Discover Peru's Cordillera Blanca as you trek, climb, and scramble over snow- and ice-covered moraine rock into the high altitudes of the Andes. Not for the faint of heart, this 19-day itinerary is for the somewhat experienced climber and altogether adventurous spirit. This program includes acclimatization hikes and a basic climbing course to practice the skills required to reach the summit of Alpamayo. It's also an excellent trip for photography lovers — the views are simply breathtaking!

Highlights

  • Learn snow and ice climbing techniques on an included training course
  • Meet locals on your way through the peaks and valleys of the Cordillera Blanca
  • Discover stunning turquoise lakes hidden among snowy peaked mountains
  • Camp on icy mountaintops with unparalleled views of surrounding peaks
  • Reach the Alpamayo summit and rappel down to High Camp

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Huaraz Huaraz
Day 2 Acclimatization hike to Laguna Wilcacocha  Huaraz
Day 3 Acclimatization hike to Valle Llaca  Huaraz
Day 4 Acclimatization hike to Laguna Churup Huaraz
Day 5 Vallunaraju Moraine Camp Vallunaraju Moraine Camp
Day 6-7 Beginners Course in climbing Vallunaraju Moraine Camp
Day 8 Vaquería via Paso Llanganuco; hike to Paria Camp Valle Quebrada Paria
Day 9 Tuctubamba with optional side trip to Paso Punta Union  Tuctubamba
Day 10 Tuctubamba to Laguna Huecrococha via Paso Alto de Pucaraju Laguna Huecrococha
Day 11 Huecrococha to Jancapampa via Paso Tupatupa Jancapampa
Day 12 Jancapampa to Safuna via Paso Pucajirca Safuna Camp
Day 13 Alpamayo Base Camp via Mesapata and Paso Cara Cara Cruce Alpamayo Camp
Day 14 Base Camp to Moraine Camp  Moraine Camp
Day 15 Moraine Camp to High Camp on Alpamayo High Camp
Day 16 High Camp to Alpamayo summit & back High Camp
Day 17 High Camp to Base Camp Base Camp
Day 18 Base Camp to Cashapampa and drive to Huaraz Huaraz
Day 19 Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Huaraz

Huaraz, Peru
Huaraz

Arrive in Huaraz and check in to your hotel. Spend the remainder of the day settling in and acclimating to the higher altitude — 9,843 feet above sea level.

Day 2: Acclimatization Hike to Laguna Wilcacocha 

Wilcacocha Lake
Laguna Wilcacocha 

Laguna Willkacocha is a beautiful lake located in the Cordillera Negra mountain range southwest of Huaraz at an altitude of 11,811 feet. Hiking to this beautiful place provides an easy half-day opportunity to acclimate to the thinner air experienced at the higher Andean altitudes.

The surrounding panoramic views of the white-capped peaks of the Cordillera Blanca provides an excellent introductory setting for what the Cordillera Blanca has in store for you. In addition to the awesome views, you will have the chance to interact with the gentle indigenous locals, the Quechua people.

Day 3: Acclimatization Hike to Valle Llaca 

Valle Llaca 

Explore the Valle Llaca (Llaca Valley) and hike close to Ranrapalca's (20,216.5 feet) glacier — few places in the Cordillera Blanca allow you to get so close to the ice. Stop for a picnic lunch before descending the valley towards Laguna Llaca (Lake Llaca). Return to Huaraz by car through an alternate route passing through the villages of Llupa and Unchus.

Hiking distance: 0.93 miles
Hiking duration: 2 hours
Level: Moderate

Day 4: Acclimatization Hike to Laguna Churup

Laguna Churup

As Laguna Churup (Lake Churup) is situated close to Huaraz, it is one of the more popular locations for day hikes. Drive from Huaraz to Pitec (12,631 feet), passing through the attractive farming settlements of Llupa and Unchus. Steadily trek up a mountain ridge from Pitec to Laguna Churup (14,600 feet) and enjoy the stunning views of the turquoise lake below. 

Hiking distance: 2.2 miles
Hiking duration: 5 - 6 hours 
Level: Hard 

Day 5: Vallunaraju Moraine Camp

Vallunaraju Moraine Camp

Leave Huaraz behind and drive east for an hour and a half to Valle Llaca (14,665 feet). Put on your hiking gear and climb up a steep ridge for three to four hours to Vallunaraju Moraine Camp (16,404 feet). The first two hours is on tough, steep ground, but the path levels gradually as you near the campsite.  Enjoy the amazing views of the nearby Nevado Ocshapalca snow peak (19,318 feet), the twinkling lights of Huaraz in the distance, and away to the west, the Cordillera Negra. Spend the afternoon practicing with ropes and knots.

