Archive for June, 2011

Day 21 – Packing

Packed today, went food shopping, preparing for 7 days in the mountains.

Day 20 – Rest day

Nothing too much of note today. I had more time to read my book than ever and enjoyed making progress through it. Pancake for breakfast at Caroline’s, some walking around during the day, and Alex got his appetite back. It became his mission to try to regain all the strength he lost over the last couple days.

Another S3.5 lunch upstairs in the market, some ice cream from our favourite ice cream store, and chicken from our favourite chicken place with another traveller from the hostel.

The tentative plan at the moment is to have another rest day tomorrow, then head into the Ishinca Valley the following day to climb Ishinca, Urus, and Toclaraju. We’re debating whether it would be worth it to rent an ice tool for climbing Toclaraju. If all goes well, we’ll come back to Huaraz, take a rest day, then try to do Huascaran in 4-7 days after that.

Day 19 – Return to Huaraz

Luckily Alex slept through the night and was starting to feel a bit better. He had decided the night before to try to put his pack on a donkey if it was heading down this morning. We slowly got our things together and Miguel made us breakfast – eggs with bacon and a “soup” of condensed milk with flour. It was actually pretty tasty. Alex wasn’t able to eat much, but did have a small amount of soup.

When no donkey came, we began to head down. We were going to hike down to Hualcayan and hopefully get a car back to Caraz from there, which would save the 3-4 hour hike to Cashabampa. Miguel warned us that it was Sunday and that there would be less traffic. We said our goodbyes to Miguel and left him our cheese and sausage as a token of appreciation. Alex also left him some money. Miguel said that we were welcome back any time.

It was about 3.5 hours back to Hualcayan. We arrived in the early afternoon. The whole way walking down the valley we could see the one road into Hualcayan and I was watching for cars. Not one in the whole time we were descending! I was reminded about how small Hualcayan actually is.

I asked the one person who was there in town with a car and asked about returning to Caraz. He said that there wouldn’t be any cars going back to Caraz this afternoon and that it would cost S90 ($30) for a private taxi back to Caraz. I said that we only had S20, so he said that we could catch a ride with him when he went into town at 4am the next morning.

After about 4 hours of waiting, I had given up on a car a while ago, a car came and I ran up to it and asked if he was going to Caraz. When he said si, I jumped with joy. Neither Alex nor I had been enthusiastic about the prospect of tenting a night, waking up at 3:30am, and commuting back to Huaraz in the wee hours of the morning. It was about 1.5 hours back to Caraz down a very poor road that switchbacked endlessly down the mountains and back to the valley where the main highway is.

We payed S7 each for the ride to Caraz and the family that was driving us was very kind and drove us right to the collectivo station. We arrived just past sunset and then got on the 1h40m collectivo back to Huaraz, S6 again.

I had been crossing my fingers that they’d have a spare room at Caroline’s Lodging, our hostel in Huaraz. I was worried that it would be full since we were arriving so late. Luckily there was a room available, though it was tiny and a matrimonial. We were relieved to be back and went straight to sleep.

Day 18 – Sick day at Laguna Cullicocha

We woke up and Alex said that he had hardly slept last night. He was feeling sick, so we started the morning relatively slowly, though keeping in mind that we were to have an 8 hour day ahead of us.

We had breakfast and realized afterwards that Alex wouldn’t be able to make the day’s hiking. Through the morning he continued to be ill and we decided that we would re-assess the next morning to see whether or not we would continue. It’s unlikely that it was altitude related since we have been well-acclimatized for a while now. We think that it was food poisoning off either street food or restaurant food from cheap restaurants (with symptoms of vomitting, diarhea, fever, weakness).

There is a shack on the barrier of the lake where a man works (15 days on, 15 days off) and takes readings of the water level and regulates the flow of water to generate hydroelectric power. The man, Miguel, was very kind and gave me some medication to bring back to Alex. He also lent us a thermometer, and found that Alex had a fever of 37.7. He ended up walking over to our campsite, a few minutes from the building, and I spent most of the day talking with him (up until then I had been reading my book, Mexico). He also said that later on we could stay in a spare room in the shack/building that had spare beds.

Around sunset we headed over to Miguel’s place and he made us dinner of chicken soup, eggs with bacon, and yerba. Note that there is a distinction between yerba and tea in Peru, where yerba is generally dried or fresh herbs that are steeped with water. Alex hadn’t eaten all day and still wasn’t able to eat at this point.

We watched sunset, finished talking, and Alex and I headed to bed. It was very comfortable – I was happy that we had met someone so hospitable.

