Regardless your trekking experience, I strongly suggest you read the following paragraphs. It is important to be aware of what you’re diving into. Indeed, once you’re starting the trek, there is no way back until day 6.
PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE YOU START YOUR TREK!
Dos for Huayhuash Trek
Before The Trek
- Acclimatize yourself: This is a high mountain. You may or may not suffer from high-altitude sickness. There is only one way to find out. Stay 2 or 3 days in the city of Huaraz, 3500m high, and see how your body reacts. The best way to find out quickly is to go for a half-day or a day trek, starting from Huaraz. I would suggest Laguna 69 (4600m, 4h hike round trip) or Glacier Pastoruri (5200m, 1h30 hike round trip). The scenery is great, it costs about 20usd each, including guide, transport, and sometimes a meal. If not, do not hesitate to bargain for it!
Note: if you’ve never experienced altitude, there is a very small chance that you will be suffering from altitude sickness even if you acclimatize yourself. For some reason, some people just cannot handle it, even after a few days, and they can even experience serious health issues, like pulmonary emboli. In that case, just let it go, safety first, even this trekking isn’t worth the risk. You’re lucky, there are tons of stuff to do in Peru!
- Go well equipped; Proper Shoes and Good Backpack: I am a minimalist when it comes to backpacking road trips. “Light is right” as the saying goes. There are at least two things I don’t mess up with, good shoes (with warm socks) and a good backpack (well adjusted). You can get them for about 100usd each. Examples: French brand Décathlon (pretty common in Western Europe), the Americans Patagonia or the New Zealander Katmantu (worldwide). Alternatively, you might consider buying them on site, in Huaraz, you will have plenty of choices there. Or rent them. If you don’t have those, you’re trekking will become hell on earth in a couple of hours, as you will suffer from blisters and back pain in a short while.
- Train yourself: While trekking, I have met countless “gringos” (nickname given to white skin westerners, most likely from the USA). They have the best range of brand new equipment worth hundreds of dollars but somehow, they don’t seem to be alright.
Trevellers Tip 1: Always trek a few hours with your equipment beforehand. You will shape your shoes to your feet’s shape and adjust your backpack. Otherwise, you will suffer like hell.
Trevellers Tip 2: train yourself a few months before. Even though you don’t have to be in an Olympic shape, don’t expect to be alright if you never walk on a regular basis. Go for it, walk to your workplace, use staircases rather than the lifts, go swimming and quit smoking if you do so. Trekking in altitude is first and foremost about breathing!
During The Trek
- Drink plenty of water: With acclimation, hydration is the best way to prevent high-altitude sickness. You will very likely feel dizzy the first few minutes of trekking, as your body will be struggling with the lack of oxygen. But your body will slowly get used to it after a while.
- Go local: locals drink mate, an infusion made from a mix of plants from the Andes. The main virtue is to prevent and even heal high-altitude sickness. Do abuse it, this is also very good for your health! They also drink or chew coca leaves, the actual plant from whom cocaine is made! This is much softer but will help you to feel better with the altitude.
- Take cash with you: It is an all-inclusive package, nonetheless, after 6 days trekking there is a small village. I bet you will kill for a hot shower, a bit of chocolate or a cold beer, which are not included. Don’t expect to find a single ATM outside Huaraz! You will also have to pay the local communities an entry fee of 200 soles (60usd), as a contribution to the maintenance of tracks, bathrooms and garbage management.
Before The Trek
- Book entire months in advance: unless you want to pay about 5 times the price for no reason of course. Overseas agencies play on people fear that they won’t secure any spot. They take an insane commission for no apparent reason, if not screwing you. Don’t forget the golden rule, go local. You will have the pride to support local communities, instead of international franchises travel agencies. On that matter, Trevellers has negotiated a preferential rate with Amazing Huayhuash for you! (Learn how to get a 25% discount.)
- Go without acclimation: This is the best way to suffer from high-altitude sickness, especially if it is your first time in high mountains, or after a long 12h pressurized intercontinental flight from Europe. Give your body at least 24h, ideally 48h, so that it can get used to it. If not, expect headache, dizziness, or even loss of consciousness. Two years ago in Bolivia, due to high altitude (4400m), a German dude just fainted into my arms and it took him a few minutes to regain consciousness.
