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Cordillera Blanca Peru

Posted: Mon May 23, 2022 10:19 pm
by Camden7
Hello all! I will be flying to Peru in about 2 weeks with my dad. We will be spending three weeks in the Cordillera Blanca near Huaraz in the Ancash region. We feel well prepared for the trip and plan on climbing any number of peaks depending on conditions although most interested in Chopicalqui 20,846 and Huascaran 22,203. Other options we are open to include Copa, Ranrapalca, Tocllaraju,Huandoy, Alpamayo, and Artesonaraju, in addition to acclimation peaks. In terms of technical skills and glacier/snow proficiency we are, I believe, sufficiently competent for all of the peaks we intend to attempt. I also believe that elevation should not be to problematic, as I have always done well at altitude, although to be fair I have never gonna above 14,440…

What I am more worried about are logistics. My Spanish is, although present, not great (just passed Spanish III in high school with a 98% in the class). Will this be a large issue? What weather can we expect, especially at the higher elevations? Are there any other tips or pointers people have that I should know before I go?

I have already spent many, many hours researching this and I don’t want this to come across as a low effort post, I would just love to hear from some people that have had experience in the area.


Re: Cordillera Blanca Peru

Posted: Mon May 23, 2022 11:15 pm
by Boggy B
Climbing in the CB is awesome!

Language shouldn't be much of a problem in Huaraz. It's crawling with tourists, and most of the guides and climbing logistics workers speak passable English.

Alpamayo, Chopi, Toclla, and to a lesser extent Arteson can be trade routes with a bootpack, laddered crevasses, and rap stations aplenty. Huascaran can be iffy. The adventure ramps up dramatically if you deviate from routes that have been "opened," and if you're going guided they'll try to shoehorn you into the trade routes anyhow. Ranrapalca doesn't seem to get climbed much, nor the Huandoys. It's all conditions dependent, and I've always gone in July, but in a normal year you'd have deeper snow and precip to contend with in June.

Stop in at any of the guide shops for a beta dump on arrival. We've always stayed at Zarela's, and she usually has a pretty good handle on things or knows who you should talk to.

I'd be more concerned about altitude. Despite being dialed at 14k it starts affecting me as low as 15k. No one ever died from over-acclimatizing.

Re: Cordillera Blanca Peru

Posted: Mon May 23, 2022 11:16 pm
by Grover
Send me a PM and I will help you out with some details. I was there in 2019 for 2+ weeks, in the same area you are visiting.

Re: Cordillera Blanca Peru

Posted: Mon May 23, 2022 11:53 pm
by Camden7
Boggy B wrote: Mon May 23, 2022 11:15 pm I'd be more concerned about altitude. Despite being dialed at 14k it starts affecting me as low as 15k. No one ever died from over-acclimatizing.
I realize I came off a bit hung-ho there, we are taking proper steps and time to acclimate, I was just saying that with proper time and precautions I think we can overcome that challenge and I am more worried in other areas.

Re: Cordillera Blanca Peru

Posted: Tue May 24, 2022 6:50 am
by seano
What Boggy said -- don't underestimate the altitude. I'm also good with altitude sickness, going from sea level to 14k' on the weekend and up to 22k' without issue, but felt dramatically slower above about 20k' than I have at 14k', or even 18.5k' on Orizaba.

Logistics won't be an issue: taxis and collectivos are dirt cheap and will get you to any of the Cordillera starting points in a few hours from Huaraz. My Spanish is meager, but communication wasn't an issue with transit or buying food.

Chopicalqui and Tocllaraju are popular and straightforward. Huascaran is more of an adventure, since the route is long and changes with the glacier. When it comes to the Huandoys, you're probably on your own. One thing to keep in mind is that the Cordillera's glaciers seem sketchier than those in temperate ranges, with the crevasses less obvious. It's no big deal on popular peaks, since you can just follow the bootpack and not step in the holes, but becomes more important if you go adventuring.

Re: Cordillera Blanca Peru

Posted: Tue May 24, 2022 6:59 am
by cottonmountaineering
my 2 cents - i have climbed there for 2 month long trips

Chopicalqui 20,846 - deep snow up high, sometimes doesnt get in season

Huascaran 22,203 - complicated glacier, sometimes doesnt get in season

Copa, relatively unpopular, i imagine a few guided groups head up here per season since its a slog

Ranrapalca - i did the N face, it can be attempted during early season during certain years, the glacier for the "normal" route is getting very broken up so expect shenanigans to get down

Tocllaraju - popular trade route

Huandoy - dangerous, i didnt know anyone attempting

Alpamayo - trade route, albeit dangerous

Artesonaraju - somewhat of a popular climb, gets spicy at the top

if there's one takeaway to give you, its that routes from the guidebook that was made 20 years ago are increasingly becoming unsafe or impossible due to the glaciers melting

