Following a physically demanding day on the trail yesterday, we are all relieved to enjoy a relatively short and easy day up and over the Portachuelo de Huayhuash to Viconga camp. The scenery on the gentle climb is absolutely stunning and the promise of hot springs at camp (!!!) is truly the ultimate motivation to hustle forwards.
Trail stats: Huayhuash to Viconga
Elevation gain: 490m
Highest elevation: Portachuelo de Huayhuash 4,770m
Trail hours: 4hrs
Highlights: Great views of the Cordillera Raura; hiking around Laguna Viconga; relaxing in the boiling hot springs at camp
When we wake up at our usual time of 6.15am this morning, we discover that dad is missing not only 2 bags of cookies that were left in the tent vestibule, but also a full roll of toilet paper. Of all the things a dog could run off with, we all feel deeply offended that it was our toilet paper, a relatively useless item for an animal that is incredibly missed by us humans. Thankfully, it is recovered about 150m from the tent in a grassy field, but the robbery is not forgotten and we have all learned a valuable lesson about leaving things outside.
By 9am, dad, Eileen, and I roll out of camp and onto the faint trail that climbs towards Portachuelo de Huayhuash, today’s high point. The walk is gentle and undemanding, and we arrive at the pass in just 1hr45min, well below the time estimated by our admittedly inconsistent guidebook.
The view of the surrounding mountains, particularly Trapecio and the neighbouring Cordillera Raura, is spectacular and we linger atop the windy pass until we are freezing.
After reaching the pass and continuing uphill just a few minutes further, the rest of our day is a mellow descent into the valley where hot springs await. Motivated by the promise of hot thermal baths, we make quick work of our 2hrs to camp, cutting past the gorgeous Laguna Viconga, navigating through herds of sheep, and finally descending to the valley floor.
As has become customary on the Huayhuash Circuit, we can’t spot our campsite until we are 10min away, and are fearful of having taken a wrong turn until the the very final moments.
It’s 2.30pm when we chuck our packs onto the grass and begin a speedy version of our tent setup, everyone eager to soak the precious 4 days’ sweat and aches away in the hot pools.
There are only 8 campers here in total, spread across 3 different pools, and the scenery is even better than I could have dreamt. In the interest of staying hot for as long as possible, I even dash back to camp for my snack bag and some money for a cold Coca Cola (sold by an elderly gentleman right near the pools), eliminating the need to move at all over the next couple hours.
When we do finally extract ourselves from the perfectly hot baths and the beautiful view, it is only for our queso dip and Fritos. I actually feel like I’m eating bigger, better, and more consistently than I do at home, and yet I’m also feeling stronger after only a couple days on the trail. I should do long treks every month..
After a delicious dinner and lots of planning for the coming week (99% of which will end up changing anyway), it is finally time to conk out in our cosy tents— before I can snuggle into my sleeping bag, though, I am convinced to revisit the hot springs for one last prolonged soak. I spend the rest of my night sweating profusely in one of the thermal baths over several cold bottles of Cusqueno, only returning back to my tent after I’m a giant walking prune.