Day 17 – Hualcayan to Laguna Collicocha

 GPX Track Here

To preface our wake-up, let me just say that we always sleep with the tent door open, to minimize condensation. We woke up to the sound of a little girl’s voice: “hola”, “hola”. I opened my eyes to see a tiny girl – 4 or 5 years old, standing over me. “Carmelo?” she asked. Grudgingly, Alex and I woke up and got ready for the day.

It was a very hard day indeed – 8.5 hours with 1450m elevation gain. I finished my daily rations at noon and regretted it. The views down towards Hualcayan and across the mountains were spectacular. We got a sense of how small Hualcayan actually is – a grass/gravel main square surrounded by some houses, surrounded by vast farmlands. Throughout the day I was intrigued by the irrigation system – a network of cement or rock canals, about 1 or 2 feet wide that takes water from the lake far above and distributes it through the lands and into the village.

It was a hard day for both of us – the longest yet (exculding summit days) and definitely the most challenging in terms of endurance. We moved slowly but surely up and up and up the switchbacks all day long.

We were most happy when we finally arrived at Laguna Cullicocha with one hour to spare before sunset. We rewarded ourselves with 3 eggs each of scrambled eggs before moving on to dinner.

We quickly and efficiently set up camp after dinner, just after sunet as it was getting dark. Journal written, 8:15pm, time for bed!

Day 16 – Huaraz to Chashabampa to Hualcayan

We caught collectivos to Caraz at around 8am, making sure to get some fried egg and cheese sandwiches for breakfast for S0.50/unit ($0.17). The collectivo was about 1h40min at S6 ($2) each. At Caraz we got one of those rickshaw/converted motorcycles with sears for 2 in the back to the other bus station – S5 total (though it should have been S3 or S4). Finally we caught a collectivo taxi from Caraz to Cashabampa – S8 each, with a total of 7 people in the car! And no, this wasn’t a minivan; this was a standard 4-door Toyota. One person sat on a pillow over the handbreak and 4 of us crammed into the 2 seats in the back. Was it ever a relief to get out of the car at Cashabampa!

From Cashabampa we spent about 4.5 hours hiking through rural countryside to Hualcayan. It was great passing through small villages and being followed by many young school children. They would say “carmello” “carmello” (which we later found out means “candy”) and occasionally Alex would dig out some candy from his stash. One boy was very talkative and I talked to him for a while.

We were happy to get to Hualcayan – a very small village of farmers, though there is road access from the opposite direction. We were surprised to find that the village has a convenience store, but it seemed to have gringo prices (for any trekkers who pass through). We bought 4 eggs @ 3eggs/S1 and cooked scrambled eggs with cheese and salami right on the curb. We asked if there were any restaurants and the man said no, but if we waited until 6:30pm his senora would cook us something. We were excited about this and hoped that this meant a normal dinner with a Peruvian family. Alex also convinced me that we should buy 30 more eggs for the rest of the trek (he would carry them). We filled a cardboard egg-tray with 30 eggs, placed another upside down on top, tied it with string, and then put it in a plastic bag. I was very sceptical about the eggs not breaking while being carried in Alex’s pack.

While we waited for dinner, many gringos walked through. They said that they were a group of 35 archaeology students excavating some ruins nearby. Few spoke spanish – so much for being in a remove Peruvian village!Dinner was very disappointing – a bowl of soup each for S4/person eaten at the table in the convenience store. Alex wasn’t too thrilled. We camped in town on a grassy patch at the start of the next day’s hiking.

Day 15 – Packing for Alpamayo Trek

Another pancake breakfast today at Caroline’s Lodging. Though they only give one pancake per person, so Alex and I were keen on searching for second breakfast from street vendors as usual.

We spent the day going to the market, eating, and stocking up on food for the upcomming ~9-day trek. We compared prices for almonds, peanuts, raisons, etc. For example: peanuts – S1/100g ($0.33), almonds – S4/100g ($1.37), Brazil nuts – S2.5/100g ($0.90), cashews – S5/100g ($1.67). Next the cheese – 600g for each of us at S14/kg ($4.67) and the salami, hanging as tubes from the vendor’s ceiling at S25/kg ($8.33). We had lunch upstairs in the marketplace for S3.5 ($1.17) – soup, entree, and a pitcher of mystery beverage – what a steal!

Next step – Huascaran park office to get new climbing authorization, stopping for ice cream and baked sweets along the way. I remember the park guy mentioning before that climbing club membership allows authorization for climbing, but not trekking, so we said that we were planning to climb Alpamayo. Once allowed into the park we would have no intention of actually climbing Alpamayo.

Chinese for dinner, “Chifa”, route description verified, food packed, and ready for our last sleep before the trek.