Re: Cordillera Blanca Peru

Posted: Tue May 24, 2022 9:50 am
by Camden7
Ok thanks

Re: Cordillera Blanca Peru

Posted: Tue May 24, 2022 6:58 pm
by knb705
We were there last month. Even though there are plenty of English speakers in the tourist areas, some Spanish goes a long way. The strikes caused some logistical issues for us while we were there (air traffic controllers went on strike while we were in the air, road blockades, etc.). I think these have largely died down but it’s worth keeping an eye on. If a strike is announced, it’s worth making a few tweaks to your itinerary to make sure you’re not stuck in transit somewhere. It’s an amazing country and we’ll definitely be back; just a heads up if you can avoid some headaches.

Re: Cordillera Blanca Peru

Posted: Wed May 25, 2022 10:23 am
by I Man
My info is nearly a decade old (summer of 2013) and conditions have changed dramatically as climate change continues to decimate the area. It is good you are going now though, as who knows how much longer the Peruvian Andes will be recognizable.
The language barrier shouldn't be too much of an issue. We had 1 Spanish speaker in our group, and the other 2 of us were only ok. Many spoke English in Huarez. After a rough trip on Denali a few weeks before, my team wasn't feeling much like planning and we mostly just showed up In Huarez. This worked out well and in the years since I have come to view the CB as one of the best places to climb for a variety of reasons including accessibility and quality of climbing.
We were a self led team of 3 and in a little under a month we climbed Artensonraju North Ridge, Huascaran Sur Standard Route and Alpamayo standard route.
We located Burros and a Burro driver in town and secured a taxi to the trailhead. It was all very affordable and low key. We also got beta from the local guide shops as mentioned above.
There was no boot pack at all on Artesonraju. it was my first 6000m, but my partners had more experience than me. Just finding the route was the crux of it all. We spent 9 days on the mountain and reached the summit. It was very challenging and I am still very proud of this climb all these years later.
Next we went to Huascaran (same idea for logistics, organized at the base). We were successful, but I will say do not underestimate this climb. For us, there was no boot pack and only occasional wanding (which wasn't all correct). The objective hazard is real, and the altitude is VERY real. In my opinion, above 6,000m is very serious and experience at 14k will only do so much. Be very careful. I had a lot of trouble pacing and had to switch out of the leader position in order to reach the summit. The climb was more technical than expected, but the upper section is a long and slow slog. We climbed the route overnight and we were the only ones above C2. It was pretty magical. All of the guided parties were turned away by their guides who cited wind as an issue, but to us that was just lazy guides trying to collect $$ without doing the work. Or, a less cynical view is that they were being overly cautious.
Finally, one of my partners and I climbed Alpamayo. This was from the same valley as Artesonraju North Ridge, so it felt familiar. The climb was by far the most technical, but overall is was the easiest climb since there was a bootpack and a lot of people on the route. Be very careful on the approach to the face as it slides often and has killed many. Also, like anywhere else, you don't want to be leading a steep mountain face with people above you kicking s**t down.
The CB is incredible - snow/ice covered 6,000m giants, accessible from a comfortable grassy meadow basecamp. Huarez is a great palce for R&R between climbs. It is a stark contrast to expedition climbing in Alaska (though for some reason, Alaska is where I keep returning to).
Feel free to PM me with any questions. Good luck you're going to have a great time.

Re: Cordillera Blanca Peru

Posted: Wed May 25, 2022 11:32 am
by Monster5
Best to come in with multiple objectives in each elevation range (low, med, high) and have some flexibility for conditions and weather. Beta is all over the place and generally conservative, so best to spend a few hours speaking with multiple sources.

Agree that Zarela was amazing for flexible schedules and objectives. You could tell her which objective you'd like to go for the evening before and she'd have a car and mules waiting.

Agree the guidebook beta is mostly outdated but still a good starting point. The glaciers have receded a few hundred feet in10 years, so the approaches are quite different sometimes.

Re: Cordillera Blanca Peru

Posted: Wed May 25, 2022 2:36 pm
by Fletch Lives
CB is the place to be! Best advice I got on my trip was to hang in Huarez as long as you can. Couple guys I was with said to acclimatize for a week if possible. After my trip, I fully agree --- the altitude and fatigue got me after 2 weeks of climbing. Everything else is pretty straightforward. Oh and the bus from Lima is a trip!

Re: Cordillera Blanca Peru

Posted: Wed May 25, 2022 5:33 pm
by Camden7
Thanks all. Great advice.