Santa Cruz Trek: Part 1

Upon leaving for this adventure I had some lofty goals for the time spent in Huaraz. I was set on completing the Huayhuash (Why-Wash) circuit. A grueling 9-12 day trek through the Cordillera Huayhuash Mountains in the Andes. Arriving in Huaraz with this goal in mind I immediately investigated the viability of completing what is widely regarded to as one of, if not the best mountain trek in the world. Unfortunately, it's shoulder season, and due to extremely unpredictable weather and our need to outfit all supplies using the limited options in Huaraz it became clear that some kind of guide/porter situation would be necessary. We sucked up our pride and accepted the need of assistance. We posted the trip on a public board in the hostel as no guide would be willing to go (on our budget at least) with only 2 people.  The waiting began.....

We waited.....

We acclimatized to the elevation.......

We waited....

No bites...not one.

After 6 days of waiting it seemed, at least on this go around, the dream of Huayhuash was dead. A brief moment of sorrow passed and it was on to plan B. A quick audible lead us to the highly acclaimed, though less extreme, Santa Cruz Trek. One day of planing, prep, and laundry and we were off on our nice little 4 day / 3 night jaunt through the hills. 

Preping the grub

Two colectivos rides later we arrive at the start of our trek, the little mountain town of Cashapampa. The town sitting at 2900m elevation and our first intended campsite sat just shy of 4000m....the climb began at about 8:30am. 

When this is the trail head it's going to be good

By 3:00PM we were deep into the Santa Cruz valley being flanked on all sides by shear cliff faces, cows, and the occasional donkey.  

Llama Corral Campground (3800m / 12500ft)

Forging on, mid-day cloud cover began to subside. Slowly, the grandeur of the Cordillera Blanca range began to peak through the waning weather offering a teaser of what was to come.

Quitaraju Peak (6036m / 19800ft)

We settled for the evening on the shore of Laugna Jatuncocha about 2 hours deeper into the valley from Llama Corral campground. Alone (assuming you don't count donkeys, who were abundant) we set up camp, made dinner and received a spectacular show as the sun dipped behind the Cordillera Negra range to the West.