Alternatively, stay in Valle Llaca and make camp, practice climbing techniques and rope work, and take Day 6 to climb up to Moraine Camp early in the morning.

Day 6 & 7: Beginners Climbing Course on Vallunaraju

Ice axe and glacier climbing
Ice axe work

With a wide variety of rock types, ice forms, slopes, ice walls, and crevasses, Vallunaraju is an ideal site for a climbing course to develop (or refresh) your climbing skills. It's also where the Peruvian mountain guides come for their training.

Depending on skill level, spend time practicing climbing up and over moraine rock slabs before trekking to the glacier.  Once there, take the rest of the day to learn basic techniques and safety including knot practice, roping up, using crampons and an ice axe, self-arrests, glacier travel, crevasse awareness, rappelling, belaying, and using snow stakes and ice screws. Camp out overnight at Vallunaraju Moraine Camp for both Day 6 and Day 7.

Day 8: Vaquería via Paso Llanganuco; Hike to Paria Camp

Valle Llanganuco, Peru
Valle Llanganuco

Head north and drive down the broad inter-Andean valley through Callejón de Huaylas (the Santa Valley) to Yungay (8,200 feet) towards the Cordillera Blanca peaks. Continue into the Parque Nacional Huascarán and past the famous turquoise Llanganuco Lakes. Continue onwards and upwards to the Portachuelo de Paso Llanganuco (15,640 feet). Stop to enjoy views of a number of spectacularly high Andean peaks, including Huascarán, Huandoy (20,981 feet), and Chopicalqui (20,817 feet), as well as the Llanganuco Lakes almost a mile below, before descending to Vaquería (11,811 feet). 

Upon arriving at Vaquería, load your equipment onto donkeys and stretch your legs as you hike your way through Valle Quebrada Huaripampa (Huaripampa Ravine Valley) to your secluded campsite in Valle Quebrada Paria (12,795 feet)

Driving duration: 4 - 5 hours
Hiking distance: 4.3 miles
Hiking duration: 4 - 5 hours

Day 9: Tuctubamba and Optional Excursion to Paso Punta Union 

Paso Punto Union, Santa Cruz Trek, Peru
View from Paso Punto Union

Depending on energy levels today, you'll have the option to hike up the Quebrada Huaripampa Valley to your camp at Tuctubamba (13,779.5 feet), or to take a detour en route to Tuctubamba and climb up to the top of the Paso Punta Union (Union Point Pass) (15,584 feet). There you'll have fantastic views of Valle Santa Cruz before heading to your camp at Tuctubamba. 

Hiking distance: 2.5 miles
Hiking duration: 3 hours (additional 3 to 4 hours to Punta Union Pass)

Day 10: Tuctubamba to Laguna Huecrococha via Paso Alto de Pucaraju

Pack mules, Peru
Your travel companions

Embark on a steep climb following a rocky trail to the top of the Paso Alto de Pacaraju (15,255 feet). At the pass, there are magnificent views of many peaks, including the towering mountains of Nevado Taulliraju (15,846.5 feet), Chacraraju (20,052.5 feet), and Paria (17,028 feet). Begin the long descent — initially on switchbacks, then on a sweeping path — down through lupin flower-covered hillsides and quenual (a tree species native to higher elevations of the Andes) forests to camp by a small lake, Laguna Huecrococha.

Hiking distance: 4.7 miles
Hiking duration: 6 - 7 hours

Day 11: Huecrococha to Jancapampa via Paso Tupatupa 

Exquisite views of the Cordillera Blanca

Today's hike starts with a brief descent, a stream crossing (either by jumping or horseback), and then a gradual incline before ascending more steeply to Paso Tupatupa (14,436 feet). During your hike note the large snow-capped peaks of the Cordillera Blanca, including Pucajirca Norte (19,849 feet), and continue to your camp at the head of a wide valley at Jancapampa (11,811 feet). Enjoy the views of a massive hanging glacier with waterfalls streaming down a broad, horseshoe-shaped wall of granite from hundreds of up in the air. 

