This page is a summary of lessons we learnt from our trip to the Cordillera Blanca of Peru in 2007. It might make more sense if you have read Peru 07 Plans which was written before the trip. The page is intended to help anyone planning a similar expedition but we take no responsibility for the accuracy of the information.
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- The trip to Peru should ideally be 4 weeks as a minimum.
- We found 6 weeks to be the maximum - you get tired because each trip is an exped. But bear in mind it was our first big trip away from the Alps.
- You can't rush Acclimatization. It will be at least at least a week after arriving for your first 5000ers and probably 3 for your first 6000er. Visiting other places in Peru at 3000m+ before you arrive can save you a few days when you arrive in Huaraz.
- Have realistic expectations. You may well get ill and not accomplish everything you hope. It is not like going to the Alps.
- Register your trip with the British embassy in case of emergencies. Circulate emergency contact details, passport numbers and insurance numbers.
- Sign in at La Casa de Guias when you go out into the mountains, and sign back when you get back.
- Always carry a copy of your passport, you don't know when you might need it.
- Ideally you would have a group of 4 and everyone would arrive at the same time to acclimatize together.
- Someone who speaks Spanish is very useful but not essential.
- Don't bring heavy ropes, we had 2 x 10mm singles and they weren't fun to carry.
- But 2 half ropes x 60m is a good idea for abseils. It is possible to use cord so you can abseil 60m and retrieve with one rope. We didn't try this.
- Learn to go as a light as you can, especially for carrying your pack up to the high camps.
- But don't skimp on food. It won't be much fun if you're hungry.
- You can get porters if it fits with your ethic.
- It is not that cold, we wore base layer, thin fleece, down jacket and coat at the coldest times.
- I disagree. At the coldest times I was wearing vapourrise+buffalo+synthetic duvet jacket and would only just have been warm enough if we'd have been doing harder routes and had to sit around on belay ledges. Chris
- Most of the popular routes are snow and ice routes, so no need for much/any rock protection.
- Delta baggage limit is 2 bags each 23kg which is more than enough for a generous amount of climbing, camping and 'ordinary' gear. European airlines such as KLM may be more restrictive so flying via US might work out cheaper.
- Everyone abb's off (very suspect) snow-stakes and v-threads. Get used to it!
- You can buy small gas canisters in Huaraz but liquid-fuel stoves are much more efficient so worth the extra weight. Plus white gas (bencina blanca) is really cheap in Huaraz.
- Single-skin tents seemed popular (especially for harder routes). Definitely worth looking into for the weight-saving.
- People always debate about whether they can get away with using leathers - it's not worth the risk, buy some plastics.
- You can rent most gear in Huaraz, though buying new gear is sometimes tricky. Good MSR snow stakes are hard to find. Be careful with the ropes.
- Any general household stuff including fuel and cooking pans can be bought in the market or hardware shops of Huaraz.
- You need to buy a park pass in Huaraz which costs 65 soles for 30 days and gets checked in some valleys.
- Guides are not compulsory, though there have been rumors of this for years it looks unlikely to happen.
- La Casa de Zarela's makes an excellent base. She is very helpful and speaks good English. There are cheaper options if you are on a very tight budget.
- Diamox is easily available over the counter here, as are antibiotics for stomach problems.
- You can arrange guides, cooks, porters and donkeys at La Casa de las Guias
- You can hire really good bikes in Huaraz which makes for fun acclimatisation.
Guidebooks and maps
These two are best:
- Brad Johnson - Classic climbs of Cordillera Blanca
- Climbs of the Cordillera Blanca of Peru, by David M. Sharman, Whizzo climbs, 1995 - Hard to find in UK but can get there.
- All are readily available in Huaraz
- Brad Johnsonís book is great, detailed on routes, pretty pics but not comprehensive - there are peaks that are not in it.
- David Sharman is comprehensive but takes a little getting used to
- John Biggar's is useful as an overview but the information is not detailed and the pics are poor.
- Gradings appear to be a little more lenient than the Alps - once you are acclimatized and if everything goes well. But these are serious mountains.
- The IGM maps are not worth having as the mountains aren't consistently names. The Alpenverinskarte ones are fine, you only need those and they are readily available in Huaraz.
- At Ishinca and Alpaymayo base camps you can buy some biscuits and food and easily arrange donkeys and porters.
- If you want to get to Alpamayo base camp in a day you need to be in Casapampa by 8am and you will need to ay the donkey guy for 3 days, and give him a tent and food for a night.
- The 3 refugios (Pisco, Ishinca, Huascaran) run by the Italian Alpine club are very high standard and not too expensive.
- Cashapampa, and the pisco valley are busy and easy to find donkeys and taxis when you are there. Other places it is wise to prearrange your taxi and donkeys. A mobile and Spanish helps.
- On popular routes there will often be a few groups on the mountain, but on others you could find yourself alone. You are not discovering these mountains for the first time, but it is not like the Alps and you cannot rely on rescue if something goes wrong.
Certainly it is possible to do unguided stuff in the Cordillera Blanca if you have sufficient experience. It would not be a place to do your first unguided stuff.
We all had a fair amount of Scottish winter experience and at least one Alpine season of experience (all without guides) before going to Peru - this would be a minimum to do unguided stuff. And it also depends a lot who you are going with, how confident and experienced they are, and importantly how well you know and trust them in a climbing environment. You all need to know about safe glacier travel and how to execute a crevasse rescue, how to move roped together and to place protection in both rock and snow, and how to abseil safely. You need to be confident and practiced in these abilities. We were cautious, did easier routes, built confidence and progressed gradually.
We did not use any guides, but certainly there are Peruvian guides. We hear some are good and others are not. There is a Peruvian Mountain guides association (La Casa de las Guias) and they would probably be your best bet to find a decent Peruvian guide. However there are also European and American guides operating there - You will pay a lot more for this but you could perhaps be more confident in the standard.
Our SAE report