Huayhuash Alpine Circuit in Caras, Ancash by Huayhuash Alpine Circuit Trekking

Huayhuash Alpine Circuit

Day 1. Huaraz - Llamac - Jahuacocha.

 A straightforward day of walking, starting at the road in Llamac, and ending at the beautiful but crowded campsite at Jauacocha. This day involves nothing more than straightforward hiking, and is entirely in common with the valley circuit. The sudden appearance of the Huayhuash peaks as you cross a shoulder is the rare moment of excitement on this day.

Elevation Gain: 945m Elevation Loss: 227m Time: 5h Distance: 11.6km

Ascent: Follow the crowds to Jauacocha. In Llamac, walk uphill (S) for a few blocks, then turn right (W), and follow a street as it leaves town in the direction away from the mountains. Slog up a very well-trodden trail as it switchbacks for several hours up a hillside until it reaches a more open plateau. The trail now swings toward the south and ventures up the plateau. Near the top, the trail swings to the left again, gradually circling counterclockwise over a shoulder with

dramatic views of the peaks: Rondoy, Jirishanca, El Toro, and Yerupaja (3h).

Descent: After a subtle high point, the trail descends gradually into the Achin River Valley to Jauacocha. The camping at the near end of Jauacocha is pretty but crowded (5h). Alternative, quieter camping is possible between Jauacocha and Solteracocha. Expect to be charged S/.15 (US$6) per person per visit to the Huayhuash at Jauacocha. Keep your receipt

Day 2. Jahuacocha - Sambunya Pass - Ninashanca Lake

Another big slog up a hill, this time with better views, gains access to the Alpine proper. Aside from the final hour, this day is also entirely in common with the Valley Circuit. Again, nothing more than straightforward hiking is

involved to reach Garagocha Lake. But save your energy. The action picks up on Day 3.

Elevation Gain: 980m Elevation Loss: 550m Time: 5.5h Distance: 6.0km

Ascent #1: Follow the trail on the north side of the valley, past Jauacocha and Solteracocha. The trail then turns uphill, switchbacking into the alpine, with excellent views of Jirishanca and Yerupaja behind. Reach Sambuya Pass (4750m) for a well-deserved breather (3h).

Descent: The trail makes a high, side-sloping traverse to a second col, Rondoy Punta (4735m; 3.25h). Cross this second col then descend into the Rondoy Valley. Follow the trail down the valley for less than 2km, until cliffs on the right (E) end and a valley opens up (4220m). Garagocha Lake (camping) is hidden from view behind an intervening ridge (4h). Ascent #2: Leave the Valley Circuit trail. Walk E, uphill, toward P5090, between minor outcroppings to reach Garagocha Lake (4500m; 5.5h). A small level area suitable for camping is found at the near (N) end of the lake, about 50m above lake level. Only lake water is available for drinking. Please keep this pristine environment clean by carefully managing all waste.

 Day 3.  Ninashanca Lake - Jirishanca East side

High crosswinds at the col, potential ice and snow in any month, low 5th class rock climbing, and a rappel earn this day its reputation as the crux of the Alpine Circuit. Garacocha Col should only be attempted by strong parties in decent weather. The rock is steep, exposed and, at times, loose.

Elevation Gain: 960m Elevation Loss: 973m Time: 7h

Distance: 9.0km

Ascent #1: From camp at Garagocha Lake (4500m), make a rising diagonal ascent across limestone slabs with good friction to the base of a final 40m rock wall below the col (1h). (An alternative route starting at the south end of the lake may also be feasible.) A broad terrace rises to the left. Follow this until about 150m beyond (north of) the col proper. Climb a steep break with small horizontal ledges for 25m (5.3) to easier but loose slopes above. Aim for the lowest point on the immediate skyline, Garacocha Col (4910m). The ridge

itself is narrow and the aspect impressive.

Descent #1: Descend to the right (SE) following narrow ledges for 20m to find a rappel station. Make one 30m rappel down a gully to a wide ledge. (It is likely possible to build an intermittent station to make 2 x 15m rappels.) Scramble off the north end of this ledge to the apex of a large talus fan. Boot ski for 250m on scree then walk down grassy slopes. Follow cattle tracks, which all converge to the left (NE) at the only break in a yet-unseen cliff below. The cliff runs the full width of the slope. Descend to open grassland to the S end of Mitococha Lake (3h; 4230m). Camp here and add a day to the circuit, or continue for 3-4 hours to a more spectacular campsite. Ascent #2: Walk up grass slopes to the E of the lake to reach a bench. Turn SE and slog toward a pass (4.5h; 4740m).

Descend to Alcaycocha Lake (4670m). From the S end of the lake, maintain your elevation, and side-hill toward the S. Curl under two shoulders then turn SW and slog up loose talus to a small notch (6h; 4780m) to catch a first glimpse of the stunning view of Jirishanca's SE face.

Descent #2: Descend scree slopes to the creek that flows out of Chaclan Lake (7h; 4487m). Camp here, among the best three camp sites on the Alpine Circuit.

