Beautiful sunny days? Check. Green and blue glacial lakes? Check check. Snowcapped Mountains? Many checks. Paramount Picture Mountain? Awesome check. 4 days of incredible hiking, stunning vistas, camping above 14,000 feet, good friends and incredible memories in one of South America’s most famous sections of the Andes? Yup. Santa Cruz. Check.
Everyone who talks about Huaraz, Peru mentions the Santa Cruz trek. Moderately difficult as far as treks go, it is one of the most popular hiking treks in all of Peru – second only to the Inca Trail to Macchu Pichu. Santa Cruz is located right in the heart of the Cordillera Blanca – or in english, The White Mountain Range. And seriously, you are surrounded on every side by snowcapped, brilliantly white mountains. Besides being aptly named, this place is beyond incredible.
Huaraz, and specifically Santa Cruz, had been on our radar for a good two months at this point. When we heard about the rock climbing, trekking, and mountaineering that this town had to offer, we knew we had to go to. In fact, we ended up taking a small detour back to Bolivia in February and then extended our stay in Cusco by about 4 weeks just so we could hit Huaraz after the rainy season, which typically ends at the beginning of April. I can confidently say that waiting out the rain was entirely worth it. This place rocks the casbah.
After 3 acclimatization hikes to Laguna 69, Laguna Churup, and Laguna Lllaca (where we also did some epic rock climbing), we decided that we were ready for Santa Cruz, despite our plethora of illness. Belinda, a reformed bogan (australian redneck) who we met in Cusco and convinced to come north with us, picked up her 3rd bought of Giardia and an umpteenth round of bloat belly. Dan was fighting a nasty-ass cold and his third bought of giardia tambien. Wee, as I have affectionately been named, was fighting off a 2.5 month cough, intestinal rot guts (you don’t want to know), and an ear infection. Best way to get healthy? Go on a 4 day trek in the freezing cold Andes, naturally. Fortune favors the bold!
Surprisingly enough, fortune may actually favor the bold, ‘cause we all got healthy whilst trekking. We hiked like beasts. We took awesome pictures. We ate not quite enough food – including one piece of meat that may very well have been donkey – because apparently no one eats as much as we do (big surprise there). Also, on the first day we hiked up into this giant mountain valley, neatly halved by a frigid glacial stream. Second day, we hiked in between Alpamayo, known as the world’s most beautiful mountain, and Artesonraju, the mountain from the Paramount Pictures logo. And seriously, it looks just like it. So cool. The 4,750 meter pass on the third day was incredible, especially since we summited at 8am and had the entire 360 degree view to ourselves for the better part of an hour. When you bust your ass up 400 meters in less than an hour to crest a stoney ridge where dozens of snowcapped peaks are waiting to congratulate you on the other side in the dazzlingly bright morning sunlight, there really isn’t anything better.
I will let the pictures do the rest of the talking, since you are probably sick and tired of listening to me wax poetic about the Andes. We are gearing up for the Huayhuash Circuit – a world class trek (wikipedia puts it at #23 trek in the world) that will take us 8 days to cover 140km, all above 4000 meters elevation, with a high pass every single day. Gods I love this place.