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MOUNTAIN CLIMBING IN CUSCO
The myth of the world creation
"As a consequence of fights, both got apart. With the heart sad, the Salcantay left towards the jungle while the Ausangate stayed alone in the heights. However, time repairs everything, cured their grudges and little by little they started to talk and exchange products again.
The Salcantay sent fruit, vegetables and coca from the jungle. The Ausangate sent potato, oca, charqui and wool to weave cloth."
For the Incas, the beginning of the world was the result of a rough argue between both mountains: Ausangate and Salcantay, representations of the male and the female. And, up to now, the Andean man consider them as sacred. They are their Apus, gods, guides and protectors.
Arriving at their tops is approaching them. For this reason, before climbing them, you should "pay to the land" so everything goes well and the energy comes from superior beings. The ceremony or rite: "pagapuy" consists of offering coca leaves to the mountains from a high point in the road.
For the Andean Man the mountains are sacred, they are their Apus, their gods, guides and protectors. Arriving at their summits means approaching more to them. For this reason, they are their Apus, gods, guides and protectors. Arriving at their tops is approaching to them.
For this reason, before climbing them, you should "pay to the land" so everything goes well and the energy comes from superior beings. The ceremony or rite: "pagapuy" consists of offering coca leaves to the mountains from a high point in the road.
Climbing in Cusco is a wonderful experience that approaches to the adventurers with amazing landscapes and ravines that seem to get lost in the horizon. The snowy peaks in Cusco are hardly visited but arriving there is a great adventure and an opportunity to have contact with the local communities.
Cusco offers two extraordinary chain of mountains : Vilcanota and Vilcabamba. We find there snowy peaks considered sacred such as the Ausangate (6372 m.a.s.l.) and the Salcantay (6271 m.a.s.l.). And other like the Veronica (5850 m.a.s.l.), the Qollpa (6100 m.a.s.l.), the Jatunhuma (6093 m.a.s.l.), the Jatunriti (6,106 m.a.s.l.) and the Callangate (6,110 m.a.s.l.) If you prefer easier areas we recommend you to visit the Sacred Valley where you will find the Chicon (5600 m.a.s.l.) and the Sahuasiray (5,777 m.a.s.l.), among others.
The Chain of Mountains of Vilcabamba where we find the strong Salcantay in a beautiful and lonely area. Dominated by the Apu Salcantay, it has numerous high snowy peaks such as the Tucarhuay (5910 m.a.s.l.), the Veronica (5682 m.a.s.l.) and the Huacayhuilca (5361 m.a.s.l.), among others. All of them are visible from the area of Puyupatamarca along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. The geography is hard and fanciful in all the borders of this attractive complex of mountains. The Salcantay is surrounded by deep valleys and ravines which create an interesting as well as exhausting trip.
There are two possibilities to go around the strong mountain. The first circuit starts at 88km (B2) by the railway leading to Machu Picchu (marking the beginning of the Inca Trail). After walking for about four hours from Urubamba river we take a detour in the village of Huayllabamba (B2). The second possibility starts at Mollepata (D2), and then both paths join at the creek between the snowy peaks of Salcantay (C2) and Humantay. From this point, there is only one path passing by Colcapampa (C1) and arriving up to Santa Teresa (A1) near the archaeological remains of Machu Picchu (A2).
As it is at 2803 m.a.s.l., Mollepata allows us to go up gradually towards the Salcantay. Along the path we observe herds of auquenidos. After going a little higher it is possible to admire an amazing pyramidal view of the Salcantay: one of the most beautiful snowy peaks in Cusco. From Mollepata we walk down two days up to Huayllabamba so then we can join the second day of the Inca Trail.
How to go
The coaches from Cusco to Mollepata leave very early and pass by Limatambo (C3). We suggest you to visit the fortress of Tarahuasi. From the road we can observe the Apurimca river and part of its cannon. Remember that the area is cold and it is up to 5000 m.a.s.l. At Mollepata, Victor Delgado and his family offer services of guides and porters. If you are planning to perform the circuit Mollepata-Santa Teresa, it is necessary to take food for six days.
The most important snowy peaks and hills of this area are:
- Chaupiloma hill (5339 m.a.s.l.)
- Amparay Hill (5418 m.a.s.l.)
- Soray Hill (5428 m.a.s.l.)
- Humantay Snowy peak (5917 m.a.s.l.)
- Salcantay snowy peak (6264 m.a.s.l.)
- Palcay snowy peak (5422 m.a.s.l.)
- Ocomba snowy peak (5126 m.a.s.l.)
