A HIKE TO REMEMBER :

A month ago Greg Shaffran, TJ David and I (Adam) traveled to Huaraz, Peru for the second iteration of Corbeaux’s Join the Flight campaign.  The trip as a whole was wildly successful.  We made strong connections with many local people in the mountain community of Huaraz, we spent some amazing days in the Cordillera Blanca, and we donated 130 pieces of outdoor apparel to the Asociación De Auxiliares De Alta Montaña Ranrapalca (a local porter’s union).  In a previous post I laid out the goals and intentions of the trip; and now I want to share the incredible experience we had getting to know some of these guides, porters, cooks and mule handlers before we made our donations.

Joel_Vargas

Joel Vargas, President of the local Porter’s Union. Photo: Greg Shaffran

We met Joel Vargas (President of the aforementioned porter’s union) in Huaraz.  When we explained to him the goal that Corbeaux was trying to accomplish in Peru, he welcomed the idea with open arms, albeit quite surprised by the intended generosity.  We could tell there was a bit of hesitation on Joel’s part, as it later became apparent that a generous act such as this had never been witnessed in their community.  With the desire to get to know us better, and perhaps as a test of our mountain experience, Joel invited us on a trek the following day.  This trek was the locals’ monthly trip deep into the Quilcayhuanca Valley above Huaraz to retrieve grazing livestock in order to check up on their health.  Little did we know that the 3am start would entail a 25+ mile day of fast-paced hiking, the wrangling of a dozen cattle, and the start of what will hopefully be a lifelong friendship.  It was an amazing experience, but to put it mildly, we got our butts handed to us.

The day started early as we made the bumpy drive up to the Quilcayhuanca Valley, a few thousand feet above Huaraz.  As we started walking into the valley to “search for their livestock”, we couldn’t believe the pace set by Joel and his friends & family.  We crushed roughly 17km in 2 hours starting at 13,000 feet- and the sun was just rising.  We knew it was going to be a long day…

Quilcayhuanca_Sunrise_Chinook_Hoody

The Sunrise provided some comfort from the surprisingly frigid morning temps. Thank goodness for the new Chinook Hoody coming out this Autumn. Photo: TJ David

Quilcayhuanca_Sunrise

Sunrise.  Looking West down the Quilcayhuanca valley at the approach. Photo: TJ David

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The views were incredible and we were so excited to be in the mountains.  As we walked, we were thinking ahead to possible ski objectives and could not help but notice that the snow coverage was looking worse than bleak.  There was almost none, and the glaciers have receded drastically leaving only broken and complicated terrain behind.  Climbing higher, we arrived at Lago Cuchilla and the grandeur of the Cordillera Blanca began to set in.  We were surrounded by big glaciated peaks with huge vertical relief from the valley floor.  We couldn’t stop taking photos.

Adam_Pucaranra

Adam looking for a way through the maze of Nevada Pucaranra’s southern glacier. Photo: Greg Shaffran

Glaciers_Melting

Looking out at Nevada Chopiraju (5518m).  It’s hard to ignore the clear evidence of glacial recession. Photo: Greg Shaffran

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nevada_San_Juan_(5843m)

The North face of Nevada San Juan (5843m) at sunrise. Photo: TJ David

Greg_TJ_Pucaranra

Greg Shaffran and TJ David below Nevada Pucaranra (6156m) Photo: Adam Moszynski

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But, then we were reminded about the day’s objective, as cows were spotted in some brush way below us.  Down we went to try to gather these animals, following Joel’s lead.  This was not a simple task as we soon found out how fast cows can run (way faster than humans).  We spent about an hour just trying to herd these animals before beginning the trek back down the valley to a pen where their health would be assessed.  And on the way, they would scatter innumerable times.

Cows_Spotted

Joel’s Mother-in-law leading the charge and spotting the livestock with her eagle-eyes (4625m). Photo: TJ David

Greg_TJ_Circling

Greg Shaffran and TJ David begin to herd some cattle. Photo: Adam Moszynski

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joel_Roping_Cattle

Joel Vargas trying hard to get one of his cows to head in the right direction. Photo: Greg Shaffran

Adam_Roping_Cow

Adam trying his best at controlling a cow in VERY unfamiliar territory. Photo: Greg Shaffran

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The added mileage we put on just to chase these animals down and to point them in the right direction, was really beginning to wear on Greg, TJ and I.  But the locals were laughing, falling in the mud, pulling at the cows, seemingly having a great time and showing no signs of fatigue.  So we could only smile and continue the chase.

By the time we arrived at the beginning of the valley and got all of Joel’s family’s livestock into the pen, we were exhausted.  We had been hiking, running, pulling, yelling, slipping and sliding for over 12 hours at an incredible pace at altitude.  After bidding new friends farewell we got back in the car and headed to town.  We soon realized that the majority of the other locals we saw that day were walking back to town…over 3,000 feet and 6+ miles more.  It made my feet and my ego hurt.

Joel's_Grandpa

Joel’s 82 year old grandfather joined in the day’s venture, splitting time between walking and riding his donkey. He’s a beast. Photo: TJ David

Cow

One of our new friends. Photo: Greg Shaffran

Joel_looks_on

Joel and his cousin keep a watchful eye on the livestock while taking a much-needed break. Photo: TJ David

Toughest_Woman_Alive

Joel’s Mother-in-law may be the toughest and fittest woman we’ve ever seen. Photo: Greg Shaffran

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No matter how fit you are, most of these guys and gals do this activity monthly, and seem unfazed by its difficulty.  Hiking and running with livestock in cotton and wool clothing, some of them wearing loafers and other footwear we would deem “inappropriate” for a long day in the mountains; yet a smile never left their faces despite the challenges encountered throughout the day.

Joel and his family thanked us profusely for the “help” we had provided on this mission.  It was definitely a surprise to them that we were so enthusiastic throughout the day, and that we were able to hike so far.  And even though we were worn down, it was apparent that our involvement really was helpful.   It was such an incredible and raw experience for us and a day we will not soon forget, that’s for certain.

Quechua_clothing

The local Quechua women continue to wear traditional clothing, no matter what the day brings. Photo: Greg Shaffran

Livestock_In_The_Pen

With all of the livestock finally in the pen, we considered our task complete. Photo: Greg Shaffran

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upon returning to Huaraz, Joel said he would set up a big gathering for the donations the following day, and everyone would contribute to a delicious pachamanca.  Clearly we “passed” whatever test that we had taken that day and Joel, his family and friends seemed to welcome us into their family.  We were honored and now very excited for the next day’s event.

Stay tuned for more reports on our trip to Peru.  Thanks for reading!

– Adam

Written by corbeaux