Cordillera Blanca - Base Camp Overview

Peru 03

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The map on the left gives a rough outline of the main climbing areas of the Cordillera Blanca. The base camps I have identified are by no means all the possible sites. There are a great many others. These are just the ones we identified as being of interest for our expedition.

Access to all of these valleys is generally very easy using either minibuses or taxis followed by typically just a one day walk. Porters or mules are generally very easy to hire.

Raria and Caullaraju

Base Camps 1 & 2

These two massifs offer a number of easy lower objectives around 5500m and would make a good acclimatisation area. The two base camps could possibly be combined into a single one close to the road and a light camp taken on route to the mountains. As they are all reckoned to be easy one day climbs we could probably go lightweight on the higher camp without the need for mules/camp guard etc. Apparently it is easily accessible by a tourist bus that takes hordes of tourists to the glacier at Pastoruri, a peak just East of Tucu. Unfortunately it does not offer much in the way of higher acclimatisation peaks around the 5800m height which is probably necessary if planning to go on to anything much above 6000m.

 

Chinchey and Huantsan

This area offers a number of possible climbing areas both for acclimatisation and for higher, harder climbs. One advantage is that most of the base camps could provide both a lower acclimatisation climbs and a higher ones, useful for climbing later to above 6000m. Also an area such a Q. Quilcayhuanca could actually serve as a single base with a large number of climbs ranging from 5243m up to Chinchey at 6309m.

Base Camp 3 Q. Rurec

This has three low peaks around 5300m a couple of higher ones around 5700m. Could be used for acclimatisation starting on the lower 5300 peaks and moving onto the higher 5700 peaks.

Base Camp 4 Q. Rajucolta

This has a number of easy acclimatisation climbs 5400m to 5700m around F to PD and harder routes on higher peaks up to Huantsan at 6395m. However the drawback is there is not much technically challenging on the lower peaks and not much technically easy on the higher ones. So possibly hard to please all tastes here!

 

Base Camp 5 Q Quilcayhuanca

This is a very large valley that splits into two separate corries in its upper reaches, probably warranting two separate base camps. There is everything here from pleasant scrambles to desperate TD-ED routes on Cayesh. Certainly there could be plenty of acclimatisation climbs here to suit all tastes. Chinchey(6309) and Pucaranra(6147) with moderate graded routes at AD and AD+ also offer the possibility of higher climbs. This valley could certainly be used for acclimatisation with a large number of easier routes on peaks up to 5800m but if desired, with its two 6000m peaks, more time could be spent here rather than moving to a second base camp, maybe just switching between the two upper corries. This is probably the most heavily developed climbing area in the C Blanca and so it is also quite likely to be popular and possibly busy.

 

This was our first trip out and we camped at Pitec at the head of the valley hoping to gain some intermediate acclimatisation. Unfortunately Pitec turned out to be almost as high as the base camp a further 10km or so further up the valley - it really is that flat. There is good camping at Pitec but you can just as easily drive up (minibus or taxi) early morning and walk in to base camp on the same day. Note there is a charge of around $10 per person made by the local villagers to enter the valley. I don't have a huge problem with this - their life is hard enough as it is and they don't really pick up on any other part of the tourist wealth as it all just passes through.

Base Camp 6 Q Cojup

This area offers one recommended easy climb on a 5415m peak and a number of recommended harder routes on to 6000m peaks. Unfortunately despite the fact that the routes here seem very good there does not appear to be a very large range to suit all tastes.

 

Base Camp 7 Q Llaca

This area has a few easy low to medium height routes and some harder higher ones. It would probably make a reasonable acclimatisation area and is very close to Huaraz which should make access very quick and easy.

Base Camp 8 Q Ishinca

Urus and Ishinca provide two easy acclimatisation peaks. Tocllaraju and Ranrapalca offer higher and mostly harder routes. This area offers good scope for acclimatisation but less scope for higher routes, at least at the easier grades. There is a hut here now which may either appeal or not depending on your inclination!

 

Huascaran & Huandoy Massifs

Base Camp 9 Musho

This camp is really only for the normal routes on Huascaran Norte and Sur.

 

Base Camp 10 Pisco

This area really only offers two peaks Huandoy Norte is the second highest peak in the C Blanca and Pisco Oeste is probably the most climbed peak. There are toilets and a private hut at this camp and it is adjacent to a road giving extremely easy access. “Campsites are invariable littered”.

 

Santa Cruz Massif

Base Camp 11 Lago Paron

This area offers a good selection of higher routes both easy and harder including Huandoy Norte the second highest peak in the C Blanca. There are a couple of lower routes but this is probably not a good acclimatisation area. The road ends at the dam and the there is a fair walk along the lake. At the end of the lake is a very large but very rocky flat area where many people set up camp. However another hour up the ridge of the morraine on the left takes you to a lovely area on the left in amongst trees. This is not a large area and if you are a large group or there are already many others there then it will not be suitable.

 

Base Camp 12 Q Santa Cruz

As this is quite a large valley there would probably have to be a number of different base camps depending on where we are climbing. One for the N side, one for the South side and one for lower down the valley. There is a good range of medium height routes up to a couple above 6000m. This includes the famous Alpamayo though this particular one has the disadvantage of being so popular that Alps style route queuing is apparently quite likely, especially on the popular normal Ferrari route. The valley could possibly be used for acclimatisation but the lowest actual route is 5510m which is probably a bit stiff for a first climb.

 

Base Camp 13 Q de los Cedros

This is a bit of a longer walk in (around 3 days I believe), but consequently probably a bit quieter and according to one book you can access the Alpamayo routes from here and in fact – “the final section to the col from the S side (Q Santa Cruz) has become much harder and steeper in the last few years…the col can also be reached from the N in Q de los Cedros and this route may now be easier than the S approach. Other than that there are a number of medium height routes around 5600m as well as some moderate and harder 6000m routes. Again probably not a good acclimatisation area – the lowest route is 5480m.