly, but these are more difficult to overcome.
Huayhuash – Raura Trail (nine days)
This route mixes with the Raura Mountain Range, so it is possible to see the Surasaca lagoon up close. In addition, the road ends in the town of Churín, where you can enjoy the thermal and medicinal waters. It is 70 km with an advanced difficulty where you will see attractions such as Cuartelwain, Qaqanan, Zambunya Pass and Carnicero Pass.
Classic circuit Cordillera Huayhuash
It lasts 12 days or more and crosses snowy mountains that exceed 4600 meters in height. It is one of the most chosen by adventurers, since the attractions of the mountain range are covered almost entirely (along a path of 120 kilometers). One of the first stops is in the Cutatambo valley, which is located on the slopes of Siulá Grande, a very famous mountain that inspired the book Touching the void, by Joe Simpson, which would serve to inspire the film of the same Name.
The Shumaq Huayhuash circuit
Follow the same path as the classic route. However, unlike her, a couple of days off can be suppressed. In the previous circuit these are oriented to make a camp in Carhuacocha or Jahuacocha, to rest and explore the surroundings.
By cutting back on these days, you have less recovery time and the difficulty of the circuit increases. It is also possible to arrive and admire the Siulá Grande snow-capped mountain.
As mentioned, this is a long and difficult route. Most of the roads are over 3000 meters high and the easiest route lasts 2 days.
It is very important to take precautions, such as buying pills against altitude sickness, acclimatizing before taking walks for at least one day and carrying energy foods.
Remember that you should not eat anything heavy before, during or after the trek; also, you should bring plenty of water.
There are ideal areas for camping, which will be indicated by professional guides. The type of tent to take should be suitable for snowy, mountains and freezing climates.