Poster's note: I originally posted this area, and then Tony added the great description below, in the "comments" section. His piece is so much better I asked him if I could move it up here. Nice job, Tony.
The Cordillera Blanca
by Tony Yeary
Some of the best “super alpine” climbing in the world can be found in the Cordillera Blanca, or commonly referred to as, the Peruvian Andes.
The Blanca is the highest tropical mountain range on earth. The Blanca is a compact range, 180 kilometers long and 20 kilometers wide. It contains no less than 25 peaks reaching 6000 meters and another 35 rising above 5700 meters. Topping the range is Huascaran, 6768 meters or 22,205’, the fourth highest peak in the Western Hemisphere. The mountains run roughly northwest to southeast and are bordered on the east by the Amazon Basin to the west by the Cordillera Negra, a high (14,000’) dry range. In between the Negra and the Blanca is the Rio Santa Valley in which lies the town of Huaraz. Huaraz could be called the Chamonix of the Andes. At 10,000’ Huaraz is your first step in acclimating and the base for your mountain adventures.
In general the climbing season runs from May through July. However with global warming effecting the Blanca, the season has now shifted through August with fine weather as well. This is the dry season and the weather can be very dependable. Seven to twelve days of clear skies followed be a few days of unsettled weather and repeating until August, when the weather becomes more unstable with longer period of clouds, rain and /or snow. During the climbing season temps can fluctuate greatly. Night time lows above 5000 meters can be minus 5 to minus 25 degrees Celsius. The valleys can be as warm as 25 degrees Celsius and very nice.
Brad Johnson, author of, “Classic Climbs of the Cordillera Blanca, Peru, has likened the Blanca to a cross between the Alps and the Himalaya. It has the easy approaches and none of the crowds of the Alps. Yet the peaks are high, wild, and seemingly remote.
The days of large expeditions and fix ropes are gone. Most of these peaks are aptly suited to small teams climbing in alpine style. Most base camps are no more than two days travel time from Huaraz. Huaraz is a day’s travel from Lima, and now there are flights to Anta, twenty minutes north of Huaraz for around $90 US one way. Weight restrictions on this flight make this option problematic. Most take the bus, like Cruz del Sur for about $15 US one way. This is an eight hour bus ride that follows the dry desert like coast for four hours before turning east and climbing up to the pass of Concordia. Here you are at about 12,000’ and hour or so north is Huaraz at 10,000’.
In ’05 I paid ten dollars a day for an Arriero and five dollars a day for burros. Horses were 10 a day
In Huaraz, one will find many outfitters, a grocery store, open air markets, and hardware stores (white gas). Route conditions and peak info can be found at the Casa de Guias. Lodging and Logistic support will be found in Huaraz as well. There are many to choose from and I can recommend the following:
Casa de Zarela for lodging and logistic support.
Olaza Guest House L&L support and mountain biking as well.
Additional info can be found in Brad Johnson’s book. “Classic Climbs of the Cordillera Blanca, Peru” perhaps the best single inclusive source for the Blanca in English.
Popular peaks are;
Alpamayo 5947 AD+ via the Ferrari Route, D via the French Direct
Quitararju 6036 AD via the West Ridge, D- via the North Face
Artesonraju 6025 D via the South Face
Huascaran Sur 6768 PD+/AD- via the Garganta
Pisco Oeste 5752 PD via the Southwest slopes(normal route)
Chopicalqui 6354 PD+/AD- via the Southeast Ridge
Copa 6188 PD via the West Slopes.
Ishinca 5530 PD- via the Northwest Slopes or the Southwest Ridge
Urus Este 5420 PD- via the Southeast slopes to the East Ridge
Tocllaraju 6032 D via the Northwest Ridge
Vallunaraju 5686 AD- via the North Ridge
Peru is a “third world country” with all the associated trials and tribulations. Travel smart, guard your bags, learn some Spanish, and invest a bit of yourself into the folks you come in contact with. Also remember we are guests and as climbers we have a duty to help preserve the resource we are using. This means carry your trash out. Be careful about disposing of human waste. Don’t discard your gas canisters ect.. Carry it in-carry it out!
NOTE! As of this year, 2012, the "new" regulations are being enforced irregularly throughout Parque National Huascaran, which includes the Cordillera Blanca.
Be advised it is best to be affiliated with an UIAA recognized alpine club or the equivalent. Showing your membership card goes along way in steering clear of the guide requirements for climbers wishing to operate on their own. Be sure and purchase your park pass be prepared to show it when entering any of the major Quebrada's.
Easiest (and cheapest) way is by bus from Lima to Huaraz, then get a guide service to drop you at a trailhead. At many trailheads you can find outfitters with donkeys to carry your gear into the hills.
22 Total Routes
['4 Stars',7],['3 Stars',7],['2 Stars',6],['1 Star',1],['Bomb',0]
Browse More Classics in Cordillera Blanca
Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Cordillera Blanca:
Featured Route For Cordillera Blanca
The Original Route 5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ E3 5b
: South America
: ... : La Esfinge
By far the most popular route on the formation, this route offers generally good rock in a spectacular setting. There are some dirty sections and climbers should think of this as more of an alpine route than a Yosemite style free route. It also has several pitches where protection is sparse and poor but this is generally on easier terrain. Traditionally the route receives a rating of 5.11c however many climbers including this poster believe the grade to be much lower.Pitch 1: 30m 5.8 Climb up...[more] Browse More Classics in International
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|Comments on Cordillera Blanca
From: boulder, co
Nov 20, 2012
While Tony suggests the Cordillera climbing season is May-July, I was down there for the month of August 2002 and had fine conditions. We had only 2 days of storms on our routes, which made navigating difficult but were otherwise climbable through.
Additionally, the avalanche hazard is somewhat more stabilized by August. Huascaran saw 2 seperate multi-victim avalanches earlier that 2002 season, however in August the snow on Huascaran was well consolidated with possibly some risk of wet sluffs on the hot afternoons.
On steeper routes the snow/ice was commonly rotten and hollow, making anchors and protection a real challenge. I don't know if this aspect would have been better earlier in the season.
The place is amazing! It's also a serious range with plenty of hazards, even on the standard routes. Chopicolqui NW ridge could have easily gone badly for us, and we were relieved to make it off that mountain alive. Trip report with pictures at climbingdreams.net/life/2002/peru/