The Ausangate Classic Trek

7 Days / 6 Nights, all camping. Private Trekking

High altitude trek, never lower than 4000 m above sea level and replete with breathtaking vistas. A rigorous, remote, yet culturally rich outdoor experience, this mountain circuit is a timeless pilgrimage.

DAY 1: Cusco to Tinqui
We drive about four hours on a newly upgraded highway to Tinqui (4,000m), a village on the high plains east of Cusco. During the second half of the journey we frequently glimpse the mighty snow peak of Ausangate thrusting above the skyline ahead of us. The day ends with a short walk to our first camp near Tinqui. (Lunch, Dinner)

Day 2: Tinqui to Upis
We begin our trek at Tinqui on the north side of the Ausangate massif, enjoying moderate hiking over rolling grasslands on this first day. This is a wide open landscape scattered with thatch-roofed hamlets, where we encounter roaming herds of llamas and alpacas, along with reserved but welcoming Quechua herders. As we approach the snow-capped massif of Ausangate, which now fills the horizon ahead of us, black-and-white mountain caracara, black-chested eagles and Andean lapwings wheel and call in the thin sky. By afternoon we are stepping across rounded hummocks of tough vegetation amidst wetlands teeming with glossy ibis, Andean geese and multitudes of ducks, coots and grebes. Our camp awaits us at the hot springs of Upis, where we can soak as the evening light turns pink on the snows of Ausangate. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

DAY 3: Upis to Pucacocha
We head up a rocky valley, colorful with lichens, crisscrossing rushing mountain streams as we ascend. Ausangate’s massive slopes loom above us as we reach the first pass of Arapa, on the west flank of Ausangate, at 4,700m. The terrain is bare, windswept, washed with delicate shades of purple, deep red and pale green mineral oxides. We cross the watershed and descend, working our way around the contours of the mountain, and threading our way between a series of wine-hued, turquoise and deep blue glacier-fed lakes, divided by soaring rock outcrops and joined by plunging waterfalls. At day’s end we reach kilometer-long Pucacocha, where huge glaciers crack and roar as they dump ice into the lake. We camp on the gentle slopes of its south shore. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

DAY 4: Pucacocha to Huchuy Finaya
Striking out towards the rising sun with the shining flanks of Ausangate on our left, we climb gently to a small, rocky pass. Below us we see the turquoise waters of Ausangatecocha, and beyond it the zigzag ascent to Palomani, the next pass. We skirt a crystal clear, aquamarine mineral pond and pick our way around huge moraines to reach the base of this stairway to heaven -- a tough but spectacularly rewarding climb that brings us within hailing distance of the mountain’s icy fringes. From the pass, at 5,100m/16,730ft, we encounter stunning new vistas of the snow-capped Vilcanota range, with the vibrant crimson talus slopes of Puca Punta spread out ahead of us. We descend into a broad valley, to camp among the corrals and alpaca herds of Huchuy Finaya. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

DAY 5: Huchuy Finaya to Ninaparayo
We climb gently up the Jampa side valley, crisscrossing a stream, and passing ancient rockfalls where Andean vizcachas -- large rabbit-like rodents -- leap among the boulders. On this less-populous southern side of the mountain our chances of seeing wildlife are heightened. Condors skim along the slopes, and elusive herds of rare vicuñas may appear on the ridge tops, while keeping a safe distance. Beyond the tiny hamlet of Jampa we traverse a huge, grassy shoulder of Ausangate with the icy crags of Collque Cruz (Silver Cross) and Tres Picos (Triple Peaks) to our right, as we ascend to Jampa pass (5,000m/16,400ft), our fourth and final crossing. The high point is marked by tall cairns (apachetas) built by generations of foot travelers making the north-south traverse of the Vilcanota range. We descend with the broad, rolling plains of the upper Mapacho basin spread out far below us, reaching our camp at the cluster of mountain lakes known as Ninaparayoc (Rain of Fire), as evening draws near. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

DAY 6: Ninaparayoc to Pacchanta
We leave this spectacular camp reluctantly, with many a glance back. These lonely lakes, some deep and crystal clear, others shallow and bubbling with exotic algae, lie beneath sharp, towering peaks. Powerful yet peaceful, it is easy to understand how this became a place of ceremony for the Quechua shamans of the region. We follow a series of rolling ridges across open grassland, encountering child shepherds and women hand-spinning wool as we approach the village of Pacchanta, the largest settlement on our trek. Here delightful hot springs offer us a sublime soak, with the entire panorama of snow-capped Ausangate filling the southern horizon. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

DAY 7: Pacchanta to Cusco
An easy, three-hour walk across open fields allows us our final close views of Ausangate, and brings us back to the village of Tinqui, where we meet our transport and begin the return journey to Cusco. (Breakfast, Lunch)


Ausangate Classic Trek      2014
7 Days / 6 Nights, all camping.
Daily Departures, year-round.     Private Trekking
Price per person
2 3 4 - 6 7 - 9 Single Supp
$ 2945 $ 2130 $ 1842 $ 1268 $156
Does NOT require an Inca Trail Permit