Trail to Llicococha

Ticlla trek

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Trek around Nevado Ticlla is an expectionally beautiful activity in Cordillera Yauyos. And quite an underground affair -- the number of relevant Google search results can be counted on fingers of your hands. Fortunately, there is a great book The Andes: A Trekking Guide by Cathy and John Biggar describing this trek. And while the book itself is out of print, it is scanned by Google books and I was fortunate to be able to access all the relevant pages (Note: Google seems to restrict the number of preview pages of books so it usually doesn't pay off to scroll too much around for the fun of it). So, equipped with a guide text and a GPS map which doesn't have any trails I set off to explore this part of Peru.

August 30

Still with bicycle I am finishing the last 10 kilometers to Tanta. There I find a hospedaje which is also willing to watch over my things for the next 5-6 days. While I am re-packing things from my panniers to a backpack I figure out that my thermal throusers are gone -- I have a hazy memory of changing in Baňos del Inca and hanging them on the back of the bike. I guess I just forget to pack them afterwards.

My house for the night
I quickly spin uphill to Laguna Paucarcocha
Soon mountains from Cordillera Pariacaca reveal themselves
Unfortunately, I am not heading in their direction
Laguna Paucarcocha

When I finally pack I am quite unsure whether this trek is a good idea. I mean, I don't really have the best equipment for hiking -- two bulky sleeping bags, heavy and huge tent,

voluminous foldable sleeping mat and food for 6 days take quite a lot more space than my backpack can handle. I am therefore figuring out some way to distribute the things and to attach the tent outside.

With the backpack ready I first set off the the main square. Here I figure out that Tanta must be having some festival -- a brass orchestra is making itself heard. Instead of hanging around too much I quickly find a restaurant for lunch, buy some bread (and attach it just hanging in a bag from the backpack) and set off for the adventure.

Tanta
There is some festival going on at the main square
I quickly spot the main source of all the ruckus

The route first goes on a loose-gravel road which turns itself into a trail which turns itself into ... well nothing as I slowly climb the wide valley. By now I am really starting to wonder whether the trek was a good idea. The backpack is getting heavy on my shoulders and to make it worse I now need to "dance" around some wetland minefield considering that my shoes are far from waterproof. To top up the level up I also have to tackle a minor river so there is no option left just to take off my shoes for the crossing.

Cordillera Pariacaca as seen from Tanta
The trek starts on a decent road
I quickly leave Tanta behind
And head towards new mountains
Time to get my boots off

Then I ascent slow wide valley towards Laguna Piscocoha which is my planned camping point. However, I reach Piscococha a bit sooner than expected and so I decide to continue walking uphill towards Quebrada Llicococha. Looking back I have nice views of the lagoon, looking forward there are some impressive mountains around. While not Ticlla yet, these mountains have also plenty of glaciers.

The trail is climbing only very slowly
It is hard to concentrate on the trail when you have this in your sight
Laguna Piscococha
My favourite game -- seeing whether my foot will sink down into the bog if I make a step
Nevado Jatunpauca
Yet another amazing mountain

August 31

The morning is quite cold because Sun is hiding somewhere behind clouds. To make matters more chilly a wind plays around my tent. Finally, around 8am the Sun comes out and I pack my campsite though the tent is still a bit wet -- I want to start as soon as possible because before me lies quite a hard day. According to my guide I have about 6 hours of planned trekking across the highest pass of the whole route -- 5050m. Moreover, I am still carrying basically all my food so the backpack is damn heavy. The plan is to see whether I can manage to keep official times but in any case I should be able to get to the other side of the pass.

My campsite above Piscococha
So this is how my monstrously big backpack looks like. I am extra proud of the tent-attaching system (TM)

I continue steady but slow ascent through the valley towards laguna Llicococha using an ad-hoc path. A few kilometers before the lagoon I finally get to know the Ticlla -- an impressive mountain that is the central point around which this trek revolves. Walking around some wetlands I arrive at the lagoon together with the time plan and prepare for the tough ascent which follows.

Hiking up Quebrada Llicococha
Finally, I get first views of Ticlla
Laguna Llicococha

The ascent to the pass is quite hard. The trail is very steep and I need frequent breaks. These are used to look around the incredible scenery -- Ticlla on one side, the valley I came through on other side and the steep pass before me. There is even a second small lagoon about halfway through the climb. From there the views get more rough with rocky texture.

