independent trek – Huayhuash Circuit, Peru

Megan “Hashbrown” Maxwell did Huayhuash alone and independently. She’s one tough hiker.

Still … she felt Huayhuash was the toughest hike of her life.

The Huayhuash Circuit is a beast of a trek. I would only recommend it if you have done a trek before and have an idea of what you’re getting into. I would only recommend going guide-less if you are at a confident level of backpacking experience, have taken the time to acclimatize, and are physically fit and able to carry a pack loaded with a week of food.

The guidebook for this trail is Peru’s Cordilleras Blanca & Huayhuash, available on Amazon. I found this to have all the information I needed …

This circuit goes over a pass everyday, ranging from 15,400 to 16,500 feet (4,690 to 5,050 meters). This means you will be hiking slower than usual, due to the altitude, and the walking itself is physically taxing. This also means that you will have spectacular views of the Andes every single day. …

Cordillera Huayhuash Circuit: Planning and Preparing

Huayhuash
Huayhuash

Huayhuash map

That adventure was the best hike of my life. If you want know more, click over to our Huayhuash information page.

Roraima trek, Venezuela

Stingy Nomads:

Mount Roraima is the highest of the many Table Mountains (tepuis) scattered over the grasslands of The Grand Sabana. The strange rock formations, quarts fields that look like a diamond encrusted fairy land, insect eating plants and many high waterfalls gives the whole area unreal feel and have been an inspiration to writers and movie makers. It is thought to have inspired Arthur Cone Doyle’s book ‘The Lost World’, published in 1912 …

Tours are normally 6 to 8 days, taking three days to reach the top, then one to three days exploring the top and it takes two more days to come down the same trail. You cannot hike this route independent since a guide is compulsory. There are many companies in Santa Elena that offers all-inclusive tours; you can also try to find an independent guide to lead your trek. …

Roraima trek on a budget

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Ausangate and the Rainbow Mountains, Peru

travel to walk:

The Ausangate circuit is a trek that is relative untouched by the massive tourism industry in Cusco. Because of that, this is one a hike where there is plenty of solitude. On the flip side, it is much tougher as it is about 1 km higher than Cusco with passes that go over 5 km in elevation (16k ft). …

… the trail is not marked and there are no signs to discriminate trails the locals use trail around the mountain. So, map skills, GPS, or a guide is imperative for a trek like this. All of this is pretty manageable for experienced backpackers.

However, we decided to add an additional layer to this already challenging task. There is information out there that the Rainbow Mountains are nearby and provides a side trip possibility. …

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Rainbow Mountains

Read the entire trip report if you are planning to do this trek yourself one day – Ausangate and the Rainbow Mountains

It’s one of our top 10 hikes in the world.

Adventure Junkies – Huayhuash trek, Peru

… The snow-capped peaks here are really high (many well over 6.000 mts – 19,500 ft) and the feeling of remoteness is fantastic. …

The whole circuit takes anywhere from 8 to 14 days to complete as there are different routes available. There is only one small town where you can re-stock on supplies which means you will need to carry all your food for 7-8 days if walking independently.

For that reason, most of the hikers decide to go with an organized tour. But hey, we are the Adventure Junkies. We can’t let a donkey carry our stuff up the mountain!

HIKING THE INCREDIBLE HUAYHUASH CIRCUIT IN PERU

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Check out our Huayhuash Circuit information page.

Pumalín Park, Chili

Pumalín Park (Spanish: Parque Pumalín) is a … private nature reserve in the Palena Province of Chile, created by the United States environmental foundation The Conservation Land Trust, which was endowed and led by the American business magnate Douglas Tompkins. …

We dropped into to the head office of this private park in Puerto Varas to get an update on progress.

Facilities have expanded since I visited Pubalin 11 years ago. The official map now has 17 campsites, 12 official short trails, 4 hotsprings. We were told there are no official overnight hikes. Yet.

Pumalin

Their website is posted in Spanish and English.

On December 8, 2015, Tompkins was kayaking with five others on General Carrera Lake in southern Chile when strong waves caused their kayaks to capsize. Tompkins spent a “considerable amount of time” in waters 40 °F (4 °C) below. He was flown via helicopter to a hospital in nearby Coyhaique, where he died hours later from severe hypothermia. He was 72 years old …

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Greater Patagonian Trail update

My last day in Chile I was lucky enough to meet up with Jan Dudeck and his partner at the Santiago bus station.

