Renowned as one of the most exceptional alpine treks worldwide, it is by far one of the most beautiful treks in the world. But it can be a hassle to get comprehensive information foryour hiking journey.
Look no further. Our complete guide has got you covered.
Discover the most stunning routes, essential tips, safety recommandations, packing list, and amazing photos !
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Don’t have time to read the full article ? Read this first ! Before embarking on the Huayhuash Trek, it’s important to be aware of the requirements and recommendations for the journey. Here are some key points to consider:
Physical Fitness: The Huayhuash Trek is a challenging endeavor that requires a good level of physical fitness. You will be hiking at high altitudes and navigating steep terrain. Prior hiking experience and regular exercise are recommended to prepare for the trek.
Altitude Acclimatization: Due to the high altitudes involved in the Huayhuash Trek, proper acclimatization is crucial. It’s recommended to spend a few days in Huaraz or other nearby areas to acclimatize before starting the trek. This allows your body to adjust to the altitude and reduces the risk of altitude sickness.
Pack Light: As you will be carrying your own gear during the trek, it’s important to pack light and only bring essential items. Prioritize lightweight and compact equipment, including a sturdy backpack, comfortable hiking boots, warm clothing, a sleeping bag, a sleeping pad, and a reliable waterproof jacket.
Food and Water: Plan your meals and snacks carefully, considering their weight and nutritional value. It’s advisable to bring lightweight, non-perishable food items such as energy bars, nuts, dried fruits, and dehydrated meals. Additionally, carry a sufficient amount of water or a water filtration system to stay hydrated during the trek.
Routes and Itineraries: multiple options like classic circuit in 8 days, mini circuit in 3-4 days, but also offer lots of alternatives alpine routes for the most adventurous.
Weather Conditions: The weather in the Cordillera Huayhuash can be unpredictable and change rapidly. Be prepared for various weather conditions, including cold temperatures, strong winds, rain, and even snow at higher elevations. Dress in layers to adapt to changing weather conditions and always carry a waterproof layer.
Navigation and Safety: Familiarize yourself with the route and carry a detailed map or GPS device. The Huayhuash Trek is a remote and less-traveled area, so it’s essential to have good navigation skills. Additionally, make sure to inform someone about your trekking plans and estimated return date for safety purposes.
About the Huayhuash
The Cordillera Huayhuash is located in the northern part of Peru, precisely here. It is about 150 kilometers away from Huaraz, which serves as a base for most hikers. The Cordillera Huayhuash is one of the most spectacular areas of the Andes. Outside of the Himalayas, there is no mountain region that has such a high density of peaks between 5,000 and 6,000 meters. Furthermore, it is located near the equator, resulting in a very high snow line.
Nowhere else is it easier to get so close to such mountain giants as on the Huayhuash Trek.
The name Huayhuash is a real tongue twister and is pronounced like the English words: “why wash”. The mountain range is located in a remote area that is sparsely populated and has minimal infrastructure. As a result, the nature here remains pristine, and there are hardly any hikers on the trail.
This allows you to enjoy the wild beauty of nature in peace on the Huayhuash Trek.
Planning your Huayhuash Adventure
Embarking on the Huayhuash Hike requires careful planning to ensure a successful and enjoyable adventure. From determining the best time to hike to organizing transportation and choosing the right itinerary, thorough preparation will set the stage for an unforgettable experience in the Peruvian Andes. Here are some essential considerations to guide you in planning your Huayhuash Hike:
Hiking independently or joining a guided trek ?
Embarking on the Huayhuash Circuit can be done with the support of a guided trek. These tours typically provide porters/donkeys to carry your gear and food, allowing you to carry just a small daypack. With meals prepared and all logistics taken care of, you can simply show up and enjoy the trek. This option is particularly suitable if you lack backpacking gear, navigation skills, stamina for heavy packs, or the time to plan your own route. If you’re interested in joining a trekking group, I had the pleasure of meeting Marco Reyes, a fantastic local mountaineering guide and the owner of High Summit Peru in Huaraz. I highly recommend his services!
On the other hand, if you prefer to venture independently, the rewards of trekking the Huayhuash Circuit on your own are undoubtedly worth the extra effort. In the following sections, I will discuss what you can expect on the trail, including navigational challenges and the potential risks of altitude sickness. But for now, let’s provide a general overview of the requirements for independent trekking on the Huayhuash Circuit.
Is the Huayhuash Circuit without a guide suitable for you?
Consider trekking the Huayhuash Circuit independently if:
- You are comfortable hiking for 5-10 hours a day, continuously for 10 consecutive days, often on challenging and uneven terrain.
- You are capable of carrying a backpack weighing between 15-25kg.
