Duration: 5 Days / 4 Nights (Can also be done in 4 days)
Level: Basic / Intermediate (AD)
Nevado Ausangate is the 5th highest peak in Peru at 6,384m, and the highest mountain in the Cusco region. Ausangate is the most well-known peak for mountaineering in Cusco and can be seen from many places in the city. The first ascent to the summit in 1953 was led by the famous Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer. He was part of the first team to conquer the north face of the Eiger and protagonist of the book/movie “Seven Years in Tibet”. The normal route is moderately technical and you need good stamina to break trail on the summit plateau. We are experts in climbing this iconic mountain where I have made the summit twelve times to date. If you are thinking to climb Ausangate, we have a proven record to get you to the top!
- Trip Outline
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Cusco – Pacchanta (4,300m/14,104ft)
We leave Cusco at 9am in our shuttle and arrive to the town of Tinki for lunch. From there we ride up to the alpaca herding community of Pacchanta and spend the night at the home of the Crispin Family. In the evening we can enjoy the relaxing geothermal baths with great views of Ausangate.
Pacchanta - Base Camp (4,800m/15,744ft)
At 7am we start our trek to base camp with our arrieros carrying the equipment on the horses. The trail (22km) passes through several green-blue lagoons at the foot of Nevado Ausangate and then crosses the Jampa Pass (5100m). We reach Base Camp (4800m) on the south side of the mountain at 3pm.
Base Camp - Moraine Camp (5,500m/18,040ft)
After breakfast we will go up more than 700m to Moraine Camp at 5476m. The hike should take 3-4 hours, which gives us plenty of time to rest before the climb.
Moraine Camp – Summit (6,384m/20,939ft) - Base Camp
We awake at 12am midnight and leave the tent by 1am. After navigating through crevassed glacier, there is a 200m snow/ice wall at 60 degrees. Above the wall, a glacier hike of about 4 hours brings us to one final exposed ridge that gains the summit. We descend the same route and rappel the 200m wall. At Moraine Camp we rest, pack up and then go down to Base Camp to spend the night at lower altitude.
Base Camp to Cusco
Only an hour below the Ausangate base camp our shuttle will be waiting to take us out of the mountains and back to Cusco.
- All group camping equipment
- Climbing equipment
- Helmet, Harness, 2 Ice axes, Crampons, etc.
- 1 High Mountain Guide per 3 clients
- Arriero and horse service (will carry all expedition gear)
- Food from Lunch Day 1 until Breakfast Day 5.
- clothing for cold and rain
- hiking boots or trail shoes
- mountaineering boots (we have them for rent also!)
- sleeping bag (0F/-18C)
- air mattress
- backpack 40-70 liters
- daypack 20-30 liters
- duffel bag
The best time for mountain climbing in Peru is the South American winter; April to September, with the driest months being June and July. Early in the season there is more accumulated snow left over from the rainy season, by August the glaciers are usually quite dry and more crevasses will have opened up. These conditions can affect route conditions over the season, for example: the normal routes on some mountains like Huascaran or Chopicalqui can be impassable late in the season due to a large crevasse that has opened up. In my experience the best time to climb your project peak is July 15th to August 15th.
It is very important to acclimatize properly. If you are just arriving to Cusco, I recommend at least 3 full nights in Cusco (3,300mts/10,824ft) before sleeping higher than 4,000mts (13,120ft). It is recommendable to climb a peak of 5,500 meters, before a 6,000 meter peak if you have the time. If you are already well acclimated, it is possible to go directly to climb an easier 6,000mts peak like Ausangate, Chumpe or Yayamari. These guidelines should be regarded as the minimums. Often people have a tight schedule and want to do as much as possible with their time, but acclimatization is important for you to be able to accomplish your goals.
Temperatures in the mountains of Peru can vary greatly depending on weather conditions. Above 4,000 meters in altitude, If the sun is out and there is no wind, it can be up to 65F (18C) during the day. At night during clear weather it can get down to 23F (-5C). Above 5,000 meters in altitude at the moraine camp (5,500m) of Ausangate it can get down to 14F (-10C) during the night. Above 6,000m it can get down to -4F (-20C) and even colder when you factor in the windchill.
There is much more solar radiation at altitude in Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia than other places because they are tropical ranges. It is very important to protect your skin and eyes from these conditions so that you don’t go snow blind after climbing. Anyone who climbs in the Andes needs good sunglasses and we suggest to have a brimmed hat and plenty of sunscreen, even for your lips.
It is important to have your layer system dialed in so you can climb fast while not getting overheated. Everyone feels the cold and conditions differently but I will give you the example of my own system. Lower body - 3 layer system: - Base layer: Thermal tights - Mid layer: Alpaca wool pants or down pants - Outer Shell: Waterproof pants (goretex or similar) Upper body - 4 layer system: - Base Layer: Under armour cold gear long sleeve shirt - Light Mid layer: Synthetic down hoodie - Heavy Mid Layer: 700+ fill Down jacket - Outer Shell: Waterproof jacket with hood that can go over helmet (goretex or similar)
The most important pieces of clothing/gear for mountaineering are where your body makes contact with the mountain: gloves and boots. I would recommend single boots like the Scarpa Mont Blanc or La Sportiva Nepal Evo or similar boots for peaks that are 5,000 meters up to a peak like Tocllaraju (6,034m) that just goes over 6,000m. For anything higher like Ausangate (6,384m) or Huascaran (6,770m) double boots are best for most people but not absolutely necessary. I personally use the Scarpa Phantom 6,000, because Scarpa boots have a wider toe box for my wide feet than La Sportiva boots. But there are good La Sportiva models also like the Spantik or the G2 SM. As with all mountaineering boots, buy them a size larger so you have room for an extra sock or wiggle room to keep the circulation going.