For The Karikuy Blog, Lani Conway details her struggle to reach the roof of the world.
Semi-stuffed on mediocre tasting empanadas de queso and carne, the gang and I stood on the corner of Huaraz’s busy Luzuriaga street awaiting our early morning pick-up. We were on the road to Pastoruri, a tall, tropical glacier that soars 17,000 feet in the Cordillera Blanca.
I made the eight hour bus ride from Lima to Huaraz, a town nestled in the high altitude Callejón de Huaylas, a lush valley sandwiched by the Cordillera Blanca and Cordillera Negra mountain ranges. In bustling Huaraz, backpackers in waterproof hiking pants mingled with traditional Peruvian women clad in their bright skirts, European hats and colorful back sacks. The snowcapped Huascarán mountain, the highest pinnacle in the tropics, towered in the background. It is from this spot that we were to start our trek into the heart of the Andes.
The route of the day would be one laden with gritty, potholed dirt roads and stellar mountain landscape. We started driving south of Huaraz, passing by the quiet communities of Recuay, Ticapamapa and Catac, and catching glimpses of puya raymondii, the eerie pineapplesque flower that blooms only once in its solitary life. After a 43 mile shuttle ride, we reached the foot of the quiet, desolate trail that would lead us to the top of the Pastoruri glacier. From here, it was a one mile ascent through extremely thin air, pass rusted rocks and an otherworldly looking lagoon.
Our trudge was slow and disorienting — At high altitude, overexerting one’s body is a recipe for disaster.