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We carbo-loaded on ice cream while I got a personal update on what happened on this their 3rd season on the long distance hike. Carrying an Alpacka packraft on sections.

Greater Patagonian

Once back in Europe, Jan will be updating the wikiexplora page with new data. New alternative routes.

The Greater Patagonian is not an official trail but rather 1500km or more of connected best routes in Chile and Argentina. You’ll be lost for sure unless you have KMZ and GPX files downloaded from wikiexplora.

As they research possible new options Jan actually starts with cached Google Earth images. Then looks for the faint trails he sees there to mark waypoints on their GPS. They don’t bother carrying heavy topo maps.

I tried and failed on section 1 of the Greater Patagonian in January. But am very tempted to go back next Jan/Feb to try other sections.

Greater Patagonian Trail

day 4 – return to Laguna Ánimas

trip report by besthike editor Rick McCharles

day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | info Condor Circuit  

Sunburn was my biggest worry at this point. I had plenty of No-Ad Sport Sunscreen slathered on, but this sun is unrelenting. I was wearing socks on my hands as they were most burnt, so far.

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I made one last climb up to the “corner” of the valley to see if it looped back over a pass in the direction I wanted to go …

The cows thought I was crazy.

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I was crazy. Odds were slim that it would work. I turned back here.

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It was a relief, actually, to finally know where I was going.

River crossings are a big issue here. There are no bridges. Happily this was the most difficult I crossed. Not bad.

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Descending to the hot springs, the group had already vacated. I had the place to myself. 🙂

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One last look back up my side valley.

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Mid-day I took the shade and studied Spanish for 90 minutes or so. Then resumed my high traverse of the massif.

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Today the two condors came to check me out.

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I was clinging to life yet. 🙂

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People curse slogging through ash. Personally, I like it. Very soft on the feet. The best screeing surface possible.

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I was surprised to come across 4 Chilean hikers in the afternoon. They had put up the tents and got directions from me to the hot springs. Two had just been married. This was part of the honeymoon. Both were just about to move to Montreal for work. Small world.

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One of the guys asked me if I knew the way back to the Pass. Of course I did. I’d just come from that direction.

How could I get lost? 🙂

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I got lost. 😦

Things truly do look completely different when walking the opposite direction.

My good camera had broken, the telescoping lens mechanism wrecked. 😦 I wasn’t in much of a mood to take photos in any case. 😦

My audio book – Red Rising by Pierce Brown – kept me going.

I was first diverted for about 2 hours. Then about 30 minutes. (Several times I considered backtracking to the honeymoon party tents. I could have walked out with them next morning.)

But – finally – I found the way back to Ánimas. I set up my tent above the lake at this junction of alpine meadow and desert. My best campsite.

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day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | info Condor Circuit  

day 3 – Laguna Ánimas to Hot Springs

trip report by besthike editor Rick McCharles

day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | info Condor Circuit  

Another lovely dawn. I packed up before the sun hit my tent. Fearing sunburn.

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Pretty Laguna las Ánimas is a jewel in the midst of volcanic destruction.

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Atop the next plateau I was surprised to find yet another alpine meadow.

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If this region were not so volcanic, it would be very green.

Higher there was yet more water. But the scenery grew stark. Weird and wonderful.

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Looking back on my morning route.

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Above Ánimas there are no signs. No official trails. You are on your own. I’m sure people get lost and die here every year.

I hoped that was my highest pass up ahead.

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It was. 🙂 I left a Summit Stone.

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It would be an excellent idea to enjoy the massive and impressive Mt. Decapitated vista from here. And turn back.

Laguna Mondaca
Laguna Mondaca

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I dropped down to the other side crossing this field of snow and ash.

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Laguna Mondaca looked too great a descent for me. I’d really rather not drop down that far and have to climb back up.

A high traverse trail on the right looked much more tempting. Quickly I decided to stay as high as I could. Returning by the same route if that trail didn’t loop around back to Valle de Indio.

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I LOVE this kind of brutal & extreme landscape.

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Surprisingly, it’s quite easy to find water here.

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Wildflowers were still thriving in January.

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The unofficial trail was excellent. I stayed as high as I could.

Laguna Mondaca
Laguna Mondaca

Though I could see for miles in every direction, I’d seen no wild mammals at yet. Goats were grazing very high up, circled by two very interested condors.

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I tried to find some shade to take a siesta mid-day. This was one of the best.

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I set up the tent to keep flies and wasps away.

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This was a long but comparatively easy day, mostly gradually downhill. I decided to enter a side valley hoping it would loop back to where I started. (My GPS did not work and I had no map, so this was wild speculation.)

