For all of its majestic summits, stunning glaciers, and alluring mountain lagoons, the Cordillera Blanca, located in the central Anacash region of Peru, poses one of South America’s most hostile environments. At extreme elevations between 10,000 and 20,000 feet, weather in the Cordillera Blanca can change on a dime. The best time to climb here is between April and September, during the Andean Summer months and dry season. You can arrange a trek into the surrounding mountains at your choice of a multitude of adventure outfitters in Huaraz.
“The air was thin, the valley desolate, and the surrounding mountains glistened in the mid-day sun. Great craggy peaks blanketed in snow and ice, commanding an aura of reverence that seemed to hang heavy in the valley. The canyon walls were sheer rock,
peppered with cascading waterfalls, rising hundreds of feet before they gave way to snow and ice. Mist lingered where plummeting water met the rough canyon floor.
By the time my guide Ajacopa and I ate dinner, the temperature had dropped more than 30 degrees from its mid-day high. Just two hours before, I was hiking in shorts and t-shirt, but now I layered the remainder of the meager clothing I had packed. I suddenly understood why the glacier at the end of the valley, only a few hundred yards down the trail, did not melt away.
“Para fish,” Ajacopa said, tossing a banana peal into a nearby stream. I looked towards the creek and smiled. This sort of conversation was the backbone of our communication, a combination of mispronounced Spanish on my part, and broken English on his. I shouldered my pack, which weighed a third of Ajacopa’s, and waited while he packed the remainder of our peanut butter and jelly lunch. Although apparently size deficient, Ajacopa was possessed of uncanny strength and endurance. He carried nearly all of our supplies, leaving me with only clothes and my sleeping bag.”
By Peter Sacco, travel writer for GoNOMAD.com