Ausangate La Vuelta Peru

The Ausangate trek is a “little” gem among the attractions of the Cusco region of Peru. It is not very popular among millions of tourists that visit the more famous Inca Trail and Machu Picchu. The full circuit (“la vuelta” in Spanish), is a six day affair although it can be done in a shorter time. There are a few variations of the trak, one ends at the Rainbow Mountain, another cuts across the front of the range. There is also a longer varsion that traverses the entire range of Cordillera Vilcanota.

Our main objective was to acclimatize to the altitude of 6,000 in order to climb Ancohuma in Bolivia. This trek gave us a perfect combination of climbing to high passes and sleeping at lower elevations. We did not see many other hikers along the way and for the most part, we had the entire place to ourselves. Action Treks Peru from Cusco organized the support for us. The service provided to us was first class. We had a fantastic guide, Odon who told us many interesting things about the region, culture, history and customs of the local people. Yes, one can do the trek without the help of the local guide but, it is nice to give back to the people of the region that we visit and, it is a great opportunity to learn a lot about many interesting aspects of the life on the Altiplano.

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The entire Ausangate Range. The large mountain on the right is Apu Ausangate 6,372m.

The entire Ausangate Range. The large mountain on the right is Apu Ausangate 6,372m.

In order to get to the trek, we needed to travel on the Interoceanic Highway connecting the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

In order to get to the trek, we needed to travel on the Interoceanic Highway connecting the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

The lower slopes of the Vilcanota Range are inhabited by the Quechua people. Their traditions are very colourful and lively. They live in communes consisting of many villages. Each commune has its own laws and rules. The members do not own land or property and all the income from work or trade is shared among the people from the commune.

The lower slopes of the Vilcanota Range are inhabited by the Quechua people. Their traditions are very colourful and lively. They live in communes consisting of many villages. Each commune has its own laws and rules. The members do not own land or property and all the income from work or trade is shared among the people from the commune.

Our first day with Mt. Ausangate right in front of us. It was a nice short hike to our first campsite at 4.400m in Upis.

Our first day with Mt. Ausangate right in front of us. It was a nice short hike to our first campsite at 4.400m in Upis.

Alpaca and Mt. Ausangate

Alpaca and Mt. Ausangate

Our first campsite at Upis at 4,400m

Our first campsite at Upis at 4,400m

Ausangate at sunset from the hills above Upis.

Ausangate at sunset from the hills above Upis.

Mt. Jatunpunta that we would pass by on our 5th day.

Mt. Jatunpunta that we would pass by on our 5th day.

From Upis it was a gentle climb to the first pass at 4,800m - Abra Pass

From Upis it was a gentle climb to the first pass at 4,800m - Abra Pass

Abra Pass

Abra Pass

At Abra Pass, the scenery changed to colourful mountain rich in mineral deposits.

At Abra Pass, the scenery changed to colourful mountain rich in mineral deposits.

Ausangate from the Abra Pass

Ausangate from the Abra Pass

Dry hills around the Abra Pass, a photo from a drone.

Dry hills around the Abra Pass, a photo from a drone.

The Abra Pass at 4,800m

The Abra Pass at 4,800m

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From the Abra Pass we passed by many beautiful lakes and many local families tending to their llamas and alpacas.

From the Abra Pass we passed by many beautiful lakes and many local families tending to their llamas and alpacas.

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Lake Pucacocha and the spot for our second night’s camp at 4,800m. From here the trail divides: one continues around Ausangate and the other leads to the Rainbow Mountain.

Lake Pucacocha and the spot for our second night’s camp at 4,800m. From here the trail divides: one continues around Ausangate and the other leads to the Rainbow Mountain.

The impressive icefall of Ausangate. The same face of Ausangate is visible from the Rainbow Mountain.

The impressive icefall of Ausangate. The same face of Ausangate is visible from the Rainbow Mountain.

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Our second camp

Our second camp

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En route to the second high pass Apacheta Pass 4,850m

En route to the second high pass Apacheta Pass 4,850m

The mountains are becoming more mineral rich. The kaleidoscopic colours are out of this world!

The mountains are becoming more mineral rich. The kaleidoscopic colours are out of this world!

From the Apacheta Pass we had to descend 500m only to re-climb 800m to Palomani Pass 5,080m.

From the Apacheta Pass we had to descend 500m only to re-climb 800m to Palomani Pass 5,080m.

Hiking up to Palomani Pass with fantastic views.

Hiking up to Palomani Pass with fantastic views.

Almost at Palomani Pass looking back from the valley we came from.

Almost at Palomani Pass looking back from the valley we came from.

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Finally, the Palomani Pass - our first time at 5,000m!

Finally, the Palomani Pass - our first time at 5,000m!

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The view from Palomani Pass

The view from Palomani Pass

The Palomani Pass and the mini Rainbow Mountain

The Palomani Pass and the mini Rainbow Mountain

The hills of Palomani Pass

The hills of Palomani Pass

From Palomani Pass we could see this unusual red lake with icebergs. It was very beautiful! The mountain above the lake is Nevado Santa Catalina.

From Palomani Pass we could see this unusual red lake with icebergs. It was very beautiful! The mountain above the lake is Nevado Santa Catalina.

