Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Days 87 - 88: Cordillera Huayhuash trek (days 5 - 6) - Trekking in style

Ascending to the Trapecio Pass
The first of our two days with Team Colorado and took us over a pass that wasn't shown on our map, possibly because retreating glaciers have only opened it to trekkers and donkeys in the last few years.  But we knew we were on the right route as the descent revealed a semi-circle of identical yellow tents in the valley below.  Clearly we had run into one of the big group expeditions for the first time.  Jagged Globe?  KE Adventure?  Both offer this route as a three-week itinerary, costing in the region of £3,000 plus flights.  (We spent about £100 all in.)  But it turned out to be an Exodus group.  Having done an Exodus trip before, we had a chat with some of the group members and joined them in chuckling at the size of their menagerie.  For ten trekkers, they have ten members of staff waiting on them, twenty-five donkeys to carry their baggage, five baggage horses, and two 'hospital horses' in case anyone gets hurt or wants a break from walking.  Tiredly, we lowered our entire supply of baggage to the ground - two rucksacks - and began unpacking our tent while they returned to their tents to play cards at a table.  (I'd forgotten about the existence of tables.  Surely a rock does the job nicely?)

Team London meet Team Colorado on the San Antonio Pass
The next morning, Exodus left the campsite earlier than us.  Sadly, we saw a ring of litter around their campsite, including egg shells, cardboard and, more damagingly, plastic bags.  We took a photo to send to the company.  You can bring as much baggage to the mountains as you like so long as you carry your rubbish away with you instead of leaving it to pollute a pristine mountain environment.

Descending to the Sarapococha valley
The Sarapococha valley with Silua
in the background
That day we crossed a pass that brought us back into full view of the highest mountains in the range, including ... (the second highest mountain in Peru) and Siula Grande of 'Touching the Void' fame.  The descent to Siula Grande base camp was a little like a BASE jump at first but it brought us down into a flower-filled valley where we said goodbye to the Americans, arranged to meet them for curry in Huaraz in five days time, and then trekked up to look for Joe Simpson's camp.  We found it over run by cattle and pocked with cow pats - not a place to camp unless you really want to sleep on a soft brown cushion.  We set up our tent a little way away and shivered in the breath of a valley full of glaciers.  On the whole, the Cordillera Huayhuash trek has proved warmer than our treks in Argentina and Bolivia but it nonetheless involves camping between 4000m and 5000m each night, which is hardly a balmy prospect.

Jurau through the clouds from the campsite at Huayhuash
Puscanturpa seen from the Trapecio pass
The campsite (bottom left) in the Guanacpatay valley (spot the yellow Exodus tents!)
Ascending the San Antonio Pass
The Sarapococha valley from the San Antonio Pass

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