The second iteration of Corbeaux’s Join the Flight campaign brings us back to South America. This time we are focusing on the porter community in the mountainous region of Huaraz, Peru. The stunning glaciated mountains of the Cordillera Blanca are visible from almost anywhere in town, and they take your breathe away. Not simply because of their beauty, but because Huaraz itself sits at 10,000 feet above sea level.
Staring at these ice and snow-clad beasts, with peaks rising up to 6700 meters (22,110 ft), makes you realize that spending time in these mountains is inspiring, spiritual, challenging, and perhaps dangerous. Many foreigners floc here to see these beautiful mountains and to wander in Huascarán National Park, which encompasses a great majority of the Blanca range.
Knowing that these mountains are a huge draw for trekkers and climbers, there is a large community of Huaraz locals working in the industry as guides, porters, cooks and arrieros (mule drivers) to serve the adventure-tourism.
Tourists from all over the world come to Huaraz to hike the famous trails or climb the highest peaks of the Cordillera Blanca and the Cordillera Huayhuash. Most of these groups require guides, porters, cooks and arrieros as they will be spending several days in the range to get the most out of their visit. The scale is enormous, much like that of the Himalaya, with peaks rising nearly 10,000 feet from the valley floor and 10 mile bushwhacking approaches to base camps. Being the world’s highest tropical mountain range, the Cordillera Blanca is equatorial and sees all sorts of varied weather. Heavy monsoon rains and wet snows, to dry and sunny “summers” make these mountains a harsh environment at times, and a hiker’s paradise at others. For all of these reasons, the porter community is the machine that drives the tourism industry in this region of Peru. It would be hard to survive without them.
Tourists come with top-quality gear; lightweight, waterproof, durable, expensive, NEW gear. The best gear of its kind rated in magazines like Backpacker, Climbing, and Outside as the “most waterproof”, the “most packable”, and “gear of the year” awards. This kind of gear isn’t available to the porter community in Peru. The gear they use is what they acquired as a tip from departing guests whose bags they just carried for days on end. Being guilty of that myself, I know that most of it is used or antiquated and no longer of any use to a climber or trekker in the developed world. They will simply go home and get a replacement. But a good jacket, pair of pants, gloves, hat, backpack, etc. is like gold down here.
In an effort to connect with the local community in Huaraz and to help make their work in the mountains a little easier, a little warmer, a little dryer, we have collected new and gently-used gear to provide for these hard working mountain people. We travelled from Colorado with 45 shell and puffy jackets, 15 shell pants, 10 insulated layers, 20 pairs of gloves, 20 pairs of socks, and 20 warm hats that will go a long way in their line of work.
We received donations of new gear from our friends at Flylow Gear and Aether Apparel, as well as some gently used gear from Mountain Rescue Aspen and many other individuals. It’s great to have the support of other outdoor industry brands and individuals who endorse what Corbeaux is doing and feel that it’s a worthy cause that our mountain community can do for another.
Upon arrival we connected with Chris Benway from Cima Logistics, who can help you with any adventure travel needs in the Huaraz area. Chris has been organizing all types of adventures for visitors here since the mid 90s. He knows a great deal of people in the porter community and he was able to connect us with Joel Vargas Rosales, President of the Asociación De Auxiliares De Alta Montaña Ranrapalca (a local porter’s union). This local porter’s Union is where we decided to make our donations count.
Stay tuned for full reports on the donation process, our adventures in the Cordillera Blanca, and our time in Huaraz. Thanks for reading, and may we encourage you to Join the Flight.