Mountaineering in the Incan Empire
In the late summer of this year, professional mountain guide Hermann Berie travelled to Peru for hiking and mountaineering in the Andes. He accompanied and led a group of 6 people from Germany and Switzerland to the legendary Machu Picchu near Cusco and to the remote mountains of the Cordillera Blanca. As highlight of the tour Berie climbed with some participants the steep ice peak of Toc-cllaraju (6034 m) near Huaraz. Here's his report on it:
Legendary Machu Picchu
Mystical and fascinating were the impressions during the hike to the legendary Machu Picchu. Built on a steep, wooded ridge, it towers over the Urubamba River in Valle Sagrado. The well-known book author Erich von Däniken has been researching here for decades and is responsible for a lot of speculation. A wonderful place that the people used long before the Incas as a place of worship.
The old Inca capital Cusco with the Plaza San Franzisco and the numerous historical buildings is the centre of the region. The Spanish conquerors left their splendid colonial buildings and cathedrals on the ruins of the destroyed Inca era during the Baroque period.
You can feel the awakening of national self-confidence and after the trauma of the Spanish humiliations the pride of the indigenous population sprouts again over their historical roots.
Cusco and many other places worth seeing here are located at over 3500 meters above sea level and are therefore ideally suited for optimal altitude adjustment for trekking in the Cordillera Blanca.
Huaraz and Cordillera Blanca
After a week with a lot of culture in the Inca capital, Huaraz is our next stop in the Ancash region, 1500 km further north. In contrast to the land metropolis Lima, which at this time of year ekes out an existence in the fog on the edge of the Pazi-fish ocean, Huaraz is sunny, clear and pleasantly mild. Situated in the highlands of the Andes, it is a place of agriculture and travellers seek relaxation and adventure in a powerful natural environment. Dream destinations for mountaineers, hikers and mountain bikers line up here like a string of pearls. Steep glaciated mountain peaks shine over subtropical forests with hidden, crystal clear lagoons. On a dense network of old Inca trails you can hike or bike alone for days. Summit destinations such as the beautiful white Alpamayo (5947 m), the mighty Huascaran (6768 m) or the "Paramount mountain" Artesonraju (6025 m) attract mountain addicts from all over the world in June and July.
Hike around Alpamayo
Now at the end of the season it is wonderfully quiet on our ten-day trekking tour around the beautiful Alpamayo and we rarely meet other hikers. Along the route there are isolated settlements of the highlanders, who lead a simple life up here isolated. We hike through deep gorges and over several passes which are almost 5000 m high, sleep in our tents at quiet lagoons, warm ourselves at the campfire and marvel at the stars of the Milky Way in the night sky. We are looked after by my Peruvian friends and companions from Huaraz, who transport the main luggage with their donkeys and mules and cook for us excellently. No mobile phone reception disturbs our reduced life, "digital detox" in New German.
The mountain air is thin and demands heart and circulation. The good acclimatization in Cusco pays off. We are rewarded by views and a varied high mountain landscape with subtropical plant splendour that is second to none. "True life begins where our comfort zone ends...", we agree, even though most of the participants have long since passed the age of 50.
Summit happiness at Toccllaraju (6034 m)
After the beautiful trekking tour our paths separate in Huaraz. The farewell dinner is prepared in hot embers in the earth. Baked potatoes, chicken and guinea pigs are a speciality in the Andes. The couple from Karlsruhe will relax at Lake Titicaca for a few more days and then fly back to Europe from Lima together with us.
At the end of the trip I will climb the strongly glaciated and shapely Toccllaraju (6034 m) with three participants. Almost vertical ice passages require strength and mountaineering skills. The handling of crampons and ice axes should be practiced. Once again we leave Huaraz and hike into the Ishinca valley. The base camp is situated on a wonderfully green plateau, crossed by a brook on which lies a mountain hut of the Italian Alpine Club (CAI), including espresso and pasta. Our subsequent high camp is already enthroned at 5000 m altitude and we look out of our tents into a mighty glacier stream leading to the summit of Toccllaraju. Shortly after midnight we set off and climb over endless snow flanks in the light of the headlights. Steep ice passages and dark glacier falls alternate and finally we climb over an incredibly mighty ridge guard before standing on the narrow summit of the beautiful mountain. A crowning finale with wonderful views of the Cordillera Blanca!
Peru is certainly one of the most beautiful travel destinations in South America. In addition to the fish rich coastal region near Lima and the powerful nature in the Cordillera, Peru can also boast huge areas of the Amazon rainforest. For all tours see www.berie.ch
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