Looking for the road (or mountain route) less traveled? Reflections on a memorable trip to Quebrada Qishqi
Tired of contending with crowds of people on commercial routes in the mountains when all you want is a little serenity and the feeling that you're experiencing a piece of pristine nature that few have seen before? One of the advantages of planning a trip with a private guide is that you usually have more flexibility to tailor your trip to avoid crowds because your guide will be able to suggest areas less frequently travelled or ideal times to visit them. Some guides, like Peter, are even amenable to doing exploratory trips, and that is exactly how he came to discover the charms of Quebrada Qishqi following a less-traveled path with one of his clients.
Panpacocha Lake and Mururaju
In 2019, one of Peru Andes Guide's guests, Craig, inspired a private program that would involve exploring an area not frequented by others in order to accomplish his epic climbing goals. We decided on the south side of the Cordillera Blanca, which has some mountains and valleys that are rarely visited by climbers. We prepared our gear and planned the logistics to be out between the deep valleys that rise to 5,800 meters. We drove for 3 hours on a bumpy road to reach a spot where we set up our base camp near the Laguna Qishqiqucha at 4,260m. We did a few day hikes around the place to acclimatize to the altitude, as well as exploring the terrain and the mountains. It was a good time spent identifying where to enter each peak's glacier. The Qishqi valley is an amazing location full of flora and fauna. Walking through its hilly landscape between Andean grass and mountain flowers, we came upon the beautiful Puya Raimondi, which is around 10 meters tall and is able to produce anywhere from 8,000 to 14,000 flowers in the span of 50 to 100 years before ending its lifecycle. There are several turquoise-coloured lakes filled up with glacier water that is running downhill, forming beautiful water falls full of life. The mountain snow slopes run all the way down to the mountain bottom, calling for the right climber to climb up to its top and experience the incredible 360 degrees panoramic view over the horizon. On this trip, we climbed a few mountain slopes such as Queshque south (5,400m), Pamparaju (5,500m), and Mururaju (5,688m). The first two slopes involved easy glacier travel with some switch backs, a few surrounding crevasses, and snow bridges to cross. Mururaju’s glacier offers more climbing with 50 to 60 degree slopes and some ridge walking where we did some short roping. Despite being an arduous day on Mururaju, the rewarding summit view made all the effort worthwhile. Craig was overall satisfied with the peaceful and pleasant climbing in the area. There are still a couple of peaks such as Queshque (5,650m) and Jatunllacsa (5,600m) that are a bit more technical terrain, which involves doing several multi-pitches to get its summits with slopes angling at 50 to 70 degrees.
Base camp - Pamparaju behind and to the left Queshque and Jatunllacsa.