17 March, 2021 | Anirban
Conquering summits is no foreign feat to you, and you would like to add a Peruvian peak to your list of achievements? The Alpamayo Circuit trekking and Alpamayo climbing is for you. Located in the beautiful Cordillera Blanca and one of the most remarkably shaped mountains in the world, Alpamayo is renowned for world class climbing and will offer experienced climbers an incredible challenge.
Who can attempt the climb?
The Alpamayo circuit is a technical climb suited only to alpine climbers with practical knowledge and previous experience in high altitude summits. All tour companies will require you to prove that you have experience in ice climbing, crampons technique, roped travel… In addition to experience, you need to be physically fit and to have prepared in advance with a training program focused on mountaineering. Being fit will allow your body to have more energy to focus on acclimatizing to the altitude, something that you will need to be careful about as the peak culminates at 5947m. As for climbing any mountain of the Cordillera Blanca, you will have to hire a certified mountaineering guide or get written permission from park officials if you decide to set off on your own.
The Alpamayo Circuit
If you have the time, it is a good idea to undertake the 4 days climb of Pisco peak before attempting Alpamayo, as it will allow your body to acclimatize to the altitude – check out our article on Pisco climbing to learn more. Depending on whether you attempt the climb on your own or with a guide, and depending on what company you choose, the expedition to the Alpamayo summit will last between 7 and 9+ days and look similar to the following itinerary:
DAY 1. Your starting point will be the city of Huaraz, the entry point to the Cordillera Blanca and to the many treks and climbs of the region. From there, you will drive 3h by car to Cashapampa. If you are without a guide, you will have to take a bus or collectivo from Huaraz to Caraz, then to Cachapampa, with each drive taking you 2h. Once there, you have two route options leading you to the two of Alpamayo’s base camps. The first one is the standard route through the Santa Cruz valley, and likely the one you will take if you are with a guide. By following this route, you will be able to experience a leg of the most famous trek in the region and to have most of your equipment carried by burros (mules) for the next couple of days. The second option is the old route through the Alpamayo Valley, which is less frequented and more difficult as you will have to cross a 4800m pass. This will take you a bit longer but offers the classic view of the Alpameyo’s ridged façade. If you opt for this option, you will have to carry all your load yourself.
DAY 2. You will be hiking to base camp. If you are trekking through the Santa Cruz Valley, you should reach the base camp near Laguna Arhueucocha quite early in the day. If on the other hand you are trekking through the Alpamayo Valley, it might take you an extra day to reach base camp near Laguna Jancarurish.
DAY 3. If you have made it to the Laguna Arhueucocha Base Camp the previous day, you will be hiking to Moraine Camp on day 3 and will have to start carrying your equipment as burros cannot go further up. Some expeditions plan on bringing your gear up to Moraine Camp then climbing back down to base camp for the night to acclimatize – this might be a safer option to prevent altitude sickness. If you chose to trek through the Alpamayo Valley, you will be reaching Laguna Jancarurish’s base camp on day 3.
DAY 4. This day might be the most technical of the expedition, as you will be climbing through glacial terrains to reach Col Camp, perched at 5450m. Sitting on the ridgeline of Alpamayo, the Camp will offer you unimaginable views of some of the highest of the Cordillera’s peaks.
DAY 5. This is the big day, summit day! You will leave around 2 in the morning and will ascend for 6-8h to the Alpamayo’s summit. There are three different ascent routes: Ferrari and French Direct are the most standard routes, while the North Ridge one was the route of the first ascent but is less preferred today as it is more dangerous. After around 360m of technical climb, you will finally be able to add another peak to your list of trophies – and to enjoy the incredible scenery from what will feel like the top of the world. After this emotional moment, you will descend in rappel back to Col Camp.
DAY 6. You will descend back to Base Camp. You can decide to take a different route than on the ascent, so if you have for example ascended following the Santa Cruz option, you can descend via the other Base Camp and through the Alpamayo’s Valley.
DAY 7. The day will be spent trekking back to Cashapampa, then back to Huaraz by car/bus.
Depending on the option you choose and on how you are feeling, you might need more days to reach each step or an acclimatization day along the way. This is not a race, so make sure you take the time to rest if needed and to maximize your chances to achieve this exploit and be able to proudly say that you have made it, all the way.
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