AUSANGATE MOUNTAIN GENERAL INFO
In the highlands south of Cusco, the Vilcanota Mountain Range rises led by a Sacred Apu Ausangate. According to the local worldview, the big and small mountains have life, they are spirits called Apus. Each Apu has a name and its own history that speaks of its power and spirit. The most powerful Apu is the Ausangate, also known as the «creator of the waters.» He is the creator of the Willcamayu (Vilcanota river), the one that runs along Cusco through the Urubamba valley and fertilizes mother earth on its way until it loses itself in the thickness of the Amazon forests. They say that the Willcamayu returns every night turned into stars to fill lakes and glaciers that surround the Apu. They also say that if we do not respect animals, the Apu can get upset with us, and that it is the weather that shows us whether it is happy or upset.
The snowy Ausangate is the fifth highest in Peru and the most representative of the Andes of Cusco. It is located in the Ocongate district, in the Quispicanchi province, belonging to the department of Cusco in the Vilcanota mountain range, it is one of the areas with the greatest difficulty to access.
Its altitude is 6,384 above sea level, with large lakes with a greenish-blue glow. Walking on the Ausangate mountain is an indescribable adventure, and it is impossible not to be impressed by the beauty of perpetual snow. You will often find peaks at an altitude of 5000 meters and also snow-capped mountains that pour their waters to form lakes. The Ausangate route is one of the most attractive in Cusco. The first attempt to ascend the Ausangate snow cap was in the early 1950s, the first 2 attempts being unsuccessful. It had to wait until 1953, for a German expedition to reach the highest point of the Apu, ascending on the south side. Later, new routes were implemented to be able to climb to the top of the mountain. It was not until 1983 that Peruvian feet reached the top of the snowy peak.
- The maximum altitude of the snowy Ausangate is 6,372 m.a.s.l.
- Ocongate: 3,433 m.a.s.l.
- Mawayani: 4,059 m.a.s.l.
- Nevado de Qolquepunco: 5,471 m.a.s.l.
Daily distances on the trail vary from 6 to 11 miles / 10 to 16 km per day. When arriving from Cusco by bus the first day, there is a short walk of approximately 2 miles / 3 km to Chillca.
Climate and Temperature
There are only two seasons at this latitude, one dry and one wet with lots of rain and snow at high altitudes that last approximately from November to March. It is normally only traveled from April to October, when there are good possibilities of an excellent climate. Occasional rains can occur at any time of the year.
The temperature in the Andes varies very little during the day, but there can be considerable changes at night. The temperature in the dry season (winter) often drops below freezing at night. Although, it can be quite warm and pleasant during the day. The nights are very long and cold at this latitude.
The predominant climate of the area is cold, at night it reaches temperatures below 5 ° C, during the day it can be up to 20 ° C, and it also has cold winds during parts of the day. Rains and snowfalls also occur in the area.
Flora and fauna
Agriculture is intensive and focuses on the production of a wide variety of tubers, such as goose and potato, seven species of plants endemic to Peru, such as Chersodoma ovopedata, which is considered Vulnerable according to the International Union red list. for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In addition, there are other species that are in danger of extinction such as the Wayracora plant (Bowlesia tenella meyen), the pisque (Paronychia) or the llanchalla (Pycnophyllum). With respect to the high Andean fauna, this is a strategic area for the conservation of the vicuña and the puma, each species in a Near Threatened state and the taruca, in a Vulnerable situation according to the Cusco Regional Government. With regard to birds, the black ibis (Theristicus melanopis) and the Andean condor (Vultur gryphus) are in Vulnerable situation. Both are inhabitants of Ausangate. Many llamas can be seen throughout the circuit, offering a unique touch to the local landscape.
How to get to Nevado Ausangate
There are two routes to get to the mountain, the first is to go by bus from Cusco to the town of Chilca, from here a walk is made between 4 to 5 hours. The other route is a little longer but cheaper, this consists of going from Cusco to the town of Tinki by bus and then taking a bus to Pacchanta. From this point it is an 8 to 10 hour walk to the Ausangate Base.
Tips and useful information
- We recommend not drinking water from the tube, it is better to buy a bottle of water to avoid contracting harmful parasites or waterborne diseases. You should also make sure to travel with water purification tablets or boil water for 15 minutes to kill any harmful bacteria.
- We suggest bringing lemon candies, or drinking coca leaf tea, to avoid altitude sickness (Soroche).
- We suggest you visit your doctor for a medical exam before taking this walk.
- If you suffer from heart disease, do not try to do this walk.
- We suggest buying travel insurance.
- Be sure to hire a professional guide, with a travel agency.
- Be sure to bring the necessary things for this type of walk.
- Personal Sleeping Bag
- Back Pack and Day pack
- Hiking shoes
- Rain coat / poncho
- Water bottle, flash light, hat, sun block, sunglasses
- Warm/Thermal clothes
- Bathing Suit.
- Chocolates, candies or other snacks
- Photo Camera + Films, Binoculars
For the route
- To join this hike, you must be in good health and physical condition. Difficulties are primarily related to altitude, ranging from 13,000 to 16,700 ft / 4,000 to 5,100 m at the highest pass. Be prepared to climb and descend with significant changes in altitude throughout the day.
- Before starting the walk, you must have at least 3 to 4 days of acclimatization. Cusco and its surroundings, the Sacred Valley (Urubamba) and Machu Picchu are ideal places for this purpose.
- While on the route, hikers should carry a backpack, camera, water bottle, rain gear and other accessories they may need on the route. Horses and llamas will carry their duffel bag to the next camp.
Coyllur Riti Andean Festival
In the Andes of southern Peru, between the snowy peaks of Ausangate and Sinakara is the Coyllur Riti Sanctuary, known to the population of the area as Taytacha Quyllur rit’i (Snow Star). For the Andean peoples, the hills and mountains are sacred. This is called deities or Apus, possessors of vital force, whose power extends over a large geographical area. The Apu Ausangate, the most powerful in the area, is the birthplace of alpacas and llamas, it controls the fertility of animals and its authority radiates through this region.
Every year, days before the Catholic feast of Corpus Christi, thousands of indigenous peasants go to this place, at about 4,700 meters, where a party is held in honor of the Lord of Coyllur Riti. The faithful turn to the Lord of Coyllur Riti for their health, to promote the fertility of their animals or to ensure the year of the agricultural harvest. It is considered one of the largest indigenous nations holidays in America