PERU: The Roof of America

There are two spectacular mountain ranges in Peru, the Cordillera Blanca and the Cordillera Huayhuash. The vast majority of people who travel to Peru, go to see Machu Picchu. Around 1% of travelers visit the Blanca and Huayhuash each year. These mountains have snow all year but the snow level is very high because the mountains are close to the equator. Most people who trek in these ranges will use guiding companies that provide donkeys and horses to carry the equipment and supplies. Even though one does not need to carry much, the trekking in these ranges at altitude is a lot of work.

The Huayhuash mountains are very steep and difficult to climb. Siula Grande, made famous by the book and film Touching the Void, is in this small but amazing range. Most who travel to Huayhuash do a long trek around the mountains. The trek is mostly above 4,000 meters (13,123 feet) the entire time and climbs many high passes including a 5,000m (16,404 feet). pass or two. As I recall there was a pass or two every day of the trek. There are beautiful lakes on both sides of the mountains.

In the Cordillera Blanca there are many more mountains and there are many that are much more reasonable for climbing than in Huayhuash. The most famous mountain here is Alpamayo. There is also a long trek, the Cedros Alpamayo Trek, that roughly circles Alpamayo. It is a long trek although the altitude is not quite as high as the Huayhuash trek. There is also a shorter trek called Santa Cruz that offers an opportunity to see the base camp of Alpamayo.

These are truly spectacular, and serious mountains. You would need to head to the Himalaya or the Karakoram to see bigger mountains. I’m sure Alaska is amazing as well. These mountains in Peru, however, are fairly easy to reach compared to these other ranges once you are in the country. Another advantage is that these mountains are close to the Equator and are therefore usually not too cold, which makes climbing a much more pleasant experience.

Trekking and climbing in the high mountains of Northern Peru, a rarely visited region, the beauty and scale of the Cordillera Blanca and the Cordillera Huayhuash ranges from the sublime to the overwhelming.





Eric Hodges is a photographer for Maptia. He is from Corte Madera, California.