This relatively easy trek between two pleasant Conchucos towns is the only multi-day route in this book that doesn’t approach the peaks. Follow a wide path through forest before climbing onto the high puna with its green, ichu grass-covered slopes and folded rock strata. Distant snowy mountain views await near 4500m Paso San Bartolomé, before a gradual descent to Laguna Purhuay, accessible by road from Huari.
Distance 39km/24 miles
Trekking time 2 or 3 days
Vertical climb 1500m/4900ft
Max altitude 4520m/14,850ft
Timing and getting to and from the trailhead
The trek takes two days, or a leisurely three.
At the time of researching this route Renzo and El Veloz both have early morning Huaraz to Chacas buses (3h30, S/.16); book a day in advance. Sandoval and Olguita have multiple daily buses from Huari to Huaraz (4h, S/.15), however it’s a good option to extend this trek from Huari to Huántar or even Chavín (see following treks in Quebradas Rurichinchay, Rurec and Carhuascancha) for an excellent longer tour of the southern end of the Callejón de Conchucos.
Supplies can be bought in Chacas, though the selection is much more limited than in Huaraz. The trek passes through PNH; the guardaparque at Laguna Purhuay can sell you a ticket.
Chacas – Paso San Bartolomé – Huari
Leave Chacas’ precious plaza from the SE corner, going one block over to Jr Buenos Aires and turning R. When the paving ends by Vidrería Milla, turn L, then R at the end of the street, leaving town. After 30 minutes fork L at a PNH sign – the 4WD track becomes a broad footpath and enters a green quebrada. Easy walking for 1h30 brings you to a bridge over a deep little quebrada – turn L at the adjacent gate and signed junction.
The trail traverses above the main river, through forest alive with bromeliads. Five minutes from the gate, take the middle fork at a trident junction, and 1h15 later cross concrete Puente Taulle which spans a large side river. Soon after, follow Quebrada Asnocohuana signs L at a junction.
Continue up the valley on easy terrain for 1 hour to another signed junction. Go straight/R to Quebrada Empedrado (unless you want to camp, in which case descend L towards Quebrada Pucallullimpa – the first possible camp spot since Chacas). The scenery finally opens out as the path curves R into a side valley, away from the triangular rocky hill ahead. In 20 minutes reach another junction and go R, to Paso San Bartolomé, leaving the main valley.
Climb easily by the river; above, waterfalls flash down cliffs to the R/W. After 50 minutes, reach a camp spot – the best of the few sites on the Chacas side of the pass – just before crossing the river.
Behind, the distant Contrahierbas massif appears, followed by Huascarán and Chopicalqui as the path climbs for 40 minutes to a high point, before traversing 20 minutes to modest Paso San Bartolomé. All around, folded rocky layers, some horizontal, others vertical, punctuate the green slopes. Ahead is a spectacular, concertinaed rock formation.
Descend into a valley, passing a good camp by a small laguna after 20 minutes. Proceed down the TL/E side for 30 minutes before descending and crossing a pampa to a house, to pick up the path behind, which begins a long traverse towards Laguna Purhuay. Meander in and out of side valleys, climbing and descending for 1h30 to a large side valley with decent camping.
Continue for 45 minutes to a pampa (no water) with a stone corral. Pass through a gate – ahead a ribbon of waterfall laces its way down a side valley, while the motorway of a path descends steeply for 45 minutes to a junction near Laguna Purhuay. Go straight (L heads N along the lake shore) and soon hit the road by a bus stop. Camping, toilets, a guardaparque and boat rides can be found at the lake; possibly also transport to Huari.
If not, follow the road or shortcuts to Acopalca (1 hour). This village, on the Huari to San Luis road, has basic accommodation and many information boards. Notable local sights include the Maria Jiray waterfall (1 hour away) and the roadside cave where unsociable villagers were formerly incarcerated. It’s 1 hour on foot, or a 10 minute combi ride to Huari.