Mountain Biking the Cordillera Blanca and Negra

Mountain Biking the Cordillera Blanca and Negra

Area Overview: The Cordillera Blanca is an absolutely magical mountain range located 400 km north of Lima. The range has countless numbers of glaciated peaks rising above 6000m, impeccable granite walls up to 950 meters, crystal clear alpine lakes, and a network of trails (or “Chakinanis” in Quechua) perfect for trekking and mountain biking. In short, the Cordillera Blanca is an Alpine playground for all things adventure.

The town of Huaraz is the perfect place to base yourself for adventures in the Cordillera Blanca and Negra. Huaraz has been the adventure capital of Peru for well over 30 years, and has everything from dirt cheap local food, and hostels to upscale western restaurants and luxury lodges. A great place to get oriented in Huaraz is the Casa de Guias located in Parque Periodista, or at one of the many agencies in Huaraz. We suggest contacting Ernesto Sanchez from Sanchez Brothers Expeditions co. in order to lowdown on trails, bike rentals, and transportation. See Resources for more in info.

Weather/Best Season: The seasons in the Cordillera Blanca are split into “Wet” and, “Dry”, with the weather in-between being much less predictable. The Dry season in the Cordillera Blanca is between late May to early September, with the most consistently dry weather from late June to early August. You can expect crystal clear blue skies every day from late June to early August, as well as the most tourists in town and in the more popular “Quebradas” (mountain valleys). The Wet season spans between November and March. During the Wet and In-between seasons, the weather pattern typically involves daily rain in the afternoon, with dry crisp mornings. The most commonly used weather site is Mountain Forecast.

Time needed: There are amazing rides that leave Huaraz without any need for transportation, lasting 3-4 hours, as well as multi-day donkey supported mountain bike expeditions to the infamous Huayhuash range. We suggest two to three weeks to sample the best of the single-track in the area.

Routes: Download Maps.me (offline maps that show trails) and cruise the single and double tracks shown on the map. For the Cordillera Blanca: Marian, Unchus, Huanchac, and Pitec are great towns to start in. For the Cordillera Negra, it’s best to take a taxi (40 soles) to Punta Callan (4200m) and pick out the singletrack on your way down.

We typically advocate guiding your own adventures, however when we road alone, we always had some part of the ride that was heinous hike-a-bike past vicious dogs. We really recommend contacting Ernesto Sanchez at Sanchez Brothers Expeditions co. to get started; Ernesto has spent a lifetime connecting all the rad singletrack in the Cordillera Negra and Blanca. Then continue on your own after getting oriented with some sweet rides. Ernesto also guides a burro supported 7 day Mountain Bike Expedition to the Huayhuash Range (the feature photo).

Level of Adventure, Difficulty and Danger: The rides around the Cordillera Blanca range from easy gravel road riding to tiny rocky single tracks with big drops.

Getting There: 

To Huaraz from Lima: You can take a night or day bus, fly, or drive.

By Bus: There are loads of bus lines that run from Lima to Huaraz, and all typically take about 8 hours. We have found that Cruz Del Sur is the most consistent, safe, and easy to use. Click on the link above to view current prices, the times for Cruz Del Sur routes, and buy your ticket online. Cruz Del Sur has two terminals in Lima; one called Plaza Del Norte and one called Javier Prado. Plaza Del Norte is the closest to Lima International Airport, and should either cost around 30-50 soles from an unofficial cab outside the airport terminal, or 100 soles from the airport cab counter (Green Taxi). I have never had issues with the taxis outside the airport terminal, however there have been instances where unofficial taxis have robbed tourists and locals. If arriving too late to take a night bus from Lima, consider staying at Pay Purix Hostel. It is one of the closest hostels to the airport, provides airport pick-up (25 soles b/f midnight, 35 soles after midnight) and transfer to Plaza Norte in the morning (35 soles).

By Plane: LCPeru offers 50 minute flights to and from Huaraz on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for $109-$139 USD, however their luggage allowance is 15 kg for stored luggage and 5 kg hang luggage.

By Car: Huaraz is a 400km drive from Lima. Click here for directions.

Around town (Food, and Accomodation):

Huaraz:

  • Coffee: Trivio, and Cafe California are the go to places for a good cup of coffee, gringo food and relaxed cheery atmosphere.
  • Food: You can buy anything from a 3.5 sol, two course Menu del Dia, to a 40 sol pizza at Luigis. Here are our favorite spots:
    • El Mercado Central: Everything you need for the mountains (except gear) is sold here at super cheap prices, but get ready to barter. Some stalls show prices for their goods; they can be great places to go first in order to figure out prices. You can buy Cheese, honey, chia, maca, bread, peanut butter, snickers, granola, oatmeal, vegetables, fruits, meats. There are also very cheap Menu Del Dia options and juice cafe’s upstairs (try “jugo surtido” or mixed juice for 1.5 soles).
    • Luigi’s Pizza: Absolutely amazing wood-fired pizza, but a bit a expensive. Perfect for when you’re craving food from the States.
    • Pisces: Amazing Ceviche, located by the bridge next to the Piscicultura.
    • Any place that serves Menu Del Dia: Menu del Dia is a cheap (3-6 soles) breakfast, lunch and dinner option. The menu s are typically fixed with 2-6 options and always come with soup, main entree and drink.
  • Supplies:
    • Gear: The Agencies located along Avenida Luziarga and in Parque Del Periodista have varying quality of climbing, cycling and camping gear for rent, and sale. Email Sanchez Brothers Expeditions for bike rental or check out Montanas Magicas Bike Center in Parque del Periodista for other cycling accessories/mechanic.
    • Fuel: Check agencies for  iso-butane canisters and hardware stores (“Ferreteria”) for white gas (Bencina)
  • Accomodation:
    • Climber Point Guesthouse: Run by local climber Omar Rodriguez, The Climber Point Guesthouse is a homestay about a 15 minute walk outside of the town center, and about 5 minutes from great bouldering. The family is very kind, and mostly keeps to themselves. Omar is a great resource for climbing areas, primarily bouldering and sport climbing. Guests are welcome to use the two house crashpads, and are generally invited out on bouldering and sport climbing trips. Omar has both private and shared rooms. The cost is typically 30 soles per night, although we found Omar very reasonable if staying longer.
    • El Tambo: Also know as the “French Hostel”, this is one of the cheapest, and most relaxed hostels that we found in Huaraz. It is located down a gravel alley directly across from the Stadium. Cost is 30 soles per night.
    • Monkey Wasi: Touted as the climber hostel; this place provides cheap (20-25 soles) and relaxed lodging. Located on Plaza Soledad, it is about a 15 minute walk from the town center.

Transportation: You can make it up to Punta Callan 4200m, in about 45 min, for about 40 soles from most cabs in town. There are vans in town with bike racks to fit around 10 bikes, Ernesto Sanchez (see details in Resources) or Montana Magica can easily set this up for you.

Resources:

Sanchez Brothers Expeditions

Montanas Magicas

Suggested trips and itineraries in the area:

Mountain Bike the 7 day Huayhuash Circuit

La Esfinge

Rock, Snow and Ice in Ishinca Valley

Getting Lost in the Stone Forest: Hatun Machay

Photo Gallery:

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