Quebrada Ishinca! Let’s do this!
The Rio Santa: 2850meters. 9350 feet.
Refugio Ishinca: 4390meters. 14,403 feet.
Paltay (the Rio Santa) to the Refugio Ishinca: roughly 12 miles.
Only a crazy person would set out to accomplish such a day as this. Clearly, I made a gringa mistake.
I caught a combi from Huaraz to Paltay (20 minutes) and expected to catch a combi up the road to Huillac, where the trailhead for the Quebrada Ishinca is located (and from there its 6 miles to the Refugio Ishinca and a third of the elevation gain). I mean, there are towns up there, and there’s a road. Therefore, one would expect combis to travel the road.
I even asked the Quechua women sitting next to the road in Paltay if there are combis that run up the road. They said yes.
It was hot, so I figured I would just start walking and a combi would pick me up along the way. Looking at the terraced hillside to the north.
After an hour of walking, I figured I would either get lucky or not, but regardless, I had to keep walking. Growing flowers!
An hour and a half later, my pack was stuck to my back because I was sweating so much. My train of thought regarding shorts versus pants was interrupted when a Quechua man walked by me.
I asked him about the combis. He told it to me straight. There are only 2 combis a day, one early in the morning and one in the afternoon.
We chatted as we walked up the steep dusty road and after a while he continued on his way.
Finally, some hours later, I could at least see the entrance to the Quebrada, way the hell up there and too far. See the road on the right, the dip in the horizon above that is the entrance…
I entered the Quebrada at 12:30pm or so. Not a single car, combi, or driving machine passed me (going either direction) as I was on the road. It took me a while to find the trailhead, but once I did, I ascended for another while through grassy muck and finally reached the steep Quebrada walls. Midday.
Ok, let’s start hiking for real, now that the APPROACH is over.
This is a seccia (spelling?) — it brings the glacial water from the rivers in the mountains down through the campos in the highlands to the cities at the base of the valley. People drink this water, they wash their dishes in it, they do their laundry in it, they throw their trash in it. It’s multifunctional.
The trail paralleled the river. It was a-rushin’.
Looking up at the steep walls of the Quebrada. Oh, the climbing potential!
Finally I broke out from the forested river walk and into the valley. Looking back (west)!
Looking in (east)! First view of the southern flank of Tocclaraju.
Well, I’ll be. This ain’t so bad after all. Tocclaraju, clear of clouds.
Once I entered the Quebrada, I didn’t see a soul…save for cows and horses and donkeys. My original plan was to camp way up high at Lago Ishinca, but after the double day in one already I called it good at the Refugio Ishinca.
Arrived at 4:30 or so and had the tent up and and was slurping an afternoon dinner of top ramen when the rain started. It didn’t really even start. It was just all of a sudden happening. With deafening thunder and lightning illuminating the inside of my tent, I finished my soup and went to bed. At 7:00pm.