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Drone photo of us and Nevado Santa Catalina

Drone photo of us and Nevado Santa Catalina

Nevado Santa Catalina 5,808m

Nevado Santa Catalina 5,808m

More views from the Palomani Pass

More views from the Palomani Pass

Mineral rich mountains around the Palomani Pass. In 2016 we hiked by the Rainbow Mountain and the Red Valley. A spectacular hike!

Mineral rich mountains around the Palomani Pass. In 2016 we hiked by the Rainbow Mountain and the Red Valley. A spectacular hike!

Ausangate from the Palomani Pass

Ausangate from the Palomani Pass

The wild snow formations on the summit of Ausangate at 6,372m

The wild snow formations on the summit of Ausangate at 6,372m

Ausangate

Ausangate

Ausangate from the descent trail from the Palomani Pass to out third camp at Pampakancha

Ausangate from the descent trail from the Palomani Pass to out third camp at Pampakancha

Descending from the Palomani Pass

Descending from the Palomani Pass

Alpaca and Ausangate

Alpaca and Ausangate

From Pampakancha camp, the trail leads to the fourth high pass Jampa Pass at 5,050m

From Pampakancha camp, the trail leads to the fourth high pass Jampa Pass at 5,050m

Nevado Puca Punta on the way to Jampa Pass

Nevado Puca Punta on the way to Jampa Pass

The fantastic Jampa Mountain

The fantastic Jampa Mountain

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Approaching Jampa Pass at 5,000m and the scenery changed yet again. Every day on this trek we had different scenery!

Approaching Jampa Pass at 5,000m and the scenery changed yet again. Every day on this trek we had different scenery!

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Finally at Jampa Pass - a wonderful view and beautiful mountains. We had such great weather!

Finally at Jampa Pass - a wonderful view and beautiful mountains. We had such great weather!

Juampa Pass at 5,050m

Juampa Pass at 5,050m

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Jampa Pass 5,050m

Jampa Pass 5,050m

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From Jampa Pass, we descended to our fourth camp at Pucacocha.

From Jampa Pass, we descended to our fourth camp at Pucacocha.

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The Action Treks Peru team. Note our Chef in a very formal outfit. His meals were of restaurant quality and I can honestly say that I have never had better meals on any treks in the past 20 years!

The Action Treks Peru team. Note our Chef in a very formal outfit. His meals were of restaurant quality and I can honestly say that I have never had better meals on any treks in the past 20 years!

The beautiful sacred lakes surrounding our last camp. The locals revere the mountain (“Apu” means God - Apu Ausangate) and the lakes. Some of the lakes can only be touched by the local shamans.

The beautiful sacred lakes surrounding our last camp. The locals revere the mountain (“Apu” means God - Apu Ausangate) and the lakes. Some of the lakes can only be touched by the local shamans.

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Salkantay mountain on the horizon (left) - another popular hike on the way to Machu Picchu.

Salkantay mountain on the horizon (left) - another popular hike on the way to Machu Picchu.

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On our way to Pacchanta and the hot springs!  More beautiful lakes and no people!  Everyone is on the Inca Trail!

On our way to Pacchanta and the hot springs! More beautiful lakes and no people! Everyone is on the Inca Trail!

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Beautiful lakes and Ausangate

Beautiful lakes and Ausangate

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Crystal clear lakes at the foot of Ausangate

Crystal clear lakes at the foot of Ausangate

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Sacred lake at the foot of Ausangate. Most likely the source of the water is from an underground spring. The glacial meltoff would not be so crystal clear.  This lake remineded me of the Yellowstone NP.

Sacred lake at the foot of Ausangate. Most likely the source of the water is from an underground spring. The glacial meltoff would not be so crystal clear. This lake remineded me of the Yellowstone NP.

Beautiful scenery of the front ranges of Ausangate

Beautiful scenery of the front ranges of Ausangate

Glacial lake at the foot of Ausangate

Glacial lake at the foot of Ausangate

Ausangate and Cerro Wamanticaya

Ausangate and Cerro Wamanticaya

Ausangate

Ausangate

Ausangate from Pacchanta at sunset.  We had this magnificent view while soaking in the hot spring.  It does not get any better than that!

Ausangate from Pacchanta at sunset. We had this magnificent view while soaking in the hot spring. It does not get any better than that!

The wonderful hot springs at Pacchanta - the temperature was perfect for lingering and soaking in the views.  The local lady even sells cold drinks.  The hot pool belongs to the community.  Different family looks after the pool each week.  Earlier in the day, the pool was full of local people who come to the nearby warm river to bathe.

The wonderful hot springs at Pacchanta - the temperature was perfect for lingering and soaking in the views. The local lady even sells cold drinks. The hot pool belongs to the community. Different family looks after the pool each week. Earlier in the day, the pool was full of local people who come to the nearby warm river to bathe.

The small village of Pacchanta.  Cold Coke and Beer is available!

The small village of Pacchanta. Cold Coke and Beer is available!

Local ladies selling their creations at our last camp. The ladies weave the cloth and make various things from it.  The quality is high and the prices are very fair.  This was a wonderful trek and a perfect way for us to acclimatize to altitude. And, it is only 4 hours away from Cusco! Another fabulous experience in Peru!

Local ladies selling their creations at our last camp. The ladies weave the cloth and make various things from it. The quality is high and the prices are very fair. This was a wonderful trek and a perfect way for us to acclimatize to altitude. And, it is only 4 hours away from Cusco! Another fabulous experience in Peru!