Abra Suijo

Tanta to Casapalca (PGD part 4)

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In this two-day stretch of a road towards the busy carretera central I am saying final goodbye to Reserva Paisajistica Nor Yauyos-Cochas. But what a beautiful goodbye it is.

September 4

After I get breakfast at Tanta I am ready to do some foot work (and happy it is pedalling and not trekking). With the forecast predicting some evening storms I have a rather hard schedule before me. Especially because it looks like the rainy season is slowly knocking on the door and I am still far away from major attractions of Cordillera Blanca and Huayhuash.

The day starts along Laguna Paucarcocha ...
... with nice views over Cordillera Pariacaca
Looking back at Tanta
Laguna Paucarcocha is really big

Leaving Tanta I head around Laguna Paucarcocha I start climbing. Not a long afterwards I am getting my first treat of the day -- exceptional views of Laguna Peticocha (Laguna Chuspi on OpenStreet Maps) together with the snowy peaks of Cordillera Pariacaca.

Views get again exciting around Laguna Peticocha
Laguna Peticocha
You could literally die looking at the mountains here
Looking back from the climb to Abra Suijo

The ascent then continues in somewhat funny fashion as if I was climbing some big stairs -- the road alternates between short very steep sections and long rather flat ones. The views over Cordillera Pariacaca are breathtaking the whole time so I can't complain. Or maybe I can. Damn icy wind!

Me, car road/tracks and a perfect scenery. Everything I can wish for!
Pointy peaks seem to be a theme around here
While the other side doesn't have the raw beauty of peaks and glacier it is nevertheless very beautiful

The ascent steps stop when I finally reach the Abra Suijo (4710m) which opens another set of amazing views, this time over Laguna Suyoc.

Finishing the last part to Abra Suijo ...
... I find myself just above a beautiful Laguna Suyoc
Zooming in on the glaciers
Black & white
Smaller lagoon just next to Laguna Suyoc. You can see the road from Abra Suijo.

Descent from Abra Suijo probably has exceptional views. I say probably because I wasn't exactly looking around too much -- the road is (for Peru) surprisingly miserable with lots of rather loose rocks. I almost (but only almost) fell two times from the bike!

Descent from Abra Suijo. I do not remember much of it because I was paying too close attention to the rocky road.
On the way I get a glimpse of Laguna Tototral
Almost at the lowpoint

Descent ends at 4150m where I join another road and start the final climb of the day. The road starts quite okay-ish but progressively gets steeper and I am getting more tired as well. All in all, the ascent is tiring and I have to push a few times as well. The hard work is rewarded by beautiful valley views though.

Because my prediction of passing the pass is just inbetween when I normally camp and sunset I decide to quit the day early. There is no point in going higher, I am at 4680m so the night will be anyway cold. Moreover, the clouds do not look too optimistic either. However, finding a good camping spot in a middle of a particularly steep ascent with lots of switchbacks isn't exactly an easy job. Fortunately, I come across a switchback which is wide enough that there is basically an unused space by cars (at least according to all tyre tracks). This is where I squeeze my tent.

With my tent standing I follow with dinner preparation. Just when I am eating soup a car with a very friendly family appears. They seem to be quite in a shock that I want to camp this high. It takes me a lot of effort to convince them that I do not need new scarf which they want to give me. As they really want to give me something they find caramelos. Of course I can't say no to this ;-) Just as they leave a hail storm starts, I have to finish my soup inside the tent.

With the climb the scenery changes from glaciers into more traditional views
You believed my previous comment? I got you! Cordillera Pariacaca doesn't want to give up so easily
The climb to Punta Ushuayca doesn't disappoint
If glaciers aren't your thing there is plenty other scenery
After a bit of hail I look out of my tent. It seems that the lower part of the valley was quite hit.

September 5

With the chilly night I am waking up into a chilly morning. The Sun doesn't want to show itself. To be true, half of the sky is clear. Unfortunately, the east side is quite overcast which destroys otherwise perfect views of the nearby glacier.

Switchbacks are sometimes a source of decent camping spots.
Looking at the valley below

Being just 250m below Punta Ushuayca pass (4920m) I quickly finish yesterday's job (although it definitely feels like ages). The top of the pass provides some spectacular views both on the ascent and descent side.

Somewhat steep ascent follows
On the way there is an interesting mountain
Moments like this get you into a perfect schizophrenia. On one side I am "wow". On the other side I am "damn it, I am not at the top yet?"
Looking the ascent side from Punta Ushuayca

From Punta Ushuayca a very long (over 30km) and chilly descent starts. Given the length this takes quite some time, especially because the road quality reminds me of a yesterday. The descent starts with an otherwordly views which are just hard to describe -- raw and beautiful mountainscape all around. But even in this land of nobody I can see traces of human habitation. Herders' hut here and there, or a lone house. As I descend further a big lake comes to the view. Well, I learn a bit later that it is artifficial though -- welcome to represa Yuracmayo and a village with the same name. The village is practically a ghosttown though.

Descent looks beautiful as well
Views like this leave me speachless
Giant sawtooth
Last glimpses of glaciers of Cordillera Pariacaca

From Yuracmayo the descent flattens and there is even a bit of a climb until the road drops steeply again. I zoom down past Chocna Pata until I end up on a main road just next to Rio Blanco. From there a nasty ascent on Carretera central awaits me -- the road isn't very wide (and there is no shoulder) but there are tons of trucks, buses or cars with all their drivers trying to show me how close they can pass without hitting me. Basically, if there is one road in the Andes you should never take, it is this one (and maybe the one between Cusco and Abancay but you can avoid that one).

Represa Yuracmayo
After Yuracmayo the descent flattens
The river soon cuts deeply into the rock

To top up my annoyance with the road I am now only 1600-1700m above the sea level. In other words, when the clouds clear it becomes real hot. I quickly suspend my torture in Chicla where I stop by the first restaurant I see besides the road. Caldo and not that stellar meat course and my spirits are a bit more up and ready to tackle the road. So I continue drudging along the road, past an entrace to some big mining complex until I hit a junction off the main road. Here I decide to take an alternative towards Casapalca where there should be some hostel.

This turns out to be a rather "longcut" wat of getting to Casapalca. I expected that the road will take me to the village (alhough Pikes' notes seem to hint hostels on the road). Well, in reality Casapalca is a huge mining complex together with housing. It doesn't take me too long to realize this and that I am heading there. The village itself is built along the main road and looks a bit small-ish. What this means for me is that I end up on the other side of the valley and have to take a detour to join the main road just to return down the road. Well, at least I exchanged 3 busy uphill kilometers with more less-busy ones. In Casapalca it doesn't take long before I find a hospedaje. It even has WiFi, something that I did not expect in a small village like this. And just next to it is a good restaurant which means very happy end of the day.

Route

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Download simplified GPX of a route here

Stats by activity:

Activity Distance
(km)
Ascent
(km)
Pedal rotations
(thousands)
bike 94 2.2 26
Stats by day:
Date Distance
(km)
Ascent
(km)
Avg. temp
(moving, C)
Sept. 4, 2017 37.6 1.03 15.3
Sept. 5, 2017 56.8 1.14 13.9

Elevation data

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The next table is only for cycling activity.

Grade(%)Ascent (km)Descent(km)
< 2 17.7
< 4 5.1 6.3
< 6 7.9 4.8
< 8 5.4 3.6
< 10 1.6 3.8
≥ 10 1.8 6.7

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