From Llicococha there is steep uphill. Fortunately there are enough photo-taking breaks to catch my breath
Hmm, when did I manage to climb this high?
There is a small lagoon on the way to the pass

When I finally reach top of the pass (at about 5050m) the views to the other side doesn't disappoint. There isn't much time to enjoy them though -- while my original plan was to have a big lunch up here I am learning that the pass isn't exactly the right place for extended stays as it is a focal point of a rather strong chilly wind.

The other side of the pass

The descent starts in a very steep fashion and I need a lot of effort to maintain balance on a scree with my slippery shoes. Fortunately, this flattens a bit after a while. Walking further I find myself overviewing Quebrada Cutunia and it is finally time for the lunch.

There are always interesting mountains to look at
After filling my belly I continue wakling down into the valley
Ticlla view #2

After lunch I continue walking down into the quebrada where I get another chance of seeing Ticlla, this time from a different angle. As I arrive at the suggested camping spot with a decent headroom I decide to make a side trip to Lagunas Uman. I leave my backpack at the junction of valleys and head up under Uman mountain. I walk past some cows until I can spot the impressive lagoons.

I make a detour towards Uman lagunas
Lagunas Uman
These are some interesting rock-patterns

Getting to the second lagoon I decide it is the prime time to hike back. The return trip takes me about the same time even though it is generally downhill -- by now I am getting really tired and my legs are screaming to me "you already did almost 20km, do you seriously need to walk anymore?". So I return to my backpack (which is quite well masked -- with its rain protection it looks almost like another rock) and finish the day not far from here.

Night view from the campsite

September 1

Oh wow! These are my first words as I look outside of my tent -- contrary to previous days the sky is perfect clear and I have amazing morning views. This doesn't mean the morning is completely trouble free -- in the short time I go to the toilet cows attack my campsite. Ok, attack is probably a bit too strong. But they are damn curious and one manages to trip over all my tea.

When I open doors of my tent in the morning I am just stunned by the scenery

With things packed I plan for about 7 hours of walking -- I decided to join two days from the trek guide because I do not need to detour thorugh Miraflores which saves quite some time. I first continue down the valley Quebrada Huayllacancha. Here I am meeting first people since Tanta -- they are cow herders going about their business. The valley gets progressively steeper and more difficult to hike. Fortunately, there is a wide though rocky path that I can use.

I continue walking down the valley
The valley quickly sharpens though
By now I am really happy that there is a clear path
Way towards Miraflores. I am skipping this detour and instead launch head on into ascent

Somewhat tired from the steep descent I am happy to join Quebrada Tomapampa where I again have to work against gravity. Moreover I am losing path and walk in an ad-hoc style towards cow pastures around Ancacucho where there are some very annoying flies. My ad-hoc route leads me through a bunch of big rocks which are a bit difficult to get through. Tired of climbing over the rocks I take a lunch with spectacular views over east face of Ticlla.

I walk more or less ad-hoc through Quebrada Tomapampa
Ancacucho opens new views ...
... with some horses ...
... and a rather spectacular Ticlla view
Before lunch I had to tackle this rock field

From Ancacucho there is steep climb to my second pass en route. This one is "only" 4750m and easier to negotiate than the previous one. Meanwhile the clouds appear on the sky so it gets colder.

Views on the climb from Ancacucho
There are definitely many choices where to look at
The pass itself

With the pass done I am slowly descending towards Laguna Huascacocha. A bit before the lagoon Ticlla again reappears in my sight and I am again surprised by how nice looking is this big mountain. Mountains and lagoons aside I am meeting another two locals -- they overtake me, one on a horse and second one walking with dogs. It seems that today is quite busy with people ;-)

Laguna Huascacocha
Not Ticlla
But this one is definitely Ticlla

Full of Ticlla views I continue trekking slightly downhill along Laguna Huascacoha. By now my progress is again very slow (my legs are threatening with a full-out strike and my shoulders aren't in much better mood). Fortunately my planned campsite is just at the end of the lagoon. Unfortunately, this lagoon isn't exactly tiny -- I am walking a full hour (3kms) until I reach its end.