- Go without a guide: I know what I am talking about. Two years ago, with a couple of friends, I undertook a part of the Huayhuash trekking. 2 days. Without guide. We ended up being lost, with 15kg+ on the back, a friend of mine got injured by a rockfall and his hand was bleeding like hell. The group management was a total mess. Remember, this is not a game. Pictures tend to show heaven-ish landscapes. Remember, this is high mountains featuring all related dangers and fast-changing weather. Unless you’re a skilled trekker in super good shape with top equipment and good orientation skills, I would advise you not to hike without a guide. Weight alone is a major issue, as you have to carry a minimum of 6 days of supply + your tent, mattress, sleeping bag, gas, warm clothes, water and so on. We are talking about a minimum of 15kg there, and 15kg at 5000m + is like twice as much than it is at sea level, coz you’re suffering from the low rate of oxygen.
- Go without a first-aid kit & maps: Planning is caring, even though you have a guide, don’t forget this is South America. Sometimes there is a slight difference between what people are supposed to do and what they actually do. Better be safe than sorry! Always bring along a first-aid kit, with antiseptic, band, stripes, alcohol, anti-inflammatory, anti-diarrhea and paracetamol. Make sure you have the app Maps.me on your phone with the entire Peru maps downloaded for offline access, in the unlikely event that you get lost. This will show you the tracks and you will be able to locate yourself in time and space without asking the group or the guide, which will be helpful for your mood! As per the rest of the equipment, make sure you stick to the list provided by the guide.
Note: during the whole trek, there is no phone signal at all, anywhere, anytime, not even text or emergency calls, unless you have a satellite phone. Unlike the French Alps, there is no aerial helicopter rescue service either. If something happens, you are on your own.
During The Trek
- Play the big guy: This is not a sprint, but rather an ultra-long marathon. You might feel super good on the first day, so you will be willing to go faster. But this is an 8-day trek, not one day. I am not a sports guy and I hate working out. Nonetheless, I walk regularly and I have often bypassed good-looking muscular 6-packed surfer-style guys willing to show off! Don’t forget you have 8 days to go. This requires stamina and mental strength.
- Behave like you’re not going to make it: coz guess what? You’re not going to make it. This trekking doesn’t include any very technical parts, with slippery tracks above cliffs or any sort of climbing requiring ropes and harness. Most people in good shape, even up to 60 years old, have the physical ability to make it. Thus, I would say it’s at least 80% mental mindset. Don’t behave like you don’t know. Be aware! Be ready for a hell of a challenge, enjoy the views and breath some pure air! If you don’t feel it, don’t dare it. Alternatively, you can go for the nearby Santa Cruz trek, 4 days only, about twice shorter is distance, a bit lower, but nonetheless beautiful.
What are you waiting for!
If you’ve read that far and are still keen on it, congratulation you’ve passed the test! I am pretty sure you’re fit for it. One last piece of advice, when you’re trekking, especially when you might be suffering, think about how you will feel afterwards. The joy of pushing your limit, fulfilling a goal that only a small amount of people ever considers being possible. Think about you going back home to your “normal life” and visualizing all these stunning landscapes. If you’re rather the “rational guy”, think about it this way, with an overall total with a few extra of 300usd, which is about 35usd a day all included. This is the best value for money backpacking trip you will ever get!
You made it till the end. Congrats! If you want to play it true Alpine style, head to Creperia Patrick in Huaraz (Av. Mariscal Toribio de Luzuriaga 422, Huaraz, Perú), and treat yourself with a Raclette, an authentic French Alpine dish, full of delicious melted cheese and meat. That will definitely make your day!
Travelling expensively has changed me, even shaped me in a way. Today, I am very keen to share this experience with people, from all backgrounds: people willing to start travelling, or doing it even more often, wiser or in a more sustainable way. I have received more help, friendships and kindness that I would have expected. For me, this series is a way for me to give back, to help people in return, to inspire beginners.