- You possess or can acquire all the necessary gear for the trek (refer to the Packing list for the Huayhuash Circuit below) and have the knowledge to utilize it correctly.
- You have basic navigational skills and can effectively read both maps and GPS devices.
- You are well-informed about how to handle medical emergencies, particularly altitude sickness, and have access to a means of calling for help (such as a PLB – Personal Locator Beacon).
- You can allocate at least 2-3 days for acclimatization, preferably involving hiking, immediately prior to the start of the trek (refer to Acclimatizing for your trek below).
Best Time to Hike the Huayhuash
In the Peruvian Andes, the weather can be categorized into two seasons: a cool, dry winter (referred to as the “Andean Summer”) from May to September, and a slightly warmer but significantly wetter summer from October to April. While temperatures remain relatively consistent throughout the year (nighttime lows of -10 to 0°C, daytime highs of 18 to 22°C), there is a notable contrast in terms of rainfall and cloud cover.
During the wet season, I strongly discourage undertaking a Huayhuash Circuit trek. Heavy rain and clouds can obstruct the breathtaking views, navigation becomes more challenging, and there is a higher risk of encountering difficulties on the high-altitude passes. On the other hand, during the Andean Summer, you have a greater chance of enjoying clear, sunny days with minimal rainfall.
However, keep in mind that the mountains create their microclimate, and weather conditions can change rapidly even during the dry season. Be prepared for colder temperatures at higher elevations and pack accordingly.
Acclimatising for your trek
Let’s be clear:
One of the biggest challenges of hiking in Huayhuash is the high altitude.
It is crucial to acclimatize to high altitudes before embarking on the Huayhuash Circuit, as most people are not accustomed to low oxygen levels. This helps reduce the risk of altitude sickness. Spending a few days in Cusco or Huaraz and completing easier high-altitude treks is the best way to acclimatize.
Personally, I spent weeks acclimatizing in high altitude prior to the trek and doing shorter hikes. This thorough acclimatization greatly prepared me for the Huayhuash Circuit and enhanced my overall experience.
Even if you have limited time, it is recommended to plan a minimum of 2-3 days in Huaraz before your trek. Acquaint yourself with altitude sickness in the “Altitude sickness” section under “What to expect on the trail” below. (Note: External link removed)
Before starting the Huayhuash Circuit, consider the following activities in Huaraz:
- 1 day exploring the town (3,050m)
- One Day tour to Laguna Paron (4,300m)
- Hike to Laguna Churup (4,450m)
- Hike to Laguna 69 (4,625m)
- 3-4 Days hike to Santa Cruz to test your gear ( if you go solo in Huayhuash)
Duration and Itinerary
Decide on the length of your hike and choose an itinerary that suits your fitness level and time constraints. The classic Huayhuash Circuit typically takes around 10 to 12 days to complete, covering approximately 130 kilometers (80 miles) in a counterclockwise direction. If you have limited time, consider a shorter version of the circuit, such as the Mini Circuit, which can be completed in around 8 to 10 days. Research the different routes and their highlights to find the one that aligns with your preferences.
The Huayhuash mountain range is located about 300 kilometers (186 miles) north of Lima. To reach the trailhead, you’ll need to arrange transportation from Lima to the town of Chiquián or the village of Llamac, depending on your chosen starting point. Options include public buses, private transfers, or hiring a driver. It’s advisable to book your transportation in advance to ensure a smooth journey.
Local Advice and Guidance
Consider consulting with local tour operators or experienced hikers who have completed the Huayhuash Hike. They can provide valuable insights, recommendations, and assistance in planning your adventure. Local guides can also enhance your experience by sharing their knowledge of the region, ensuring your safety, and facilitating cultural connections with the communities along the way.
Prepare a comprehensive packing list, considering the terrain, weather conditions, and the duration of your hike. Essential items include proper hiking boots, comfortable and moisture-wicking clothing, a waterproof and windproof outer layer, a reliable backpack, a sleeping bag suitable for cold temperatures, a tent, cooking equipment, and sufficient food and water. Don’t forget to pack essential personal items, such as sunscreen, insect repellent, a first aid kit, and toiletries.
Essential maps & information
Getting Ready for the Adventure
Investing in proper gear is equally important. A sturdy pair of hiking boots, breathable clothing, layers for changing weather conditions, a comfortable backpack, a sleeping bag suitable for cold nights, and camping essentials such as a tent, stove, and utensils are all crucial components of your hiking gear. Don’t forget to pack essentials like a headlamp, sunscreen, a first aid kit, and a water purification system.
