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Pastoruri Glacier: Journey to 5,000 Meters

Puya Raimondi

Puya Raimondi are found in the higher elevations of the Peruvian Andes, and can grow from 4 to 8 meters in height

[P]astoruri Glacier is located a few hours from Huaraz, in Peru's Cordillera Blanca.

Those who have been following me since my 'round the world trip know I've got a fascination with creeping up to higher and higher elevations.

I can still remember when I thought hiking the Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand, which hits 1,800 meters, was a big deal.

Then I trekked in the Annapurna region of Nepal and got above 3,000 meters.

I quickly followed it up with the more treacherous 4-day Indrahar Pass trek in northern India to 4,320 meters.

Mountain biking Cotopaxi Volcano in Ecuador took me to 4,500 meters, but it'd be in Peru that I'd finally crack the 5,000 meter mark.

To be fair, driving to these heights is far, FAR easier than trekking to them, but it's still a thrill to watch the rugged scenery unfold before you.

Take the time to hold a soft baby animal in Peru, whether it be a llama, alpaca or goat

Take the time to hold a soft baby animal in Peru, whether it be a llama, alpaca or goat

The trip to Pastoruri Glacier started out with an uneventful drive south of Huaraz.

Slowly, but surely, we gained altitude. In total, we'd be going up 1,900 meters before lunchtime.

Once we hit the dirt road leading up the valley to the national park, and glacier, the landscape began to change more dramatically.

Trees and foliage gave way to open, desolate spaces claimed only by grasses, and a few hearty plants, including the Puya Raimondi (Queen of the Andes).

Hail and snow fall over Pastoruri Glacier

Hail and snow fall over Pastoruri Glacier

The parking lot for Pastoruri Glacier is located at an elevation of 4,800 meters, so the final bit must be walked….unless you opt to hire a horse, as many Peruvians choose to do.

The horses run a path parallel to the stone walkway that leads most of the way up to the glacier.

The immediate view of the glacier from the parking lot is unimpressive.

It looks like two flat fields of snow, however after a heart-thumping 30-40 minute walk uphill, you'll arrive at the foot of the glacier, and be treated to more epic views.

Along the walk up, I heard thunder crack in the distance. The sky grew grey, winds picked up, and hail began to pelt me from above.

I pushed on, reminded that even a 40-minute walk is an adventure at these altitudes.

Pastoruri Glacier is shrinking due to global warming

Pastoruri Glacier is shrinking due to global warming. 5 years ago, I would've been standing on the glacier when taking this picture.

By the time I reached the glacier, it was steadily snowing, and I was getting wet, having left my rain jacket in the van.

With only a few shirts and a fleece to keep me warm, I hurriedly took some photos by the glacier, which is rapidly shrinking due to global warming.

Even just a few years ago, local Peruvians would learn to ski and snowboard on Pastoruri, however those days are long gone. [gbicon]

Visitors are no longer allowed to walk on the glacier, however you're still allowed to take a bite out of it (literally)

Visitors are no longer allowed to walk on the glacier, however you're still allowed to take a bite out of it (literally)

GPS puts me at 5,020 meters (16,467 feet) above sea level

GPS puts me at 5,020 meters (16,467 feet) above sea level


What You Need to Know

Visiting Pastoruri Glacier is an easy way to start the acclimatization process if you're planning to do any trekking or climbing in the region.

How Much:  $22.50 + tip ($15 for transport/guide, $2 for park entrance, $5.50 for lunch)

Difficulty:  Moderate

Where to Book:  Tours are easy to arrange through any of the hostels, or offices located around Huaraz’s main plaza.

What to Bring:  Camera, sunglasses, warm hat, and sunscreen. Dress in layers, and bring a waterproof jacket. Bring the jacket on your walk up to the glacier, even if the weather is clear when you arrive at the parking lot, as conditions can change quickly.


Lima Travel GuideDave's 160-page, all-original Lima Travel Guide is now available for Kindle and PDF.

Planning a trip? Go Backpacking recommends:


Friday 5th of October 2012

Dave, thanks for such great information and descriptions.

I'm going to Huaraz next December, and I noticed your post was from Dec 2011. Were you at Pastoruri during this season as well, or it's just the moment you uploaded/wrote the post?

I'm trying to figure out if making Pastoruri tour is ok during December (rainy season in the Andes)

Thank you!


Saturday 6th of October 2012

I was in Huaraz the last week of October 2011. I don't know if they run these trips all year.


Tuesday 20th of December 2011

Hey Dave, I have a fascination with going to high altitudes as well. The highest I've been is 5545m in Nepal. So I know how challenging it can be to breathe at 5000m :). I'm planning on going higher next year when I tackle Kilimanjaro. Great post


Tuesday 20th of December 2011

Thanks Dean. Sounds like you did either the Annapurna Circuit or Everest Base Camp -- both have high points around 5,500 meters. I'm sure you'll kick Kili's butt!

Kevin Post

Sunday 18th of December 2011

I didn't know of this glacier until you mentioned it here. It really is a shame that treasures like these are rapidly disappearing. I guess no crampons or ice axes for this glacier :-/

Nicely done Dave.

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