I think it is time to get my legs rewarded. The rewards is a bit radical though -- as I am crossing the outflow of the lagoon I manage to end up in the stream. To be more precise, a rather huge rock I tried to stand on suddenly gives away. It is therefore quite a miracle that I somehow manage to keep my balance and "only" standing in the river -- if I managed to trip completely it would be a total disaster as the night is quickly approaching and wet clothes plus sleeping bag(s) are not a survival tactic.

With wet feet I continue walking for a few more minutes and finally set up the camp. I get into tent and subsequently chance into dry socks just as the Sun says goodbye and the air gets chilly. But before that I have another set of impressive views, this time over Nevado Llongote.

Nevado Llongote

September 2

Today decides whether I can trek this circuit in 5 or 6 days -- if I manage to hike a 7 hour segment to Laguna Ticllacocha I could finish the hike tomorrow. But this means hiking through two passes.

I start the day by climbing from Huascacocha around a mountain to another valley (Quebrada Suero). I have beautiful views over Nevado Llongote. After passing a corner and losing views of Nevado Llongote I slightly descent towards Quebrada Suero.

Climb towards Quebrada Suero
Last looks at Laguna Huascacocha and Llongote
Quebrada Suero
Local flora
Peruvian technological breakthrough -- WiFi enabled lichens
Climb from Quebrada Suero
More of local flora

The climb then continues in a semi-ad-hoc road towards my first pass of the day. As I climb uphill the grass slowly gives up and instead the final part to the pass is more like Atacama desert. With the climb done I look around and realize that this is an expectionally beautiful place with a panoramic view over Ticlla and its pre-mountains -- basically, a great place for a lunch.

Laguna Suero
A bit higher I can also see Nevado Llongote
Local flora #3
The pass reveals nice glacial views
The other side of the pass has more standard but still beautiful views
And then there is this beauty

After lunch the trouble starts. My guidebook says that I should traverse the valley and then climb into a side-valley. However, I take traversing too literally and end up too high and shooting for a wrong pass -- I realize my mistake only when I start to have suspicions about a reasonable access road to the pass I was heading. Sure enough, when I compare text + an overview map from the guidebook with a topo map on my GPS it looks like the correct pass is in a different valley.

My mistake means a rather steep descent down to the quebrada. Just as I am down it looks like it might start snowing. I decide to push on unless it gets really bad. This turns out to be a good decision as the weather clears a bit afterwards.

After I realized my mistake I had to get down to this Quebrada

The climb to the last pass continues bringing trouble. After climbing a rather obvious path towards a small laguna the path disappears completely and so I decide on a total freestyle route using my GPS as a compass. Definitely not the best route at all - at first I steeply climb and the ad-hoc style seems to be reasonable. But then I end up tackling scree and big rocks which makes for very slow and tricky progress. Only in the pass I rejoin some more practical path.

I climb up around this small lagoon. If you do not see a path do not panic -- your eyes are still quite good as I did not see any path either.
Last pass reviews views of Cordillera Pariacaca
Pre-Ticlla mountains
Ticlla on the right

But climbing to the pass doesn't mean I can relieve my muscles. No, they are going to get their final beating of the day on a steep descent towards Laguna Ticlacocha. Path full of rocks my knees are complaining about me continuing further. But then, it is impossible to camp in this steep terrain anyway so I end up finishing the whole route until I get to the north-east part of laguna Ticllacocha. Here I meet a local herder living in a shack. Out of politeness I ask if I can camp around here which is met with a warm affirmation. So after more than 20 kilometers of walking I finally set up my tent for the last time, get the dinner ready and soon enough get into a deep sleep.

I still need to get down to laguna Ticllacocha
Oh, there are actually two lagoons
Detail on cordillera Pariacaca
Ticlla

September 3

Meeting the day with Cordillera Pariacaca in the background

The plan for today is very simple -- first leave the tent and go for an over 10km (return) long sidetrip below Ticlla. After returning I will pack everything and finish the trek by returning to Tanta.

The side-trip leads me around north side of Laguna Ticllacocha and is absolutely stunning. As the road climbs a bit I get an overview of the lagoon. Actually, two lagoons -- there is a smaller lagoon just next to a big one separated by a narrow land bridge. What is interesting is that they are widely different colors -- while the large lagoon is of a standard color, the small lagoon is azure blue indicating it is full of glacial water.