Day 14 – Bouldering near Huaraz

We decided last night that we’d either go bouldering or mountain biking today. We woke up, had the rather skimpy hostel breakfast, and left by 8:30am or so. We got spinach and cheese quiche on the way, S1.50 ($0.50), and I got a bag of puffed corn, S0.50 ($0.17).

We went to the first outdoor adventure store we could find (possibly the most common type of store in Huaraz) and I rented climbing shoes for the day for S5 ($1.67). We then went to another place to rent a crash pad for S20 ($6.67) for the day. Once set, we headed off for Los Olivos, a bouldering place just outside Huaraz. It was about 30 minutes walk from Plaza de Armas.

There were great boulder problems and the rock had good holds. It’s a pourous type of rock with big jug holds. We also saw some sport routes bolted. We spent about two hours climbing, until I gave up since the skin on my fingers was getting torn up.

We headed to the upper floor in the mercado central and had the menu of the day for S4 ($1.33). Soup and a grape beverage along with fried trout for Alex and lomo soltado for me – very filling. Then Alex thought he was getting a glass of papaya juice for S4, but it ended up being a full litre. I had to help him with it. The juice is amazing here – always pure from the fruit with no added concentrate, sugar, or liquid. We had a glass of orange juice from the street yesterday for S1.50 ($0.50), freshly squeezed then and there.

We got back to the hostel, showered, and now I’m finishing up the blog. Dinner next. We’re planning to stay in Huaraz again tomorrow and perhaps leave for 7-10 days the day after to do either the Alpamayo Circuit or the Alpamayo Circuit combined with the Santa Cruz Trek.

Day 13 – Hotsprings near Huaraz

I started the day by blogging and importing photos. It’s quite a pain trying to import photos from RAW into lightroom, export to jpeg, and then upload. I’ve been trying to figure out how to get a laptop here, but no plausible ideas yet. I considered buying one here, but a netbook that costs $250 in Canada costs $600 here. I figure it would be worth it to continue trying, since it would mean being able to add pictures to the blog with much greater ease.

We met up with Brad and Skyler, two VOCers at the Plaza de Armas at noon. Brad injured his foot last week while downclimbing on a mountain and was in crutches. It was interesting hearing about their experience in Huaraz so far. We went for lunch for S5/person ($1.67) and toured the Mercado Central. We then decided that we would head to some hotsprings outside of town. I was the only one who didn’t have a swimsuit, so I found a one-size-fits-all swimsuit on our way for S5 ($1.67). I tried and failed to find anything cheaper. The pair I purchased are blue with yellow racing stripes down the side.

The hotsprings are located about 30 minutes outside of Huaraz. Either S1 for the pool, S2 for a private pool, or S5 for the caves. We went with the private pool option. It ended up being a bathtub/pool just large enough for the four of us. There were faucets connected to big pipes which allowed the hot water in. It wasn’t natural in the slightest, but we had a good time talking about climbing and mountaineering, and going through the Huayhuash book that Brad had brought.

We went back to town in a taxi that we bargained down to the same price as a collectivo, S2.5/person ($0.90) We all had churros (S0.50) and then Skyler and Alex had patatas rellenas (S1), potatos stuffed with egg, vegetables, and meat, then deep fried. We parted ways with Brad and Skyler and then went to a chinese restaurant for dinner. They’re everywhere in Huaraz! I had chicken fried rice, S6 ($2) and Alex had chicken with vegetables, S8 ($2.67). We also had 650mL beers for S5 each ($1.67). The portions were massive and we left content.

Day 12 – Return to Huaraz

We were both happy to be returning to Huaraz, though I was a little disappointed about having carried so much food over the six days and still having four days of food left over.

It snowed on us just as we were breaking camp, getting our things damp. We would have to dry them out when we got back to the hostel. It didn’t take too long getting back down to the main trail to Laguna 69. Within 10 minutes, we someone on the trail – Theo, one of the people who works at our hostel. He said that five people from the hostel were doing a hike to Laguna 69 and we could get a ride back with them in the van. We were back at the road by 11am and Theo said that we would probably have to wait until 3pm until the others had finished going up and down to the lake. We decided instead to try to hitch a ride back to Yungay and get the collectivo back to Huaraz.

Within a few minutes there was a truck driver who we flagged down. It turned out he was going to Huaraz and we agreed to pay S15 each ($5). It was an incredibely bumpy ride along the road back to Yungay for 2 hours, and then another hour to Huaraz.

I immediately took a shower, and it was amazing, not having showered in a week and done plenty of exercise. We then went out for a 4pm dinner – I had 1/2 chicken and Alex had 1/4 chicken at our usual spot, gallo rojo. We then got beers, headed back to the hostel, used the internet for a bit, and went to bed.