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While down-climbing through a steep, rocky ravine on our way to Laguna Jurau, I silently cursed our maps. Yes, "maps," as in the plural of "map." We brought two maps while circuiting the Cordillera Huayhuash Range. The first was a free map the size of an index card which showed the trails we wanted to use. The second was a 1:50000 topographical map which (teasingly) marked the passes, but not every trail over the passes. As we descended the second pass of the day (Punta San Antonio, at 5,010 meters), the trail grew fainter and fainter as the terrain steepened. It was five o'clock, and the sun would set in an hour. We could gamble that successfully navigating through the scree-filled ravine would lead us safely to the valley. Or, we could pitch our tent on the sloped mountain, 300 meters below the nearest water source, and look for the trail down to the valley in the morning. If there was another trail.

Moments like these really test a team's communication, trust, and ability to tackle difficult problems. Danny and I had been traveling together through Latin America for the last 34 weeks and had experienced many highs and lows, but we took on surprisingly uncharacteristic roles in the dwindling daylight on this fourth day of our trek. Danny, usually calm and positive, was worried because we had no ropes, harnesses, and helmets, but we had not planned on coming across this type of terrain. I had never seen him scared or unsure, and fortunately this triggered my inner calm instead of my natural hysteria. I was supportive, markedly positive, and brave. Danny made the decision to continue climbing down through the gorge, and I listened carefully to his directions of "foot here, hand hold there" as he maneuvered us down the steeper walls.

Some might call it luck, but I give all the credit to my husband. He guided us through the ravine, and it provided safe passage to the valley. An hour after our panic, we shooed away some stray cattle and set up our tent in the fading light, on a small flat area not far from a trickling stream. Our view encompassed two mountain lakes, several glaciers, green sloping pastures, fragrant violet wildflowers, and no buildings, tents, or other people. Just us.


  • Introduction
  • Logistics
  • Ours Were Not the Smallest Packs
  • Day 1: Quartelhuain (4,170 m) to Laguna Mitococha (4,230 m) via Cacananpunta Pass (4,690 m)
  • Day 2: Laguna Mitococha to Laguna Quesillococha (4,332 m)
  • Day 3: Laguna Quesillococha to Laguna Viconga (4,530 m)
  • Day 4: Laguna Viconga (4,365 m) to Laguna Jurau (4,350 m camp)
  • Day 5: Laguna Jurau to Laguna Caramarca (4,520 m camp)
  • Day 6: Laguna Caramarca (4,748 m) to Laguna Susucocha (4,550 m camp) via Tapush Punta (4,750 m)
  • Day 7: Laguna Susucocha to Llamac (3,300 m)

# WORDS: 4020
# PHOTOS: 17

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