Climbing in the Cordillera Blanca ranges from highly technical, multipitch ascents to rigorous but nontechnical climbs. The optimal climbing season is May through September. Huaraz serves as the principal hub for contracting qualified guides and tour operators and renting gear, but some similar infrastructure, on a smaller scale, can also be found in Caraz. The Casa de Guías in Huaraz (tel. 043/421-811) is one of your best preclimb resources, with a list of registered guides.
For experienced climbers up to the challenge, the Cordillera Blanca is nirvana. The range includes 50 permanently snowcapped mountain peaks of more than 5,610m (18,400 ft.), amazingly packed into an area just 177km (110 miles) long and 19km (12 miles) wide. Tested mountaineers can hope to bag several 6,000m (19,680-ft.) summits in just a 2- or 3-week trip. Less experienced climbers can choose among several easier and more popular climbs. For anyone, though, acclimatization is paramount. Allow between 3 days and 1 week before attempting any serious ascent.
The snowy peaks of Ishinca (5,534m/18,156 ft.) and Pisco (5,752m/18,871 ft.) -- essentially 3-day climbs -- require appropriate gear, conditioning, and guides, but can be undertaken by inexperienced climbers. Peru's most beautiful mountain, Alpamayo (5,957m/19,544 ft.) is an appropriate climb for those with some experience. Huascarán (6,768m/22,205 ft.), the highest mountain in the Peruvian Andes and the tallest tropical mountain in the world, takes between 6 and 9 days and poses a very challenging climb, suitable only for those with technical knowledge and extensive experience.
Mountain Trekking & Climbing
- Explorandes Peru, Av. Centenario 489, Huaraz (tel. 043/421-960 or 01/715-2323; www.explorandes.com): This environmentally sensitive and serious agency is one of the big-name and longest-established adventure-tour operators in Peru, with fixed-departure treks in the Cordillera Blanca. It's expensive, but it's one of the best and most dependable. Explorandes offers both hard-core adventure and soft-adventure programs, and will custom-tailor a trip for small groups. Programs range from llama trekking to Chavín to 12-day treks in the Cordillera Huayhuash.
- JM Expeditions, Av. Luzuriaga 465, Of. 4, Huaraz (tel. 043/428-017 or 01/426-0599; www.jmexpeditions.com): Good mountain-climbing equipment and roster of guides.
- Monttrek, Av. Luzuriaga 646, 2nd Floor, Huaraz (tel. 043/421-124): One of the climbing and trekking pioneers in Huaraz, now going on 20 years in the area, this serious agency organizes hard-core ascents and expeditions, including ice and rock climbing. The company also offers programs for budget-conscious trekkers, as well as camping- and climbing-equipment rental, guides, mountain- and ice-climbing classes, and horseback riding, mountain biking, river rafting, and hang gliding. New programs include Overland Andino (aka World War II jeep) and excursions to Cañon del Pato and Lagunas Llanganuco. With its nice upstairs pub restaurant (which has an interior climbing wall), Monttrek is a good spot to put together a group of like-minded adventurers. Serious climbers will want to speak to the owner, Pocho, and check out his technical drawings of nearly every peak in the region.
- Pony Expeditions, Jr. Sucre 1266, Plaza de Armas, Caraz (tel. 043/391-642; www.ponyexpeditions.com): This professional outfitter is run by a respected guide, Alberto Cafferata, with lots of different treks and climbs available. It offers an extensive program of trekking and climbing itineraries, mountain biking, and rock and ice climbing.
- Pyramid Adventures, Luzuriaga 530, Huaraz (tel. 043/421-864; www.pyramidadventures.net): One of the better climbing agencies, run by a family of brothers, with good service and knowledge.
Guides & Equipment Rental
- Galaxia Mountain Shop, Leoniza y Lescano 603 (tel. 043/422-792), and MountClimb, Mariscal Cáceres 421 (tel. 043/426-060): Both have a full range of mountain-climbing gear, including boots, sleeping bags, and crampons, for rent (about S/30 per day for full complement of equipment).
- Montañero Aventura y Turismo, Parque Ginebra 30B, Huaraz (tel. 043/726-386): Climbing equipment, guides, mountain bikes, and standard tours.
- Mountain Bike Adventures, Jirón Lúcar y Torre 530, Huaraz (tel. 043/424-259; www.chakinaniperu.com): The top company for single-track riding in the Cordilleras Blanca and Negra, run by Julio Olaza. He has Trek front-suspension bikes for rent (including helmets) and offers several 4- to 7-day itineraries, as well as 1-day bike trips. The company also runs a small and enjoyable guesthouse.
The Cost of Trekking & Climbing
All multiday excursions (up to 1 month) into the Huascarán National Park carry entrance fees of S/65. If you're going with a tour operator, ask whether this fee is included in your package cost. Single-day entry costs S/5.
Licensed climbing and trekking guides charge between $60 and $100 per day. Arrieros, local porters with mules who'll lead you on trails, charge about $15 per day, plus food. (Arrieros can be arranged at trail heads or at the Casa de Guías in Huaraz.) Organized treks with one of the firms listed earlier are generally around $35 to $50 per day, per person. A certified guide to lead technical mountain climbs can cost upwards of $90. Serious climbers should also factor in the cost of insurance (obtained at home) that protects against the prohibitive cost of rescue operations.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.