Lares Trek – Unguided, quite literally

All packed and nowhere to go, well almost, we parked the truck in Ollantaytambo and took a couple collectivos to Huaran (changed in Urubamba) only to find that none of the GPX data had actually transferred to our GPS. Shame on us for not checking, and for not writing out a few basic instructions for ourselves, however fear not we did have a map.

After confirming with a few locals we headed up a dirt road past Green House Cafe and B&B towards Cancha Cancha. The road eventually petered out and turned into a trail, we passed an organized tour and felt confident we were on the right track, even if rather oddly our map put the trail on the opposite side of the river. The trail up to Cancha Cancha led up the valley climbing 1000m with a snow capped peak tantalizingly in the distance.   After a quick lunch stop we hit the trail once again only it had now become considerably less distinct, if doing this when you pass the school cross the football pitch but do not take the bridge across the river instead stay to the left of the valley, as you leave the village the trail will become clearer.  Eventually we reached the campsite for the tour group, it was not terribly inspiring so we pushed on to a series of glacier lakes a few hundred meters higher. We eventually found Azulcocha and set up camp just in time to beat the impending hail storm.

We woke up surrounded by spectacular scenery, and then spent the next 2 hours exploring the glacial basin. Whilst it was beautiful it was not the plan, we couldn’t find the pass, the map had it to the left of lake, but after wandering alpaca tracks up precarious inclines we slumped down dejected on the mountainside. We were discussing giving up, then Heather spotted a mule train on the RIGHTHAND side of the basin, the piece of shit map (Lima 2000 series of maps) again had inverted the actual location of the trail. We crossed a boulder field and headed straight up towards the trail, it was a hard slog. There was a faint trail from the lakes had we known but the main trail leads up from the group campsite hugging the right side of the valley.  The incline to the pass when not climbing boulder fields is quite gentle. At 4,700m it would be our highest point of the trek unfortunately snow had moved in so the views at the top were limited. After walking for half an hour or so in the clouds we began to descend and views of the valley below began to open up. The trail to the village of Quishuarani was easy enough to follow, it was only 2pm so we decided to press on. The trail out of town is not super obvious, we had to ask a couple of people, essentially it is to the left of the football pitch (yes that seems to be a navigational marker for this trek). The map had the pass at 4200m, unsurprisingly we climbed above that and were nowhere near the top of the pass, however we did arrive at another beautiful glacier lake, so decided to set up camp for the night.  The night may have been cold but it was also clear so we were treated to spectacular views of the milky way.

The next morning we shook the ice off the tent and headed up the pass, staying the right of the lake. The views from the top (actually at 4458m) were spectacular. A good trail led down into the next valley past more glacier lakes (on the left) to an outcropping of buildings. As you get closer to the buildings the trail peters out, stay to the right of the valley behind the houses, eventually the trail reappears as you descend and pass a waterfall. We eventually descended into the town of Cuncani from there we had the choice of following the road to Lares or crossing the river and following a trail. We chose the trail, initially it was obvious and beautiful as it meandered large glacially deposited boulders. Eventually however it became less pretty and less obvious so in the interests if time we opted to rejoin the road. About 4km from Lares the rain and hail caught up with us again fortunately 1km before town we managed to find a collectivo that would take us to Calca. After a beautiful drive to Calca we made our way back to Ollantaytambo.  There we treated ourselves a big dinner and an early night.

Categories: Hiking, Peru, Trails, TravelTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Your navigation — despite the inaccurate map — was commendable. Scenery in your photos is simply spectacular! The change in weather and topography as you climbed is extraordinary. What a wonderful life opportunity!


  2. Talk about ‘the road less travelled’! You managed to experienced all 4 seasons in a couple of days, glad to see how prepared you were. Pics are gorgeous! You will soon have your photo book ‘Cartwheels around South America’ ready for publication. xo


  3. Lovely photos and great one of you and Heather you look so happy ,and pleased to see that altitude doesn’t stop the cart wheels love you both the envious one x x x

    Sent from my iPad



  4. Stunning photos as usual, I loved the varying scenery and weather, though I did shudder at thought of shaking ice off tent , you both look so happy despite dealing with terrible maps ….. Obviously you are doing what you love ! xxxxx


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