4 DAYS, 62km
Located in the heart of the Peruvian Andes, the Corderilla Blanca (White Range) has to be counted amongst one of the world’s most spectacular adventure destinations. With 27 peaks soaring over 6000m and many of the world’s surviving tropical glaciers, the range is a mecca for mountain climbers, photographers and of course hikers. If you are one of the latter the best way to get a feel for this amazing place is to take the Llanganucco Track, which winds it’s way through two mountain valleys and up over a high mountain pass, all the while surrounded by huge snow-capped peaks.
Day 1: Cashapampa to Llamacoral (5 hours)
The trek begins at Cashapampa, a picturesque village located on the banks of the Quebrada Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz River), at the base of the Corderilla Blanca. The track heads upstream along the river, following a deep valley that it has carved into the mountains, and entering Huascaran National Park. Created in 1975, the 340,000-hectare park protects over 800 species of plant and 100 animal species, including deer and the elusive spectacled bear. In 1985 the United Nations declared the park a world heritage site in recognition of its ecological significance and natural scenery.
Following the river up into the national park – where you will remain for most of the next four days – the track contours across a massive landslide and then finally begins to level out somewhat, with grassy meadows in the foot of the valley providing good campsites.
Day 2: Llamacoral to Taullipampa (4 hours)
The second day starts as a continuation of the first – hiking uphill through a deep mountain valley – but soon the landscape begins to change and the slopes on either side of the valley rise higher while the floor levels out, forming the characteristic u-shape that signifies it has been carved by a glacier. This stage marks the first appearance of true alpine peaks, with the 6000m summits of Caraz on the right and Santa Cruz providing a glistening white contrast to the dry vegetation and grass that surrounds the track. A good rest point is reached opposite Laguna Jatuncocha, a series of ice-carved lakes that (in case the scenery was not magnificent enough) is fed by a large waterfall.
From here continue climbing, passing the side track to the glacial lake of Arhuaycocha (which can be completed as a side trip by camping an extra day) and finishing the day at Taullipampa. The camp is surrounded on three sides by massive peaks, including Alpamayo – voted in 1966 as the world’s most beautiful mountain – and Taulliraju, which towers 2000m directly over the campsite.
Day 3: Tuallipampa to Quebrada Hauripampa Valley (6 hours)
Day three marks the highest point on the track, as you cross from the valley of the Quebrada Santa Cruz to that of the Quebrada Hauripampa across the 4750m high Punta Union Pass. Unfortunately the camp the night before is ‘only’ at 4250m, meaning that much of the day consists of climbing 500m up a series of switchbacks in air that is becoming noticeably thinner as you gain altitude. At this height the atmosphere contains only 60 per cent of the oxygen encountered at sea level, and most walkers will be feeling effects that range from a mild headache to full-blown altitude sickness (a good reason to take a guided tour, as many tour companies bring along altitude chambers and other medical equipment).
The surrounding landscape also changes significantly, as the valley walls that have been your constant companion for the last two days fall away and you become closer to the mountain peaks – only marginally though, as the taller peaks still are still 1500m above. The pass consists of a notch in the rock separating the two valleys, and it is worth stopping for a rest here to marvel at the views in all directions and at the condors that even at this altitude circle overhead.
The rest of the day is spent descending to, and then along, the Quebrada Hauripampa. The valley has quite a different character to that of the Santa Cruz, with fewer high peaks and dense forests that replace the drier grasslands of the first few days. There is a good choice of campsites, with a number of clearings alongside the river at various points.
Day 4: Quebrada Hauripampa Valley to Vaqueria (4 hours)
To finish the track, continue along the valley, passing under some jagged mountains that seem positively tame compared to the snow-capped peaks of the previous three days, and periodically visiting the banks of the Quebrada Huaripampa. A few kilometres from the end of the trek the track leaves the national park and you are suddenly in farming country. Steep cultivated fields alternate with mudbrick houses, and you are likely to be visited by herds of llamas, goats and chickens. The final section of the track is a steep, uphill climb to the main highway between Yungay and Yanama.
NEED TO KNOW
The main town in the area is Huaraz, from which most of the tours on the track leave. If you are planning on walking independently be aware that the local public transport is an adventurous experience, to say the least. All water should be boiled or treated before drinking, and it is also advisable to become acclimatised to the altitude before taking the track, as Punta Union Pass is easily high enough to bring on altitude sickness.
This is a multi-day walk and you will need appropriate equipment and supplies; make sure you check with authorities that you have everything you need before you head out.
OTHER THINGS TO SEE AND DO
The Llanganuco Lakes, for which the track is named, are considered one of the scenic wonders of Peru and many tours include a stop off on the way in or out as part of the track itinerary. At 6768m, the nearby peak of Huascáran is the tallest in Peru and the fourth highest in South America.
ACCOMMODATION AND SUPPLIES
Huascaran is a large town and provides standard supplies, although hiking meals are probably harder to come by.
http:///www.andeanexplorer.com is a commercial website providing information on the area in and around Huaraz, while for those with a more academic bent the official UNESCO World Heritage website (http://whc.unesco.org/en/list) details the environment and history of Huascáran National Park.
These descriptions are a guide only. While we have made every effort to make them accurate, we accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained while using them. Make sure you use an up-to-date map and consult rangers before heading out.