Choosing the Right Route
Huayhuash offers a variety of hiking routes, each with its own unique attractions and challenges. The classic circuit is the most popular choice, spanning approximately 130 kilometers and encircling the entire range. This route showcases the stunning beauty of Huayhuash, with highlights including the iconic Siula Grande, Jurau, and Rondoy mountains.
For those seeking alternative routes, options such as the shorter Huayhuash Mini-Circuit or the challenging Huayhuash Full Circuit are available. These routes cater to different preferences and time constraints, offering a chance to explore specific sections of the range while still experiencing its grandeur.
When selecting a route, consider your fitness level, available time, and personal interests. Each route has its own difficulties and attractions, so choose the one that aligns with your capabilities and desired experience.
Getting to & from the trailhead
Getting to Huaraz, Peru
Huaraz serves as the bustling mountain town and base for your adventure in the Cordillera Huayhuash, often recognized as Peru’s trekking capital. Although the possibility of flying from Lima to Huaraz on LCPeru has been suspended since 2019, you may want to verify if these flights have resumed operation before your own trip.
Fortunately, there is a convenient option to travel between Lima and Huaraz using the regular Cruz del Sur bus service. The buses run several times throughout the day and night, and it is highly recommended to make an advance online reservation through their website. Opting for first-floor VIP seats, available for a small additional fee, on the night bus departing from Lima’s Plaza Norte is advisable. These buses, like most in Peru, offer remarkable comfort, including hot drinks, a sandwich, a blanket and pillow, and a personal entertainment system in each seat-back. Flying becomes unnecessary with such convenient bus services available.
- Bus company: Cruz del Sur
- Route: Lima (Plaza Norte) to Huaraz
- Time: Multiple daily options, with the 10:30 pm-6:00 am night bus recommended
- Cost: S/86 for VIP seats on the first level ($37 AUD)
For more information on accommodations and activities in Huaraz, stay tuned for upcoming details.
Getting to the Huayhuash Circuit
Getting to Huayhuash from Lima
Huayhuash Trail Itineraries
Planning your itinerary is a crucial step in ensuring a successful and enjoyable hike in Huayhuash. The recommended duration for the classic circuit is typically around ten to twelve days, allowing ample time to acclimatize, enjoy the landscape, and immerse yourself in its natural wonders.
On the other hand, if you venture off the standard trail and explore the higher, more scenic, and more remote alpine route known as the “ruta alpina,” you can discover even more remarkable gems in the Cordillera Huayhuash.
However, it’s important to adapt the itinerary based on your fitness level, acclimatization needs, and the amount of time you have available.
To assist you in your planning, we have crafted sample itineraries for different time frames:
Short Itinerary (8 days):
Standard Itinerary (10-12 days):
Remember, these itineraries are flexible and can be adjusted to suit your preferences. Allow for additional rest days or detours to fully appreciate the stunning landscapes and unique features along the way. Remember to account for acclimatization breaks to minimize the risk of altitude-related illnesses.
Campsites along the Huayhuash Circuit
There are 12 campsites along the Huayhuash Circuit, all operated by the 9 communities responsible for maintaining the trail. Each campsite provides flat ground for setting up tents, a water source (ranging from taps to nearby flowing water), and some form of toilet facility. These campsites do not require any additional fees, as the community fees are paid regardless of where you choose to sleep. However, they are typically located in scenic areas and offer a chance to interact with other trekkers. Here is an overview of the available campsites on the Huayhuash Circuit.
Quartelhuain camp is known for its strong winds, but the presence of flushing toilets is certainly something to appreciate. Even if you choose not to camp here, you will still need to purchase your first community ticket.
Janca (Laguna Mitucocha)
The official campsite near Laguna Mitucocha is actually a 20-minute walk away from the lake shore. I would recommend setting up a wild camp closer to Jirishanca instead. You won’t be able to purchase your community ticket at this camp, but you can do so the next day at Laguna Carhuacocha camp.
This beautiful campsite is situated right on the lake, offering stunning views of Yerupajá and Siula Grande. There are two campsites available, but I suggest staying at the first one as the second tends to be busier with trekking groups. The facilities here include a simple squat toilet and a water tap, but the breathtaking scenery more than compensates for the basic amenities.
Located beneath towering peaks, Huayhuash camp is another picturesque spot. It features two blocks of well-maintained toilets and water taps. Like other campsites, there are two sites next to each other, with the first one typically reserved for independent trekkers and small groups. You can purchase your community ticket in the morning from this camp.
Considered one of the best campsites, Viconga offers three hot spring pools, including one for washing clothes and refreshing yourself after four days of trekking. The campsite is situated alongside a river that provides water. Additionally, there are flushing toilets available, and you can even find a vendor selling cold beer and Coca Cola. Remember to purchase your community ticket in the morning.
