Huascaran Loop the loop

We’ve arrived in Huaraz, the heart of adventure in Peru. Nobody seemed to show up in this town without sampling a day hike or multiday hikes and climbing on offer. Bike travelers are not get out of place here, there are tons of bike routes too. Beware though as most of it calls for lung-exploding 4500m passes. It’s criminally challenging to those that are not acclimatized. Sheer determination may not be enough when the lungs are just not quite up to it as Dean learned.

Mama Vicki, the benevolent owner of Joe’s Place, was nice enough allow us to leave our bikes and the rest of our stuff in the hostel for three weeks. Right after we came back to Huaraz, Dean did all the necessary repairs and maintenance to the bikes. Armed with new bike parts & repairs that my family hauled from Toronto such as new set of tires, Avid BB7 brake pads(most of the bike shops in SA only carry off-brands), gorilla tape(!) – duct tape on steroids,  etc.

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The whole gang invaded Cusco!!

After saying goodbye to our good friend Scott who is already heading south after trekking the Huayhuash Circuit, we packed our bikes and went back to Carhuaz. The highway is busy butwe made quick work of it since it is mostly downhill.

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Our good friend Scott ready to pounce on the Andes. Adios amigo..

We arrived in Carhuaz feeling sluggish after almost a month of no riding and pigging out courtesy of my family when we were in Cusco. All the French toasts with real maple syrup we had at Jack’s Cafe is haunting us now.

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Our first night out after a month. Ice-cold river bath included.

The going was tough the following day or should I say rough? Particualrly for Dean. Poor sap was begging to hitchhike. I was feeling good so I said no.

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The view of the valley below.
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Slowly but surely, we creep our way up.
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Normally, Dean would seek advise from fellow cyclists and would do otherwise. this time(thankfully), we heed Scott’s advise to ease our way back and ride the paved section first.
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Up close…
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We stopped for lunch while gazing at this massive glacier near the top of Punta Olimpica.
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Storm coming, gotta get down now.
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Leaner but still heavy says Dean
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That’s my dream house right there.
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Unbeknowst to us, there’s actually a mini pass(4000m) tacked between Punta Olimpica and Portachuelo.
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Local traffic keeping right

We were so tired once we reached Yanama. We found a closed hostel but the owner let us camp in the porch for a small fee. The hostel still has running water and hot shower and the porch has a nice view of the Huascaran mountains. We decided to stay for two nights in the porch to acclimatize.

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Chilling out on rarified air has its perks.

After Yanama we slowly climbed up to Portachuelo where we were rewarded again with amazing view of Cordillera Blanca and the Yungay valley.

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Are we there yet?
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Are we there yet?

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Nearing the top.
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A little more buttshakes…
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Portachuello, the gateway to the other side of the nether world
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Just about to enter the nether world.

All the exhaustion and body aches are forgotten once we reached the top. But if riding up is hard, going down to Yungay valley is unbelievably unrewarding. The road winds down on tight switchbacks and is rocky as hell. It was unenjoyable.

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In all its glorious snowcaps…
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Laguna Llaganuco and its namesake Quebrada.

After several kilometers we decided to camp in an abadoned house trying to forget about the bone rattling ride and set it for the next day. Dean wanted to push farther becaue it was still early. The camp had a magnificient view, both sides of snow-capped mountains. And when the sun went down it was even more beautiful because the sky was so clear and full of stars. The reflection of sky lights that bounced into the mountains was insane.

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4500m camp spot with a million dollar view!
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My goodness…
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Last glimpse.
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Cold descent the following day froze my hands needing to pause every once in a while to get it back to life.
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While we’re at it, we decided to hike up Laguna 69. And we were rewarded with this magnificent vista. Boy we were lucky as throngs of gringitos started arriving 10 mins after we left the lake.

After Laguna 69, we rode down to Yungay. Riding down to Yungay was so exhausting because of the rocky road. A BRIEF RANT: I don’t understand why the government allow this to happen in one of the most visited road in the Huascaran area. This road leads to the trailheads of Laguna 69 and Santa Cruz treks. There are also a lot of locals using the road compared to Punta Olimpica. It is only 65km from Vaqueria(Santa Cruz trek trailhead) to Yungay but it takes 3-4 hours to travel in a car! Even if it is downhill(4800m to <3000m?). As a cyclist or bikepacker we love riding dirt roads. We always say it’s fun because we only go there for adventure once or twice in our lifetime. For the people living with this kind of road, it is definitely frustrating. Going to a hospital in an emergency can mean life or death. Transporting their goods/livelihood can be discouraging. Sending kids to school means additional expenses because kids should be away from home and find a room and board. And travelling in the rainy season can be be downright dangerous and scary. Sometimes life can really be unfair for some because of things that they cannot control and ignored by the government. Sigh.

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Anyhow, this guy deserves a smooch for not hitchhiking. Lol.

Nuts and bolts:

Entrance to Huascaran National Park sets you back 10 soles per person per day paid at the entrance gate. We didn´t get charge another when we reentered the park on the east side of the park though.

In Yanama, you can camp in the old Pine Hotel for a small fee, well it´s actually “voluntary” if you ask the owner. Ask around the main square and they’ll point you in the right direction where the owner lives.

In Yungay, we tried to hitchhike on our way back to Huaraz to no avail and perhaps anyone who gives you a ride will charge you the same as the mini-vans. We decided to fork out the 30 soles fare instead, bikes included. The vans plying the Yungay-Huaraz route don´t have roof racks(we waited an hour if one will show up) but you can load two bikes on the back, front tire removed. Dean´s fits flush crosswise.

You can see the whole route here including the resupply points.

In case you didn´t enjoy reading…

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Montana says:

    That looks like an awesome ride, and killer pictures. My guess would be that roads aren’t maintained because the people on top don’t care, and no one has the power to make them care. Seems a lot of places have some seriously ignored regions (but I don’t know the first thing about Peru).

    Like

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