Nathan Heald, Climbs and Expeditions


I am an independent mountaineering guide, native of the United States. I live in Cusco with my joyful wife Kerly Salamanca (Peruvian). In 2011 I moved to Cusco, Peru looking for adventure and intent on climbing the highest, most difficult mountains the area had to offer. I had climbed Ausangate in 2010 and was surprised to see that in Cusco there was no mountaineering culture like in Huaraz and the Cordillera Blanca where I had climbed for a few seasons. The ranges of Cusco felt different, more adventurous, like they extended into timeless, forgotten places at the ends of the earth and the amazon. Legends of the Apus descended from ancient times giving the people a more mystical view in respect to the mountains. But despite having all these wonderful peaks, most all the tourism in Cusco is dedicated to conventional activities. Some adventure options are available like downhill biking, zip lining or rafting but there was almost no information on mountaineering in Cusco at that time. I saw the potential there was and decided to be the first to pioneer the development of the sport in Cusco.

Over the past four years I have compiled the best mountaineering and guiding curriculum in Cusco in history (see below), climbing most of the principal mountains in Cusco and many of them by new routes. I have climbed Ausangate 10 times by 3 different routes and Salkantay 3 times by 2 routes. Some of our peaks have only been climbed a few times in history and a few never at all until we summited. I have made many true friends in the highlands and have been able to introduce several locals to climbing and crampons for the first time. One of my most trusted friends, Luis Crispin from the community of Pacchanta at the foot of Ausangate, is my best climbing partner with whom I have shared many incredible ascents. He has even made me the Godfather of his youngest daughter. Another great friend Edwin Espinoza, from the town of Mollepata at the foot of Salkantay, has been a major part in all operations of that area from the beginning. Aside from being the main protagonists of developing mountaineering tourism in the area, we have pioneered many personal climbing projects that have been featured in news outlets like “Barrabes”, “Desnivel” and the prestigious American Alpine Journal 2014, 2015 & 2016. Every year I go to Huaraz also to continue climbing the beautiful peaks there where among others I have climbed Huascaran and Yerupaja 1st and 2nd highest in Peru. This activity and publicity helps to promote Cusco as an international mountaineering destination.

In the past few years, the amount of tourism in Cusco has grown each year; more people have added Machu Picchu to their bucket list worldwide. But as the flow of visitors increases so have the boring, plastic wrapped and copied tours that are available to them. I get frustrated to see that many agencies and guides only see their clients as a dollar sign and will say anything to sell them something. Some of the groups make me laugh how they are herded like sheep and follow their guide holding up a little flag. Even the government agencies designed to develop tourism, threaten to make everything lame and boring in the interest of getting money. Only a few Peruvian mountain guides try their best to get their clients to the summit; many “Base Camp Guides” tell them whatever excuse (wind, avalanche conditions, etc.) to not climb and go back to town getting paid just the same. Most guides here have only ever known the mountains as a means to make money, not as the means to pursue true passions and let the spirit fly.

I strive to offer my clients a fulfilling, unique experience when they explore Cusco with me. I always work with local families of the area we enter (whom I pay better than the standard rates because they are my friends before anything else) and contribute directly to the local economy as much as possible. We practice “leave no trace” and “pack in pack out” principles to conserve the natural areas we visit. To keep good safety standards I only use well-known brands, brought from the USA like Black Diamond, Mammut, Bluewater, North Face, etc.

If you want to truly get off the tourist tracks and have a real mountain experience in Cusco, let me know well in advance!

- Nathan Heald -


Nathan Heald, Climbs and Expeditions

These are climbs and expeditions that I have personally guided over the past four years. Besides these I have operated many groups with other guides.



Choquequirao to Machu Picchu Trek, Cordillera Vilcabamba, December 13-21, With Rob VN, Danielle D(Holland), Luis Crispin(Peru) Cerro Soray (5,446mts, PD, N Face) Cordillera Vilcabamba

November 7-9
Summit November 9th at 10am
With Edwin Espinoza(Peru), Danielle D, Coen B(Holland)

Cerro Soray (5,446mts, PD, N Face) Cordillera Vilcabamba, New Route

October 23,24
Summit October 24th at 8am
With Edwin Espinoza(Peru)

Nevado Veronica (5,911mts, D, NE Face) Cordillera Urubamba

September 13-14
No summit: made it to 5,682mts and thought I had summited because it was so cloudy I could not see the ridge continue. The next year I saw I had not reached the summit.

Cerro Soray (5,446mts, D, SE Ridge) Cordillera Vilcabamba, First ascent, AAJ 2014, pgs.202, 203

September 7-8
Summit September 8th at 10:30am
With Luis Crispin(Peru)

Nevado Ausangate (6,384mts, AD, normal route) Cordillera Vilcanota

August 13-19
Summit August 17th at 9am
With Adam R, Jennifer R, Manny A(Canada)

Salkantay Base Camp Trek to Machu Picchu, Cordillera Vilcabamba

August 5-10
With Adam R, Jennifer R, Manny A(Canada)

Nevado Ausangate (6,384mts, AD, normal route) Cordillera Vilcanota

July 22-29
Summit July 26th at 10am
With Peter G, Danielle D(Holland), Luis Crispin(Peru)

Salkantay Extreme Trek to Machu Picchu, Cordillera Vilcabamba,

July 14-18
With Laurenz T(Canada), Peter G, Danielle D(Holland)

Salkantay Attempt, Salkantay Base Camp Trek to Machu Picchu, Cordillera Vilcabamba

June 10-20
No summit. Friends got altitude sickness and I tried to climb solo, made it to 5,800mts.
With Nick E, Kyle H(USA)

Salkantay Extreme Trek to Machu Picchu, Cordillera Vilcabamba

June 4-8
With Jimmy L, Diana N (USA)

Nevados Jampa & Ausangate (5,500mts, 6,384mts, AD, normal routes) Cordillera Vilcanota

May 24-31
Jampa Summit May 27th, Ausangate: no Summit, to 6,250mts
With David M, Ashley F (UK), Luis Crispin, Luis Condori, Flavio Mandura(Peru)

Nevado Mariposa (5,842mts, D, North Face) Cordillera Vilcanota

May 3-12
Summit May 9th at 10:30am
With Luis Crispin, Luis Condori, Flavio Mandura(Peru), I climbed solo.

Sky Hight Expeditions