Cuyoc camp has a nearby river as a water source, and there is a small block of flushing toilets. Make sure not to miss the incredible side-trip up to Paso San Antonio!
Rather than camping at Cutatambo, which is a further 30-minute walk away, I recommend setting up camp on the nearby shores of Laguna Jahuacocha. This location will allow for easier exploration of Quebrada Sarapococha the following day. Positioning yourself behind the moraine will help shield you from the icy winds coming off the glacier at night.
There’s a small campsite on the huallayapa soccer field. And if you want to take a break from camping, and nights at -5°c to sleep in a good bed, take a hot shower and have a real meal, consider a more local option in the village where you’ll find several Hospedaje run by welcoming families.
It’s also a good opportunity to do some shopping in the local grocery stores.
There are two Huatiaq campsites, both offering similar facilities, including a toilet block and access to a nearby river for water. The campsites are approximately 5-10 minutes apart, so you can choose the one that is less crowded.
Gashpapampa is a pleasant and flat campsite located just across Laguna Susucocha. While the squat toilets may not be appealing, there is access to the river for water.
Incahuain is an absolutely stunning campsite situated on the shores of Laguna Jahuacocha. Although there were quite a few people present, there was ample space, and the abundant water access provided opportunities for refreshing swims in the chilly water!
A ticketing system has been in place on the Huayhuash Circuit for a few years. Regardless of whether you stay at their campsite, you are required to pay a small fee to each community as you pass through their land. There are approximately 9 communities, and their fees are around S/25 each. However, the exact payment might vary based on your route and the presence of ticket sellers called “cobradores.” It is advisable to bring S/250 in cash to cover these fees.
When you pay the cobrador, you will receive a small ticket with the community name, date, and sometimes your name. Keep this ticket safe as you may be asked to present it later as proof of payment, especially when passing through communities or checkpoints multiple times. Here are the fees I paid in August 2019 (note that some may have changed since the publication of the trekking guidebook), along with the locations of the cobradores:
- Llamác S/50: Paid along the road to Quartelhuain, even if you are in a shuttle.
- Pocpa S/15: Paid at Quartelhuain camp.
- Queropalca S/40: The cobrador is initially at Janca camp but will come to Laguna Carhuacocha camp the following day, allowing you to purchase a ticket if you missed it earlier.
- Quishuarcancha S/30: Paid just after crossing the swing bridge out of Laguna Carhuacocha camp towards Siula Pass.
- Huayhuash S/30: Paid in the morning at Huayhuash camp.
- Viconga S/20: Paid in the morning at Viconga camp.
- Huayllapa S/50: Paid along the trail about an hour before Huayllapa.
- Cutatambo S/10: This fee was missed, so the exact location cannot be confirmed, but it is likely at Cutatambo camp.
- Pacllón S/20: Paid at Gashpapampa camp.
Challenges and difficulties to overcome during the trail
The Huayhuash Circuit is a challenging trek that requires strong navigational skills, especially if you plan to take high alpine detours. Expect limited signage and the need for multiple means of navigation.
The trails on the Huayhuash Circuit are rugged, steep, and often covered in loose dirt or scree. Proper hiking boots with ankle support and trekking poles are essential.
The trek involves consistent high-altitude hiking, with elevations above 4,000m and frequent ascents beyond 5,000m. Be prepared for the effects of high altitude, including breathlessness, reduced appetite, increased urination, and potential difficulty sleeping. Altitude sickness is a risk, so understanding prevention and treatment measures is crucial.
While there are water sources at the official campsites, it is necessary to filter or boil the water before drinking. Carrying a filtered water bottle or a suitable water filtration system is recommended.
Food & other supplies
Except for a small town called Huayllapa, there are no opportunities to replenish food and supplies along the trail. Plan your food provisions accordingly, considering the weight and bulkiness of items. Huayllapa offers limited options for snacks, drinks, and hot meals.
Risks of injuries
While incidents have been rare in recent years, it’s still essential to take precautions, carry a well-stocked first aid kit, have knowledge of mountain survival, and consider carrying a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) in case of emergencies. Good travel insurance that covers medical evacuation is strongly recommended.
