Hoping to get back on schedule after our short day yesterday, we set off from Huayllapa with the plan of climbing steeply to Huatiaq, further to Tapush Punta, down and then back up to Yuacha Punta, and finally descending to Incahuain. The guidebook estimates an 8.5hr walk, so we fully expect 11+ hrs on the trail, including frequent breaks that the 1,600m climb is sure to demand. We don’t quite make it as far as intended, but we tackle the brutal elevation gain with a smile (ok, sometimes a grimace) and get some pretty spectacular scenery along the way.
Trail stats: Huayllapa to Yaucha Punta
Elevation gain: 1,585m
Highest elevation: Yaucha Punta 4,850m
Trail hours: 8hrs
Highlights: Early morning sun on Tapush; walking through flocks of sheep around Huatiaq; trekking around beautiful Laguna Susucocha; camping beneath condors and high peaks at Yaucha Punta
Campsite: wild camping at Yaucha Punta
We wake up dark and early for our penultimate day on the Huayhuash, determined to make up some of the time we lost yesterday by staying in Huayllapa. The good news is that we slept in beds last night, so packing up our things in the morning is a super quick affair, plus desayuno has been prepared for us by Omar and Flor. Our stay may not have included the hot shower (or any shower) that I’ve been dreaming of, but we can’t fault their overwhelming hospitality. With a final muchas gracias, we set off up the hill around 6.30am.
The climb out of town to the trail junction is steep, but quick. From here, we figure we have at least 2hrs of straight uphill to reach Huatiaq camp. In reality, it takes much longer. Eileen has finally succumbed to my bronchitis and she is struggling with the climb this morning. Unfortunately for her, we have about 1,600m of uphill today, so it’s not a great time for anyone to be struggling.
The day drags on slowly as we climb towards the first pass, Tapush Punta. At once, it feels like both an eternity that we’ve been walking and a very sudden arrival at the pass, which sort of sneaks out of no where and is much less high and windy than our other passes have been.
I sit and write the first half of this post in the sun while I wait for dad and Eileen to arrive, but further inspection of the map reveals that we definitely won’t be making it all the way to Incahuain camp tonight. It’s 2pm by now— despite our early morning departure, we are still way behind schedule, having taken almost 8hrs to cover what should have been no more than half that.
Re-evaluating our plans, we decide that our best bet is to keep walking towards the second pass, Yaucha Punta, and set up camp nearby. It’s anyone’s guess whether we will find flat ground and suitable shelter at a 4,850m pass, but we have no choice but to try. Our shuttle pickup is set for 3pm tomorrow at Quartelhuain camp, and if we want to have any hope of making that, we’ve got to keep moving today.
With that in mind, we all set off down from the pass, passing Gashpapampa camp and then meandering through the colourful valley towards our next climb. Even on the easy, undulating terrain, Eileen struggles with her cold and has to take frequent breaks.
No one wants to suggest splitting up after the ordeal several days ago, but eventually Eileen herself insists that dad and I climb the pass ahead of her so we can set up a good camp while we still have daylight. She will ascend at her own pace up to Yaucha Punta, and then one of us will meet her at the pass to bring her to camp.
Plans laid, dad and I set off at an extremely brisk clip across the valley and up towards Yaucha Punta. We estimate about 90min to the top based on the guidebook, but manage to crest over the pass in even less time thanks to our unrelenting climb and singular focus on just getting to camp.
Climbing to Yaucha Punta is a perfect example of Type 2 Fun, or fun that doesn’t really feel all that fun at the time. Looking at these pictures, all I can remember is the beauty of the landscape, not the hard breathing or tired feet or the desire to stop. I’d gladly go back and do it all over again now…
We are puffed by the time we reach Yaucha, but we set off down the other side to find a suitable place for our tent and a good water source. It doesn’t take long, and soon we are setting up our tent in front of a beautiful mountain range while 7 condors circle overhead, their wings the length of people (perhaps 2 Peruvian people). About an hour later, Eileen arrives at the pass and dad brings her into camp. Everyone is secretly relieved that a second disaster has been avoided (so soon after we first lost each other, imagine).
All that’s left to do now is cook up a delicious dinner, rug up in all our clothes (turns out it’s pretty cold at 4,800m), and pass out in anticipation of one last enormous day tomorrow. In the interest of time, Eileen and dad are hiking out via Llamac, but I’ll be crossing over another 2 high passes alone as I make my way to Quartelhuain.
I’m apprehensive about navigating what is likely to be a challenging and convoluted section of trail, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to set out solo tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll be finishing Huayhuash off with a bang.