The Peruvian Andes provide an incomparable spot for mountaineering and make Peru a magnet for lovers of South American mountains. There are many reasons: a unique concentration of mountains and relatively few mountain climbers; mild weather almost all year-long, and relatively easy access to sites that are nevertheless cut off from hectic city life. It is an ideal combination that makes Peru one of the most attractive destinations for mountaineers worldwide.
Although the lowest summit of the Huascaran massif, the world's highest tropical mountain, was first climbed in 1 908 by US climbers Annie Peck and two Swiss guides, mountain climbing in the Andes only took off in Peru in the early 1 930s thanks to the pioneering European expeditions that launched the great Andean travel adventure in search of new climbing challenges.
Since the 1 932 expedition led by Austrian climbers Borchers, Schneider and Kinzl reached the southern summit of Mount Huascaran (6 768 masl) -Peru's highest-, Peru's peaks have been the scene of many more spectacular ascents
The Cordillera Blanca mountain Range
Peru's mountain climbing mecca, the Cordillera Blanca runs along the eastern flank of the Santa river, in the Callejon de Huaylas. It embraces both the largest and most beautiful snow-capped peaks in the country. Among the best known are Mount Huascaran (6 768 masl); the Huandoy massif's four summits, three of them over 6 000 meters high; Chopicalqui (6 354 meters), Chacraraju (6 112 meters), Alpamayo (5 947 meters) and Copa (6 118 meters).
The range's advantages include its ideal climate for climbing between May and October, and its easy access that allows climbers to finish the ascent in a short time. Additionally, the cities and towns located at the foot of the mountains provide travelers with a full variety of services including porters, guides, rescue teams and climbing gear. Huaraz, the capital of the Ancash Department, features several hotels and restaurants, while a dozen reliable travel agencies organize climbing expeditions. Chartered flights arrive at the small local airport. However, Huaraz can be easily reached in five to six hours by taking the road from Lima to Pativilca (210 km to the north along the North Pan-American Highway) and then climbing another 200 km towards the Sierra.
Other towns at the foot of the mountains like Carhuaz, a hook-up point with the towns in the Callejon de Conchucos; Yungay, the starting point for expeditions to the scenic Llanganuco lagoon in the Huascaran National Park, and Caraz, a flower-growing community known for its pleasant climate, also offer travelers a full range of services including guides, porters, rescue teams and climbing gear rental.
The Cordillera Huayhuash mountain Range
The most splendid of Peru's mountain ranges" is a common remark made by climbers about this site. The first summit in the range is Mt. Siula Grande, first climbed by an Austrian expedition in 1 936. Its highest mountain, Yerupaja, was first climbed in 1 950 by a team from Harvard University. Huayhuash includes a dozen peaks which are particularly difficult to climb due to frequent snow and ice avalanches. Some of the best-known glaciers include Yerupaja (6 634 meters), Yerupaja Chico (6 121 meters), Jirishanca (6 094 meters), Siula Grande (6 344 meters), Rondoy (5 879 meters), Ninashanca (5 807 meters), and Rasac (6 017 meters).
The mountains are usually approached from the town of Chiquian (360 km northeast of Lima), which is also an ideal place for getting supplies. Porters and guides can be hired in the nearby towns of Llamac, Pocpa and Pacllon. Expeditions are also organized in nearby Huaraz.
• Climate: Heavy rains from December to March and a markedly dry season from May to October, where sunny days post temperatures of 25°C and freezing nights.
• Access: The mountains are generally reached from the town of Chiquian (360 km northeast Lima), an ideal place to stock up on provisions.
• Services: Climbers can hire guides and porters in the nearby town of Llamac, Pocpa and Pacllon. Expeditions can also be organized from the nearby city of Huaraz. .
Summits of Arequipa
Arequipa is synonymous with volcanoes, blue skies and endless plains. Known as the White City for the white volcanic ashlar stone used in its buildings, Arequipa sits at the foot of the western Andes.
The city is the starting point for a number of ascents of variable difficulty, all characterized by a rare combination of breath-taking landscapes, easy access, and a significant cultural element. Ancient Peruvians chose Arequipa's volcano summits for ritual human sacrifices to honor their gods, as shown by the recent discovery of Juanita or Little Jane, the mummified Inca maiden found in an exceptionally good state of preservation on the summit of Mount Ampato.
Misti volcano (5 825 meters) is the main symbol of Arequipa. More than a climb, going up Misti implies a two-day walk on often-loose ground up steep slopes. The most popular ascent starts from the city of Arequipa itself and goes on to Tambo Inca and the base camp at Nido de Aguilas (Eagle's Nest) to reach the summit on the second day of ascent. Chachani (6 075 meters), the city's other volcano, can be approached along a spectacular gravel road that climbs toward the Pampa de Arrieros.
Four hours from Arequipa, the Colca Valley features stunning mountains that have also become popular among mountain climbers. They include volcanoes like Ampato (6 288 meters) and Sabancaya (5 976 meters), as well as the glacier at Hualca Hualca (6 025 meters), among the most important. Lastly, the Coropuna (6 425 meters), probably the most beautiful mountain in the Cotahuasi Valley, offers travelers an impressive view of the area. It can be reached from lake Pallarcocha, a little more than two days away from Arequipa by road. Information about access to these and other mountains can be obtained from adventure travel operators in Arequipa who will also provide all the logistic services and make arrangements with local porters and guides.
• Climate: The rain season runs from December to March, while the best time to visit is from April to June. The climate is dry and sunny by day, with cold nights. Average temperatures reach 20°C.
• Access: The Colca Valley is located 150 km (around 4 hours) northeast of the city of Arequipa. The Cotahuasi Valley lies 375 km (around 12 hours) northeast of Arequipa.
• Services: For information on access to these and other mountains, check with adventure tourism companies based in Arequipa which provide logistics services and coordinate with guides and local porters.
• The best time for climbing is between May and October.