Huaraz and the Cordillera Blanca

Just my 2 soles worth: If there is one thing that Peru has to offer to the vigorous traveler it is the paradise for outdoor adventure, namely, the Cordillera Blanca. Located in northern Peru’s highlands, the Cordillera Blanca is known to be one of the biggest mountain ranges in the world*. It is a spectacular range that holds hundreds of exciting activities and gorgeous places to discover. I might sound like I am selling you this, but believe-you-me, this place is divine. I couldn’t have imagined it. I was more impressed by these ranges to the snow-covered volcano ranges in Ecuador. Cayambe, Cotopaxi and Chimborazo, were stunning volcanoes who stand isolated, towering over pancake flat prairies. The Cordillera Blanca seems to offer more to please the eye; surrounding masses of snowy peaks, turquoise blue lakes, and hundreds of glaciers.

The countryside area in-between Blanca and its western neighbor, Cordillera Negra, encompasses many climbing and boulder parks. Great outdoor walls were a 15 minute walk from our hostel. Hikes and treks were an hour drive outside Huaraz.

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Local women wearing the traditional clothing in a parade.

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A snazzy llama walking around in Huaraz.

Huaraz itself is an interesting town, mixed of indigenous and modern Andean culture. I bought myself a pair of sandals made out of car tires for 5 Peruvian soles, which equates to 1.75 USD. Prepare yourselves for a gnarly site in the main market – DONT turn right into the butchery section if you would oppose seeing cuteness** skinned and butchered.
**cuy (Guinea pigs)

Huaraz, we stayed at the El Tambo Hostel, a budget friendly hostel hidden in the city. During high season, it’s booked-out with young backpackers, musicians, jugglers, cooks, painters, most with the highest priority to hike, climb or mountaineer. It’s a charming boutique hostel providing hot water showers (finally!) cozy rooms, and the two women caretakers who make excellent breakfasts.

Paul’s longtime friend, John Christoph, arrived from France to visit. We went for a couple of days to rock climb. A few more folks bike tourers in town joined in, including a French couple and our friend, Stephanie from Canada, and a backpacker from Switzerland.

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Stephanie beginning on a rock wall.

Another occasion, Paul, JC and I went for a hike on the route Lake Churup. It was a four-hour hike up to a beautiful site of snowy Churup and a brilliant blue lake.

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The surrounding land of Huaraz  is indeed a playground for the outdoor adventurer. Here are 5 reasons for this conclusion…
1. Hiking: A casual excursion through the great outdoors. The Cordillera Blanca has numerous hiking trails through beyond-beautiful landscapes. Be sure to have comfortable hiking shoes.

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2. Bouldering: A form of rock climbing without using ropes or harnesses. Only hands and climbing shoes needed to grip and navigate over a boulder to the top, or traverse horizontally. The hazard is falling, but not from too high (less than 20 feet). A crash pad minimizes fall-and-crash impact.*
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3. Slack lining: A slack line is a narrow and flat webbed line, tensioned between two anchors (tress). The trick is to walk across. It’s a practice of balance, and if you master this, you can do tricks and stunts. Challenges were to step maintaining balance and hold the line from swinging out of control. Hazard risk? Depends how high the line is.*
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4. Rock Climbing: Climbing routes up or across rock walls. Equipment used only as protection (as opposed to support) are; climbing shoes, harness, belay devices, carabiners and rope. In pairs, the climber is supported by the belayer (the anchor). It’s demanding physically, as well mentally by overcoming fears of heights and falling. Falling is uncommon. Injuries are no worse than cuts, burns and bruises. But it’s crucial to understand technique and use of specialized equipment. *
(Stephanie climbing?)

5. Mountaineering: A trek in the mountains, which is not only limited to reaching the summit, but in choice of technical and specialization. Our trek was an extreme altitude level of 5,700 m, Alpine style. We needed; snow boots, crampons, ice ax, rope, clothing that is waterproof and extreme cold temperature rated, lights, and in this case, self-sufficient camping gear (for multiple days). It’s crucial to have all compulsory gear, athletic ability, technical knowledge, and awareness of self and team members. Hazards; depending what mountain is selected, can range from; bad weather, crevasses, avalanches, altitude sickness, accidents, and hypothermia. The only posed threats in our trek were crevasses and altitude sickness. Deemed universally, mountaineering is considered one of the most dangerous activities in the world.*
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I really loved doing all these activities. I love that they challenge on many levels of the physical and mental abilities. It’s wonderful to be in beautiful surroundings. And I discovered the beauty within each activity; like the gracefulness of balance on the slack line, or quietly searching for the most secure grabs with hands on the rock, and walking in a wonderland of snow high above the world.

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I enjoyed my time in Huaraz and the Cordillera Blanca, and I hope to return for an entire season, someday. There are years worth of lovely places to discover in the highlands of Peru. If it sounds good to you, you should come, too!

‘Til next time.

Marie

*Most references come from Wikipedia:

http://wikitravel.org/en/Cordillera_Blanca
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slacklining
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock_climbing
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bouldering
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountaineering
http://wikitravel.org/en/Huaraz

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