Packing list for the Huayhuash Circuit
When preparing for the Huayhuash Hike, having the right gear and packing essential items is crucial for your safety, comfort, and overall enjoyment of the journey. Here’s a comprehensive packing list to ensure you have everything you need for this epic adventure in the Peruvian Andes:
- Moisture-wicking base layers (tops and bottoms)
- Insulating mid-layers (fleece or down jacket)
- Waterproof and windproof outer shell (jacket and pants)
- Hiking pants or convertible pants
- Long-sleeve shirts (for sun protection)
- Hiking socks (wool or synthetic)
- Insulated hat and gloves
- Sun hat or cap
- Bandana or buff
- Comfortable hiking shoes or boots
- Sleeping bag suitable for cold temperatures
- Sleeping pad or mattress
- Camping stove and fuel
- Cooking utensils and cookware
- Water filter or purification tablets
- Headlamp or flashlight (with extra batteries)
- Multi-tool or pocket knife
- Backpacking Essentials
- Backpack suitable for multi-day hikes
- Rain cover or waterproof pack liner
- Trekking poles (optional but recommended)
- Water bottles or hydration reservoir
- Snacks and meals (dehydrated or lightweight options)
- High-energy food (nuts, energy bars, chocolate)
- Lightweight cooking stove and fuel
- Eating utensils (bowl, spoon, cup)
- Biodegradable soap for dishwashing
- Waterproof bags or stuff sacks for organizing gear
- Quick-dry towel
- Personal toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet paper, etc.)
Safety and Health
- First aid kit (including basic medications, blister treatments, and any necessary prescription medications)
- Sunscreen and lip balm with high SPF
- Water purification tablets or drops
- Emergency whistle
- Navigation tools (map, compass, or GPS device)
- 20.000 MAh Power bank
- Cash (small denominations for emergencies)
- Camera or smartphone for capturing memories
- Extra memory cards or batteries
- Binoculars (optional but great for wildlife spotting)
- Trekking guidebook or trail maps
- Personal identification and travel documents
- Lightweight and quick-drying towel
- Duct tape (for gear repairs)
- Trekking poles (optional but recommended for stability on uneven terrain)
- Toothbrush + toothpaste
- Body wipes
- Toilet paper
- Hand sanitizer
- Camera + spare batteries + Capture clip
- Powerbank + charging cables
- Lightweight dry bag for electronics
- Cash for community fees (S/250 per person) + extra for snacks in Huayllapa
Remember to pack your gear strategically, distributing weight evenly in your backpack to ensure comfort during the hike. It’s also advisable to test and familiarize yourself with your gear before embarking on the Huayhuash Hike to ensure everything functions properly.
Frequently Asked Questions About Huayhuash
Is prior hiking experience required for the Huayhuash Hike?
How can I arrange transportation to the trailhead?
Are there any water sources along the trail?
What is the best time of year to hike the Huayhuash?
How many days should I allocate for the Huayhuash Hike?
Q: How difficult is hiking in Huayhuash?
Hiking in Huayhuash is considered challenging, primarily due to the high altitude and rugged terrain. It requires a good level of physical fitness, endurance, and mental preparation. Prior hiking experience and acclimatization to high altitudes are recommended.
Q: How do I get to Huayhuash?
The starting point for most Huayhuash hikes is the city of Huaraz, located in the Ancash region of Peru. From Huaraz, you can arrange transportation to the trailhead by hiring a private vehicle or joining a guided tour.
Q: Are water sources readily available along the trail?
While there are water sources such as streams, rivers, and lakes along the Huayhuash trail, it’s important to treat the water before consumption. Carry a reliable water purification system to ensure you have access to safe drinking water throughout your hike.
Q: What is the best time of year to hike in Huayhuash?
The dry season, from May to September, is generally considered the best time to hike in Huayhuash. During this period, the weather is more stable, and the chances of rainfall are lower. However, be prepared for temperature variations and occasional storms even during the dry season.
Q: Do I need a guide to hike in Huayhuash?
While it is not mandatory to hire a guide, having an experienced guide can enhance your hiking experience in Huayhuash. They possess valuable local knowledge, can provide safety support, and offer insights into the region’s cultural and natural aspects.
Is a sleeping 0° is enough ?
How cold are the nights ?
Is it crowded ?
These are just a few of the commonly asked questions about hiking in Huayhuash. If you have further inquiries, it’s always a good idea to seek advice from experienced hikers or consult reliable sources before embarking on your journey.
If you have any further questions or concerns, please let us know in the comments below
Additional Resources and References
- “Trekking in Peru: 50 Of The Best Walks And Hikes” by Hilary Bradt
- “Hiking and Trekking in the Andes” by Rob Rachowiecki and Gregor Clark
The Huayhuash mountain range offers an unparalleled hiking experience that will leave you in awe.
From breathtaking landscapes to cultural encounters, this adventure is one for the books.
Share your incredible journey with others by leaving a comment below or spreading the word on social media. Let’s inspire fellow adventurers to embark on their own Huayhuash exploration. Happy hiking!