SStart of a sidetrip. Ticlla is hidden behind the mountain on the left
It wouldn't be Peru if there wasn't some red mountain around
Looking towards Tanta. I will be walking this valley later on
Cordillera Pariacaca seems to be holding off some clouds
Outflow of Ticllacocha
Wild goose
Ticllacocha. The pass I descended yesterday is just on the (top-)right

The view of course includes also Ticlla which by now is finally getting some Sun (I am approching the mountain from the west). Sparking white glaciers are exactly how I imagined this side-trip should look like. Finally, there is even a huge waterfall. While I cannot approach it too close it is an impressive view even from the distance.

Not Ticlla yet
But this is definitely Ticlla
Zooming-in it gets even more sexy
Perfect reflection off Ticllacocha

As I get past the land bridge and towards the second lagoon the trail suddenly disappears. I just got to a big grazing field which seems to be unused this year. I need to plow through deep grass until I more or less reach the end of the lagoon and decide to hike back.

Walking a bit more towards the second lagoon. Notice the different colors
The trail disappears with the second lagoon. But then, who would care about small details like that when you have this scenery around?
There is even a big waterfall

Back at the tent I munch on my lunch, pack everything and completely satisfied with the views of the past few days I start hiking last 10 kilometers back to Tanta. The road is flat-ish but this doesn't seem to help my tired legs. On the way I am however meeting yesterday's herder -- somehow he also got an apprentice and now they are leading donkeys to Tanta. For the first 3-4 kilometers we take turns in the lead -- while I am generally slower (with the big packpack and heavy legs from the past days) they need to occasionally tend to the donkeys (or trying to convince them that walking to Tanta is a much better idea than grazing on a green grass).

On the way back I am overtaken by two herdsmen and three donkeys
The scenery is interesting even without Ticlla glaciers
For a while I catch up with the donkey team. Ultimately they win though
The path follows an irrigation channel for a while.
Saying goodbye to glaciers around Ticlla
Wait. I know this scenery. It means that Tanta is getting quite near
I do not remember this good lighting though

Back in Tanta I am hoping for a good shower. Unfortunately, there seems to be a big problem -- there is a village-wide outage of electricity and so there isn't to be a hot shower. I also need to recharge my batteries. As a partial measure I start recharning from my laptop (which I fortunately charged before leaving) so I could survive a day or two more without an electricity. In the late evening the electricity comes back so the charging problem disappears. Unfortunately, my hot shower plan is foiled -- even if I could get the shower now, I would probably freeze the moment I would get out of it.

Trekking notes

  • As a part of the trekking preparation I made this pdf. Note that the material is copyrighted (the book is out-of-print so I do not feel too ashamed for pirating it)
  • The trek can be done starting both from Tanta and Miraflores. If you are cycling PGD then Tanta is an obvious choice
  • The circuit, together with the side trips, can be done in 5 days of hard trekking. Unless you are short on time I would suggest 6-day plan. In fact, I would suggest that you detour to Miraflores -- this way you will need to carry max 3 days of food which would make for a lighter backpack
  • Unless you can secure some IGN/Alpenverein official topo sheet there isn't a good map of the trek. You can follow my GPX track though be warned that some sections are less-then-ideal and you may want your own ad-hoc approach
  • If you have Garmin, I managed to get IGN free data and compile somewhat-topo-resembling map. Download from here. Be warned that in Mapsource/Basecamp the zoomed-out version seems to be shifted (no idea why) so be sure to zoom-in enough for precise planning/coordinates. This shift problem does not seem to affect Garmin units (at least no my Oregon 600).

Route

Loading map...

Download simplified GPX of a route here

Stats by activity:

Activity Distance
(km)
Ascent
(km)
Pedal rotations
(thousands)
bike 11 0.1 3
hike 96 3.0 -
Stats by day:
Date Distance
(km)
Ascent
(km)
Avg. temp
(moving, C)
Aug. 30, 2017 22.5 0.41 13.2
Aug. 31, 2017 21.3 0.59 12.5
Sept. 1, 2017 19.4 0.60 17.0
Sept. 2, 2017 20.5 1.14 13.4
Sept. 3, 2017 23.0 0.34 13.1

Elevation data

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(drag over a region to zoom in, right-click reset)

The next table is only for cycling activity.

Grade(%)Ascent (km)Descent(km)
< 2 5.6
< 4 1.4 0.8
< 6 0.5 0.2
< 8 0.2 0.2
< 10 0.2 0.0
≥ 10 0.0 0.0

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