The Cordillera Vilcanota is one of Peru’s most spectacular mountain ranges. High and stark, this is one of the least visited areas in the country but offers plenty of attractions for the hardy trekker, including snow-capped mountains, glaciers, and turquois lakes, herds of alpacas and wild vicuña, and isolated villages with friendly locals still practicing a way of life hundreds of years old. There are many trekking opportunities here but the shortest and best known is the Ausangate Trek, which circumnavigates the dominate peak in the range.
The itinerary below is a sample. Hiking times are an average and will vary depending on the group. Additionally, lunch and camp sites may change to meet the needs of the group and conditions.
The day before the Ausangate trek, your guide will meet you at your hotel for an in-depth briefing. This provides an opportunity for you to ask questions and do any last-minute shopping before leaving Cusco.
The day begins bright and early with a drive to the village of Tinqui, stopping at the town of Ocongate and a look-out at along the way. At Tinqui we begin a gradual up-hill hike, passing by small farms and numerous herds of sheep, llamas, and alpaca. Climbing higher, the trail contours along the hillsides above a marshy valley. Descending into the valley, we camp near the settlement of Upis very near the foot of the mountain. Here there we can relax in the nearby hot springs and enjoy the, commanding view of the glaciated Ausangate. 5 hours walking, 3800-4400m
We continue to hike up the valley, getting closer and closer to the imposing north face of Ausangate and its ice formations before reaching the first pass, Abra Arrapa, at 4800m. Circling this desolate pass characterized by barren rocky hills of reds and yellows, we descend into the Queullacocha valley. Here are more rocky crags, streams, waterfalls, and high-alpine lakes that are home to a variety of birds. We will camp next to Yanacocha, seemingly right beneath the seracs and crevasses of the glaciers. 6 hours walking, 4400-4800-4600m
Today is one of the most difficult days on the Ausangate Trek. The morning begins with more alpine scenery as we hike up to our next pass (4850m). From here there are views of the turquoise-blue Ausangatecocha, which we descend to for lunch. After lunch, we begin climbing again to the highest pass on the route, Palomani (5200m). From here we will enjoy excellent panoramas of the mountains of the Vilcanota before we descend to our camp in a valley near the settlement of Huchuy Phinaya. 6-7 hours walking, 4600-5200-4600m
The morning starts as we hike up the broad Jampamayo valley and the community of Jampa. Along the way there are opportunities to see wild viscacha and vicuña, as well as more mountain peaks, including the triple-summit of Nevado Pico Tres, Jatun Punta, Puca Punta, and Collque Cruz. We then conquer our final pass, Abra Campa (5000m), before we descend and camp for the night at Pachaspata. 6-7 hours walking, 4600-5000-4500m
Today is an easier day as we descend past many alpine lakes, including Otorongococha, which is said to still be used by local medicine men. We set up camp in the village of Pacchanta, where you will have the afternoon free to explore the town, buy textiles, and soak in the hot springs. 3-4 hours walking, 4500-4250m
This is another easy day as we hike across the open puna and back down into Tinqui. After a celebratory lunch, we return to by van to Cusco. 3 hours walking, 4250-3800m
For more information on Trekking with Apu Andino, see Trekking with Apu Andino.
The region around Ausangate is isolated and high, away from tourist infrastructure. It is important for trekkers to acclimate by spending at least three days at Cusco (3400m) or similar before attempting the trek. Additionally, the temperature can fall well below freezing at night and daytime weather can vary; it frequently rains and snows.
Trekkers should be prepared for variable conditions and to meet unexpected challenges with an open-mind and sense of adventure.