It started on July 5 when I flew to Lima, Peru. I got in late that night and flagged a taxi down to take me to my hotel at Senorial. It was a clean and quiet room for a short 5 hour sleep. The next morning, I took a taxi to the Cruz del Sur bus station and boarded the bus for the 8 hour drive to Hauraz. Fortunately, I bought the expensive (about $25 ticket) for the bigger, reclining seat. From the Pacific Ocean, we traveled north to the arid alpine tundra to the Andes.
Since Peru is near the equator, the sun sets and rises around 6 am and 6 pm and so it gets dark much earlier than the long summer days typically associated with a Utah summer. So when I arrived to Hauraz, it was dark and slightly disorienting. I heard to the sounds of horns beeping and dogs barking, sounds that remind me of travels to other less developed countries around the globe. I quickly flagged a taxi and got myself to my hotel at Zarelas. After close to 20 hours of travel, I was exhausted, and after a quick dinner of fried chicken and French fries, I passed out.
The idea for Peru was hatched over the winter when Jonathon’s clients expressed some interest in trying some of the iconic peaks of the Cordillera Blanca. I quickly got excited about meeting up at the end of the trip, so that Jonathon and I could try to climb La Esfinge. I had heard about La Esfinge through acquaintances and friends in the climbing community. They described fantastic alpine rock on a feature slightly bigger than size of Half Dome in Yosemite topping out around at 5,325 meters. It sounded amazing and I knew that I wanted to give it a try.
I arrived to Hauraz about 5 days before Jonathon was done with work and so I had some solo time in Peru. The goal was for me to acclimatize and maybe check out base camp to La Esfinge. It had been a long time since I had travelled solo for any extended amount of time and so I was a little nervous. But it all worked out really well and it was a good opportunity to be independent and resourceful.
On my first non-travel day in Peru, I hiked to Laguna Churup. I took the collectivo with the local ladies in their traditional Peruvian attired – tall, brown cowboy-type hat, skirt with a little lace peaking out underneath, leggings and a colorful shawl/satchel. The collectivo dropped me off at Llupa, about an hour before the trailhead and so I walked up the road to the start of the trail. Fortunately, I walked with a local man who directed me to the trail so I didn’t have to walk on the road the entire way.
It was a nice hike with beautiful views climbing about 2000 feet and topping out around 14, 700 feet. I felt pretty good with regards to the altitude and didn’t have too much of a headache. Jonathon’s clients had wanted to try out the hypoxic tents for this trip and so we got a free rental from Hypoxico. I actually hated the tent and had a hard time sleeping in it. Imagine sleeping in a garbage bag that is really noisy and hot and that has an Fi02 of less than 21% – that is a hypoxic tent. I slept in it for about 8 nights and it probably saved me two days of acclimatization.
The next day, I decided to hike to the base camp of La Esfinge and spend two nights there to continue acclimatizing and check out the route. It is a three hour taxi ride to the trailhead at Luguna Paron. Half of the ride is on pavement to the town of Caraz and the final half is on a winding dirt road meandering first through little villages and farmlands and then entering a huge valley surrounded by big rock faces, glaciated peaks and waterfalls.
The start of the trail is a little tricky to find and you end up paralleling the road down valley for about a minute. Fortunately my taxi driver and the hut keeper directed me to this small trail. I have heard of others not so fortunate, who got off the trail right away and ended up bush-whacking to base camp. But if you find the trail it is a pretty decent climbers trail that pretty much goes straight up to base camp at about 15, 300 feet. With a light pack and taking my time to snap photos and eat snacks, I made it to camp in an hour and forty minutes.
The views of La Esfinge from camp are amazing and the granite monolith looked massive. The surrounding glaciated peaks are super inspiring and the view of the crystal clear Laguna Paron tops it all off. I spent the next 2 days wondering around base camp, checking out the base of the route and the descent and reading my book. I had a pretty bad headache the first night but the next night, I felt a lot better. I ran into two acquaintances from the States (Mark and Sandra Ripperberg) and shared dinner and laughs with them. They successfully climbed La Esfinge and gave us all the beta on top of being super fun to hang out with!
On July 10, I hiked down with Sandra and Mark and took a taxi back to Haurez and was reunited with my partner, Jonathon Spitzer and Rachel’s solo treking trip came to an end.
To be continued.