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Touching the Void in Huaraz, Peru

Written on: Tuesday September 2nd, 2008

A journal entry from: Trails in 2008

This area has the highest mountain range outside of the Himalayas, lots of mountains over 6,000 metres high.  It´s a climbers haven, but the memorials in hostels (of mostly young males) are a sad reminder of the dangers. 

We adopt Hattie, an english girl with a pack bigger than herself who we met on the bus (or did she adopt us?!). The next thing you know we´ve hired a guide and a porter to take us on a 3 day hike over a 5,300 metre pass where we are guaranteed we will get great scenery and noone else in sight.


To get ourselves acclimatised for the big hike ahead we joined a group day walk to a glacial lake at 4,800 metres.  It was a struggle to be at altitude after having been at sea level for the past 2 weeks but a picnic at the beautiful lake was the reward.  Unfortunately our bus driver drained the battery listening to music all day, so there we were on a backroad at 3,800 metres, no phone reception, cold, dark, and we´re hungry – and waiting for a truck to come by to charge us up with leads that probably couldn´t charge an AA Battery.  After 2 hours a truck arrived and we witnessed South American machismo in action.  No-one could take instructions from the other, let alone the English mechanic in our group.  Our saviour, the truck driver, got fed up and drove off.  A very dark moment!  I stupidly enquired as to a "Plan B"... there´s no such thing here.

 A crusty old passenger bus rattled by half an hour later, so the 3 of us wasted no time in abandoning the rest of our group and jumping on.  It just wasn´t our day - the entire overhead baggage shelf fell off halfway back, but everyone escaped incident and we finally got back to food and beer at 10pm, very tired and frustrated with Peru!   I hold Hattie personally responsible then for our situation 3 days later, when at 6pm after a hard day of walking the three of us are huddled in a small tent trying to keep warm from the freezing rain blowing off the glacier behind us.   I think she equally blamed the curse of Anti-Camping-Alison, who attracts rain whenever she touches a tent.  But it was a vision of delight to us all when our guide passed in 3 hot bowls of soup, and then came to collect them to feed us more food. I resolve only to hike with a pack mule/chef from now on (some may call him "Al").  

We reached the pass on the second day, and despite the heat and struggle of that morning, it was soon forgotten when hail turned into snow, with the sound of avalanches rumbling.  The guide said later he is used to tourists (ok, just the girls) crying in these situations, I´m so proud of us!  Actually, all this time my mind was focussing on the guy who nearly died climbing out here (the book and doco "Touching the Void") and compared to his situation we were having it easy!  I was also aware that our guide and our human pack mule were carrying way more than us and couldn´t possibly complain.


It would have been nice to see that great vista of mountain ranges up there, but it cleared on the way down - this part of Peru is really quite a beautiful place.