Huaraz

Hello everybody!

I realize that I’ve been a terrible blogger recently.  A lot of my you have probably given up on following my blog, but in the unlikely scenario that you are, here is my next post.  (EDIT: I’m starting to notice a pattern with how I begin all of my blog entries…)  About a month ago (ouch, I didn’t realize it had been quite THIS long), I traveled to northern Peru to a rather ugly city called Huaraz that lies in the heart of the Andes mountains.  It is an ugly city because about 40 years ago there was a huge earthquake that decimated the infrastructure in the city and it is still not completely rebuilt, and the parts that have been were just sort of patched together.  However, it is in a prime location for adventure tourism and the scenery is just incredible.  Here is a photo I took of the city:

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On my first day there, my travelling partner, Zach (who is also my roommate in Lima), and I spent the day deciding what we wanted to do over the next 9 days and negotiating prices. We really wanted to do as much as possible so we settled on rock climbing, trekking, mountaineering, and mountain biking.  We were in for an exhausting trip!  So the next day we went rock climbing in a spot just outside of Huaraz (I took the picture above from the same spot).  This also served as our day of acclimatization so we wouldn’t get altitude sickness or anything while we were on our trek.  Climbing in such high altitudes (approx. 3000 meters, in comparison to sea level in Lima) proved to be very challenging.  Normally I won’t get tired until after several climbs, but that day I would barely make it 10 feet before I was out of breath  my forearms felt like they were on fire!  Regardless, it was a fun day.

The next day our trek began.  We did the Santa Cruz trek, the most popular trek in the region and the 2nd most popular in Peru to the Inca Trail (which I did the last time I visited).  However, it turns out that the path was closed for reconstruction on the day we started, and the national park failed to notify the travel agencies about it.  Classic Latin America.  The guide convinced our group; consisting of 2 french people, a swiss woman, a canadian woman, an Israeli guy, and the two of us Americans; that we could do the 4 day trek in 3 days.  So, we camped out for the night in a small village and left the next day.  This sign is at the beginning of the trek:

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It turned out to be a long, hard, 9 hour day of trekking with gorgeous views the whole way. Here are some more photos I took:

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The picture of the valley below shows the effects of a mudslide that happened here 3 years ago.

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The pictures below were taken from a spot called “El mirador,” or “the viewpoint” in english.  From it, you can see Nevado Alpamayo, which is considered by many to be the most beautiful mountain in the world.

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The second day was also long and hard and it was also the day where we reached the highest point of the trek, Punto Union, which is 4750 meters in altitude.

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The third and final day was short and we finished in the morning.  A bus picked us up in a very small town at the end of the trek and took us to our next destination: a campsite at the  start of the trail up a beautiful mountain called Nevado Pisco.  We also stopped along the way for a photo amongst the mountains.

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The next day we met up with our next guide and started our ascent up to base camp with all the extra weight of our ice climbing gear.  After 3 hours or so, we made it to base camp and stayed in the refuge up there (that’s Zach in the top bunk in the picture below).  Base camp is at 4600 meters.

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Since the summit is so high and we would have to hike through snow to reach the summit (which is 5750 meters high), we had to get an early start the next day.  Very early, actually. We woke up at midnight so we could start hiking at 1 in the morning!  After about 4 hours of following our guide deep into the darkness ahead with nothing but headlamps and stars to illuminate the path, we finally reached the snow.  So, we put on our harnesses and crampons, tied into each other, and busted out our ice axes so we could continue on up!  After another grueling 4 hours of slowly making our way up the steep snow and ice, we finally made it to the top of Pisco!

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The second picture shows the massive Nevado Huascarán, the tallest mountain in Peru and all of the Earth’s Tropics, standing at 6,768 meters.  This was my first experience with mountaineering, and although it was incredibly challenging (especially up where the air gets noticeably thinner), I’m sure it won’t be my last!

After reaching the summit, we went all the way back down to base camp, spent another night there, and then returned to Huaraz the next day.  We spent the rest of that day resting at the hostal, and then the next day we went mountain biking down the Cordillera Negra, the mountain range right next to Huaraz.  It was a lot of fun, although I fell several times (unscathed, at least).  Then, that night, we took an overnight bus back to Lima so we could regretfully return to our classes that we so happily neglected the week before.  I hope this blog entry was worth the wait, and I promise it won’t be another whole month before my next post!

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