Day 4. Siula Route - Huayhuash

 A long hike with some great views on the first half. The second half of the day is somewhat of a chore, even joining the Valley Circuit for about 1km. The day ends well with a camp below the magnificent SE face of Trapecio, and the promise of re-entering the mountains in the morning. Elevation Gain: 944m Elevation Loss: 811m Time: 7.5h Distance: 14.6km Descent #1: Hike down from camp at Chaclan Lake (4487m) on the W side of the creek to the Carhuacocha Valley (4150m; 0.5h). Ascent #1: Walk through the mini-valley to the E of the moraine wall that circles Gangrajanca Lake. Pass Gangrajanca on its E side, a new lake caused by a rockslide on its W side, and Siula Lake on its E side. Make a rising traverse, following a trail system, up a steep grass slope. Eventually gain a shoulder (2.5h) and walk into a hanging valley. Walk up a switchbacking trail at the end of the valley to reach Siula Pass (4834m; 3.5h) Descent #2: Walk, with one very short scramble, down from the pass, aiming for a second pass on your right (S). Cross through this second pass (4710m), then descend the long, gradual valley to Carnicero Lake (4441m). You may be asked to pay a trekking fee (S/.15 = $USD 6 per person) at the lake. Pay it. Join the major trail of the Valley Circuit for about 1km (4400m; 5.5h). Ascent #2: Rather than descending to the camp of Huayhuash, traverse grass slopes SW then ascend W into a hanging valley. Ascend grass slopes to the S to gain a hanging grassy bench. Walk S for 1km, the descend briefly to a larger cow pasture. Walk for 1km more and camp anywhere above Barrosocoha Lake that works, below the majestic SE face of Trapecio (4600m; 7.5h)

Day 5. Trapecio Pass - Siula Lake "TOUCHING THE VOID SCENERY"

Summary: An enjoyable, gradual ascent into the alpine is followed by a dramatic unveiling of the major southern faces of the range at the high point. An easy, flat glacier crossing offer more breathtaking views. The day ends with an interesting but not difficult slab descent and a hike along a moraine crest to what is probably the second best camp on the Alpine Circuit.

Elevation Gain: 510m Elevation Loss: 767m Time: 6h Distance: 6.3km

Ascent: From camp (4600m), hike uphill to gain the crest of a grassy moraine. A cliff band looms above. Find a trail system that skirts to the left of the cliff on easy terrain, to reach a beautiful hanging plateau. Pass alpine lakes (2h) then follow a trail on scree up to the continental divide at Trapecio Pass (4910m; 2.5h). Do not descend the other side. Instead, turn right (S) and scramble uphill on redish rock, to a notch (5110m; 3h) to incredible views of Carnicero, Sarapo, and Siula Grande.

Descent: Walk through the notch, then making a scrambling descent to the left to reach the Huayhuashjanca Glacier. The glacier is flat, aerated ice, with no real crevasses. Some parties may choose to use crampons, an axe, and rope. Others might use none of them. Hike NW on the glacier and exit it after less than 1km. Hike on scree, within 100m of the edge of the glacier. Pass over a shoulder notch, then begin a slab descent (4.5h). Descend to the right (N) down easy friction slabs below a steep, dark wall. Once at the base of the wall, descend directly down easy friction slabs (many cairns), to a small, bench around 4700m. Traverse left (SW) to exit the slabs into a grassy gully. Descend to cow pastures atop the moraine S of Jurau Lake (5h). Walk the moraine until directly above the outflow of the lake then scramble down to a pristine camp between Jurau Lake (4343m) and a tiny lake to its W (6h).

Day 7. Rasac Col.

This is the second most technical day on the Circuit. The vast majority of the terrain is straightforward. Some roped glacier travel, a brief loose gully ascent, a somewhat convoluted, potentially confusing descent, and a 20m 4th class downclimb will keep you on your toes. The views of Rasac and its West Summit on the ascent are a highlight whereas the majority of the trod down the Rasac valley is tedious.

Elevation Gain: 554m Elevation Loss: 1009m Time: 7.5h Distance: 7.0km

Ascent: Start at camp beside Caramarca Lake (0h; 4575m). Hike up the crest of a morraine immediately west of the lake to gain a boulder-strewn plateau (1.5h). Boulder hop to the edge of the Seria Glacier (2h). Hike up the glacier (lightweight crampons and lightweight axe recommended), passing just a few crevasses. Unavoidably, the route crosses an avalanche path coming off Rasac Oeste. The glacier culminates in a 35-degree headwall. Above the headwall, walk up the glacier until about 50m away from Rasac Col (5129m). A visit to Rasac Col is off route but optional for the view. Fifty meters below Rasac Col, turn west, walk horizontally on scree under a rocky cliff then ascend to the minor West Col 100m west of Rasac Col. The final 20m to the minor col is 40-degree loose ground above an exposed gully. A rope may be helpful (3h).

Descent: The first 1km of descent is not intuitive. Pay close attention to the instructions. Descend easily for 50m from the West Col then traverse horizontally left (toward the northwest), just below cliffs on Huacrish Norte, for 700m. Look for a place where you can scramble down and double back toward the east along a hanging bench (4h). Many cairns mark the bench but they are not easy to spot from a distance. Traverse the bench toward the east then descend via a 20m 4th class downclimb (rope may be useful for some parties) to reach the top of a grassy moraine. The rest is walking. Walk along micro-valleys past Barrosococha and then join the cows near Rasacocha (5.5h). Pick up a faint trail east of the outlet of (7h) Rasacocha, and follow it to Solteracocha (4120m). Camp between Solteracocha and Jauacocha if you desire serenity (recommended). Or join the hordes at the west end of Jauacocha.

Day 8. The Walk Out.

early morning breakfast in Jahuacocha and descend along the valley until Llamac and take a bus back to Huaraz

Adventure Details


8 Days

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Adventure Location

Caras, Ancash

Caras, Ancash


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