- Moyoc snowy peak (5210 m.a.s.l.)
- Huayanay snowy peak (5188 m.a.s.l.)
- Esquina snowy peak (5024 m.a.s.l.)
- Bonanta snowy peak (5319 ma.a.s.l.)
- Huacayhuilca snowy peak (5361 m.a.s.l.)
- Marconi snowy peak (about 5319 m.a.s.l.)
- Veronica snowy peak (5682 m.a.s.l.)
The chain of Mountains of the Ausangate situated in the Vilcanota is one of the most desolate and fantastic high Andean areas in Peru.
The Ausangate is the most representative mountain in the Andes of Cusco. It is part of a strong group of mountains whose tops reach up to 6 372 ms.a.s.l. The turquoise lagoons, large fields and stone forests become the area into a moon paradise completely separated from the modern world. Walking around Ausangate is an fantastic adventure in which it is possible to get amazed in front of such beautiful sunset and eternal snow. You often find needles of rocks going up to more than five thousand meters high and also pieces of ice falling giddily and forming glacial lagoons.
The circuit of the Ausangate is one of the most important attractions in Cusco, however it is hardly visited.
How to get
The Chain of Mountains of the Vilcanota is leaded by the imposing Apu Ausangate that at its 6 372 m.a.s.l. is often seen from the fortress of Sacayhuaman in the high part of the city of Cusco. To get to the chain of mountains you need to take a truck or bus from Cusco up the town of Ocongate. From there, following the difficult road to Puerto Maldonado you arrive at the village of Tinqui. There we recommend you to look for Cirilo Peņa, notable inhabitant of the village, who is a guide and a porter during the circuit of the Ausangate.
Walking eighty kilometers of the circuit to Ausangate takes six days and you can go on horse or on foot. The circuit has a series of attractions that make this place one of the most important tourist areas to go trekking and climbing in Peru. The beautiful snowy peaks, the turquoise glacial lagoons, the ice caverns and thermal waters form part of the wonderful possibilities to enjoy while visiting this place as well as the opportunity to meet kind and nice peasants from those little villages.
The circuit has two levels of altitude, one is at 5100 m.a.s.l. so it is important to acclimatize in the city of Cusco previously. You will walk about four or five hours each day. In Apis, campsite of the first day, as well as in Pacchanta, at the end, it is possible to enjoy some thermal waters. Deep down at more than 40 degrees you can enjoy rewarding hot weather in an very cold external atmosphere that gets five centigrade degrees at the sunset. In Pacchanta, we suggest you to visit Mister Lucio who wearing traditional clothes has installed the first minimarket with delivery service for all the inhabitants that go to the thermal waters and do not want to go out of that warm place.
The isolation of the region contributes to keep that atmosphere of authenticity in the andean customs. There is not a place in Cusco like here where you can find such beautiful and colorful typical clothes. The traditional ponchos and chullos as well as sophisticated cloths used every day become all together into an important attraction.
Most of the people speak Quechua and hardly understand Spanish. Agriculture is performed intensively and it is concentrated in the production of a great variety of tubers among which the oca and the potato are outstanding. Numerous auquenidos may be observed along the circuit, offering an especial touch to the local landscape.
The Coyllur Riti
The population of the chain of mountains Vilcanota is proud of its devotion to the Coyllur Riti (in Quechua quyllur rit'i"snow of stars"). It is one of the most crowded religious festivities in the country. The worship to the Lord of Snow is celebrated every year during the first days of June and always with full moon. The festivity takes place in the valley of Sinacara, in front of the Apu Ausangate. The colorful dancers from Paucartambo and the pilgrims enter the glacial to pray making this celebration a unique and spectacular rite.
Some of the important snowy peaks of this area are:
-Snowy peak of the Inca (about 5,700 m.a.s.l.)
- Sorimani snowy peak (about 5,250 m.a.s.l.)
-Queullacocha snowy peak (4,958 m.a.s.l.)
- Ausangate snowy peak (6,372 m.a.s.l.)
-Santa Catalina snowy peak (5,808 m.as.l.)
-Yanacaca snowy peak (about 5,550 m.a.s.l.)
-Puca Punta snowy peak (about 5,500 m.a.s.l.)
-Colque Cruz snowy peak (5,960 m.a.s.l.)
-Pico Tres snowy peak (6,093 m.a.s.l.)
-Huayrurupuncu snowy peak (about 5,400 m.a.s.l.)
-Comercocha snowy peak (about 5,400 m.a.s.l.)
-Quillita snowy peak (5,396 m.a.s.l.)
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