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Entering the valley I smelled sulphur. I’d stumbled on to one of the many natural hot springs in the area. But a horse group was already camped there. I decided to wait until next day to have my bath.

I set up high and out-of-sight since there were cattle and people in this valley.

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day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | info Condor Circuit  

Vilcabamba Trek to Machu Picchu

Mark Whitman of Kandoo Adventures helped us put together an information page on the Vilcabamba Trek in Peru.

The original Lost city of the Inca. A great alternative to the Inca Trail.

AT A GLANCE

Peru
Peru
  • Begin in the Vilcabamba Valley
  • Walk 5 days to Machu Picchu
  • dry months May-September are best
  • Perhaps the toughest Inca trek
  • Three high passes
  • Hike with a guide or independently

Why We Like This Hike

  • Finish at one of the world’s most incredible destinations – Machu Picchu
  • ‘off-the-beaten-path’
  • No permit required
  • Peru is one of the world’s best hiking nations
  • Very quiet – you won’t see another hiker
  • A more authentic Peruvian experience than the crowded Inca Trail
  • Trek on well preserved Inca trails
  • Visit rarely seen Inca ruins, including Vitcos-Rosaspata and Ñust’a Hisp’ana
  • Great challenge for experienced hikers
  • Dramatic scenery and snow-capped peaks
  • Hot springs near the end of the trek

 Vilcabamba Trek to Machu Picchu

Click through to learn more.

Click PLAY or watch Kandoo Adventures’ itinerary on YouTube.

We’re looking for trip reports from independent hikers. Reply to this post if you know of one.

High Divide Loop (7 Lakes Basin)

trip report by site editor Rick McCharles

I was en route to hike the Cape Alava to Rialto Beach “Shipwreck Coast” on the Olympic peninsula end of June.

But when I dropped by the the Wilderness Information Center in Port Angeles on the way to the trailhead, Rangers informed me that famed High Divide Loop (7 Lakes Basin) was open early this year. Winter had dropped very little snow on the high peaks.

I instantly changed my plan. You can hike the Shipwreck Coast almost any time. But the High Divide Loop window is time limited. Late July to mid-October most years.

The High Divide Loop is very weather dependent. I arrived during a heat wave. Blue skies. Quite rare in the high mountains of the rainy coast.

It turned out to be a good call.

Rick Mt Olympus

AT A GLANCE

  • the jumping off point (and best finish) for the High Divide Loop is Sol Duc Hot Springs in Olympic National Park
  • 20.3mi (32.6km) including sidetrips to Lunch Lake and Bogachiel Peak
  • must carry a tent and be completely self-sufficient
  • cumulative elevation 5200ft

On the advice of a Ranger, I booked 2 campsites:

  1. Deer Lake
  2. Sol Duc Park (near Heart Lake)

Circuit map

I started with the day hikers heading up to Sol Duc Falls.

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It’s a steep up,up,up from there to Deer lake. Nice campsite. But it did have mosquitos. I was happy to have carried my mesh bug shirt.

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The Park was extremely dry while I was there. Normally you get wet feet on this hike. Boardwalk helps.

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I used the instagator technique to keep pebbles and dust out of my approach shoes.

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This was my first glimpse of Mt Olympus next morning. I was very pleased the skies stayed clear. This summit is usually cloud shrouded.

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Though the old growth forest trails are tranquil, it was fantastic to get above the tree line.

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I love the bear grass, but wildflowers were less prolific than expected.

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I stashed my pack on the ridge and dropped into  into 7 Lakes Basin for some day hiking.

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It is marvellous.

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Climbing back up to the ridge I continued to one of the most famous viewpoints in the Olympics, Bogachiel peak.

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The ridge walk above the basin is fantastic in clear weather. You look down on the many-more-than-7-lakes.

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I was exhausted and dehydrated by the time I finally dropped down towards Heart Lake.

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Rangers there told me where I could find good water. There was none on the ridge. 😦

I had been counting on melting snow. Unfortunately I found no snow.

With relief I set up my tent at Sol Duc Park campsite. Washed my feet. And took an hour siesta.

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In the late afternoon I made a long day hike past Cat Basin campground to see what my guidebook claimed was the best view of Olympus. I wasn’t disappointed. 🙂

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Next morning was an easy downhill exit through old growth. Very mellow.

If you’d like to see 7 Lakes Basin and Mt Olympus for yourself, check our new information page.