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Joey Bissonnette

Travelled to 12 countries / regions

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Trekked there for 4 days in 2017

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Americas > Peru > Cordillera Blanca > Useful Info
Updated on Jul 03, 2018 Useful Info

How to trek Cordillera Blanca

Cordillera Blanca is a mountain range in the Peruvian Andes with fantastic hiking trails and amazing views. We did the Santa Cruz trek, which is one of the most popular routes. We did it as a group of 4 and here's how we did it:

  • Went from Lima to Huaraz on an overnight bus: Huaraz is the closest major city to Cordillera Blanca and a lot of trekkers use this place as the base so it's a great place to stock up and prepare. It's a good idea to stay here for 1-2 days to acclimatize to the altitude before you embark on the trek (we didn't do it and it turned into somewhat of a disaster for me with altitude sickness)
  • We found a local guide and a porter for the trek in Huaraz: you can definitely do the trek on your own, but if you've never experienced high altitude before I highly recommend getting a guide and a porter. Everything is 3 times more extraneous to do in high altitude. Even walking up a flight of stairs can be exhausting, never mind trekking up a mountain range.
  • The total cost of the guide for 4 days for 4 of us was USD$150 total plus the $19 per person entrance fee to the national park where the trek is in
  • There are tons of guides in Huaraz offering this trek it took us just a few hours to find one. Just walk around the city centre and look for signs for Santa Cruz trek. We found ours while walking on Avenida Fitzcarrald close to the Cruz del Sur bus station
  • The guide took care of transportation to and from the entrance of the trail. He had a porter he worked with so we didn't have to separately find a porter.
  • The porter was basically responsible for pitching the tent and did all the cooking. So all we had to do was literally trek and nothing else. The porter also brought 2 donkeys that carried all our heavy luggages
  • The guide also brought all the essential supplies we needed for the trip. So we didn't have to spend time gathering everything we needed (like tent, sleeping bag, cooking supplies, food, water purification pills, etc.)
  • The guide asked us if we want to do the easier route or the hard route. We picked the easier route, which starts in Vaqueria and ends in Cashapampa. The harder route was the other way around (because you spend more days climbing rather than descending)
  • Met up with the guide and off we went: the guide was great and on time
  • We took a mini-bus to Vaqueria where we had lunch started hiking around noon
  • The first day we made it halfway to Punta Union, which was the highest point of the trek at 4,750 meters
  • 2nd day we crossed Punta Union and started going downhill. The view is absolutely gorgeous. The hike up to Punta Union was pretty brutal with my head pounding non-stop, steep incline, and lack of oxygen
  • 3rd day we kept going towards Cashapampa, which was the end point of the trek. Took a detour to this glacial lake called Laguna Arhuaycocha for a quick dip (my friends did I but I stayed away because I had a minor fever by this point)
  • 4th day we trekked in the morning and made it out alive in Cashapampa, where we took another mini bus back to Huaraz
  • Aside from the agreed upon price we negotiated with the guide and porter, we also tipped them at the end. We were a group of 4 and we pitched in around USD$50 worth of tip


What I wish I had known

  • It gets really cold at night! We went in July and temperature went to below 0C at night. Bring winter clothes to the trek or you'll be freezing throughout the night like I did (I really didn't prepare well for this trek; all I had was fall clothing and I ended up getting a fever)
  • Altitude sickness is very debilitating. Altitude sickness has nothing to do with how fit you are. You can be an olympian and still get altitude sickness (it's basically that your body isn't getting enough oxygen from the air). My head was pounding the entire time and I had almost no appetite even though the trek burned a lot of energy. Really took away from the entire experience. Acclimatize for 1-2 days at Huaraz before you do the trek and bring Advil/Tylenol or whatever your preferred painkiller is


Our camp site on day 2


On our way from Huaraz to the Santa Cruz trek


A meadow we came across on day 1


Our porter cooking making coca leaf tea for us


Our guide Francisco waiting for our group to catch up


Amazing view on day 2 leading up to Punta Union


Can't get enough of this view


Going down from Punta Union


The valley from Punta Union to Cashapampa