Hiking distance: 7.5 miles
Hiking Duration: 7 - 8 hours

Day 12: Jancapampa to Safuna via Paso Pucajirca 

En route to Safuna

Start today with a long climb varying in gradation up a forested valley with occasional clearings to the beautiful Laguna Sactaycocha. From here, now amid grassy shrubland, you'll have a steep climb to the top of the rocky Paso Pucajirca (15,092 feet). On a clear day, the awesome Pucajirca Norte can be seen in all its glory to the southwest. Descend to Willcapampa (13,123 feet) where you will find local traditional farmhouses and even pass by herds of alpacas before continuing to gently climb in the Quebrada Tayapampa. Rest for the night at Safuna camp (13,780 feet).

Hiking distance: 8.7 miles
Hiking duration: 8 - 9 hours

Day 13: Alpamayo Base Camp via Mesapata and Paso Cara Cara 

Three Summits

Today you will cross two passes. The first is a gradual, grassy ascent to the Paso Mesapata  (14,764 feet), followed by a longer trek skirting around swamplands, and then continuing on with a challenging climb to the high and sometimes windy Paso Cara Cara (15,846.5 feet). Enjoy your first sightings of the triple summits of Santa Cruz (29,535 feet) before a 20-minute descent along the pass. Here you'll spot the beautiful Alpamayo (19,511 feet), and its neighboring peaks Jancarurish and Quitaraju, as well as Laguna Jancarurish directly below. Continue making your way down to Cruce Alpamayo Base Camp, below the majestic mountain of the same name (14,764 feet).  

Hiking distance: 6.2 miles
Hiking duration: 9 - 10 hours

Day 14: Base Camp to Moraine Camp 

Camping tent on the base of Alpamayo, Peru
Camping at the base of Alpamayo

Pack up and leave Alpamayo Base Camp behind and trek over a moraine ridge on a sandy slope and rock slabs to reach a small area of tent platforms at Moraine Camp (16,010 feet). Set up your tent for the night.

Hiking duration: 4 - 5 hours

Day 15: Moraine Camp to High Camp on Alpamayo 

Alpamayo

Start the day early and follow the rocky route above Moraine Camp for a couple hours up to the ice and moraine. Make your way through a snowy couloir (a steep, narrow gully on a mountainside) that leads to the col (the lowest point of a ridge between two peaks) between Alpamayo and nearby Quitaraju (19,816 feet). This section can sometimes be the most technical and difficult part of the route. After getting to the col, there is a short climb up to reach High Camp (17,388 feet).

Day 16: High Camp to Alpamayo Summit 

High Camp

Depending on your energy and enthusiasm (and the weather) you'll choose one of two options for today. Enjoy the stunning view of Alpamayo and its surroundings from High Camp. Snap photos to your heart's content, and once ready, begin the descent back to Alpamayo Base Camp in Valle Santa Cruz.

Or, start the day very early and begin climbing on soft snowy slopes for about an hour. You'll come to a bergschrund (the crevasse that forms where moving glacier ice separates from the stagnant ice above) at the bottom of the southwest face. The climb from the southwest face to the summit is steep and technical, with mixed snow and hard ice. Seven or eight pitches (a stop at a belay station) are needed to reach the summit. The first two pitches are on good snow before the incline gets steeper with good ice. The climb to the summit takes about five hours. You'll descend on the same route, which takes up to seven or eight rappels. Return to sleep at High Camp for the night. 

Climbing duration: 8 - 9 hours

Day 17: High Camp to Base Camp

Cordillera Mountain Climber, Peru
Trekking the ice and snow

Today return to Alpamayo Base Camp by rappelling 492-656 feet down an ice cliff, where the last hour and a half is on steep and slippery rock. Relax weary muscles, pat yourself on the back, and enjoy the celebration dinner waiting for you at Base Camp!

Duration: 5 - 6 hours

Day 18: Trek to Cashapampa and Drive to Huaraz

Valle Santa Cruz, Peru
Hiking the Santa Cruz ridge

Continue on the long but easy trek down the Quebrada Santa Cruz to reach Cashapampa. A private van will be waiting there to return you to your hotel in Huaraz.

Hiking duration: 6 - 7 hours 

Day 19: Departure

Hauraz City, Peru
Huaraz 

Explore Huaraz at your leisure before making your way to the airport for your return journey home.

Map

Map of Snow & Ice Climbing on Alpamayo - 19 Days
Map of Snow & Ice Climbing on Alpamayo - 19 Days