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Per the recommendation of ppl, I'm breaking this question out into separate posts, so here goes:

Is it feasible for me to plot my own route through the Andes, as opposed to keeping to established trails? My thinking on this is that it will be doable as long as I take precautions such as carrying a satellite phone, keeping within a couple days' range of towns when possible, and avoiding river crossings. That said, I'd appreciate the input of somebody more acquainted with this particular mountain range.

To provide some additional background, I will be alone and I intend to travel exclusively by foot. I won't be attempting any climbing. My main concern is about the traversability of the terrain between Lima and Cusco, especially at higher elevations.

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    What is your reason for not wanting to follow established trails? I would caution you not to expect too much from a satellite phone. Supposing that the gadget works perfectly and you're able to get a call through, that doesn't mean your problems are over. You're talking about remote, high-altitude terrain in the third world. If you break a bone or get stuck in a canyon or something, it could be many days until help arrives. I doubt that search and rescue teams exist in these areas, and any volunteers who do come for you will probably be poorly equipped. – Ben Crowell Jul 6 '16 at 4:05
  • My apologies for not being clear; I'm not suggesting that I want to shun established trails. My question is more directed towards situations where I may, for instance, wish to reach a point that doesn't have well established approaches by digressing from an otherwise continuous trail. – Alex Clough Jul 6 '16 at 6:00
  • Have you tried looking for Peruvian forums and clubs where to ask? A quick google search pulled up mostly companies that organize treks but digging around might pull up some local club/association. PS a couple days range from town can be a couple days when all is good but much more if theres trouble, specially if you are off trail and even if you are counting on somebody from the town to reach you to help. – Erik vanDoren Jul 6 '16 at 13:26
  • @ErikvanDoren You make a great point about the range. I'll be conscious of that while planning. – Alex Clough Jul 8 '16 at 14:11
  • I did Lima-Cusco by bus once... it was a harrowing 22 hour non-stop drive, up and down thousands of serpentines. I'd rather not walk it :D – fgysin reinstate Monica Dec 5 '17 at 6:50
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To give a simple question, yes, you can, but it is very complicated. About 10 years ago I've done a similar journey but I found that walking around Lima and west and south of the Andes very hard so I ended up using public transportation.

Walking in the Andes is very challenging as weather conditions are rapidly changing and you will have cold temperatures every night, even in summer. Elevation is a nightmare for backpacking and I have yet to find any descent maps for the area.

The best solution I found for route finding, resupply etc is to ask anyone I met on the way (locals) about those things. Pick a place that you aim for and have some 1:100k maps for general route setting (unless you find good topo maps) and plot+sketch anything you can based on those recommendations.

The less you will be planning and the more you will be self sufficient and solo reliable with good and variable gear the easier it will be.

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  • To highlight an important takeaway from this answer: you should speak spanish well, otherwise you're probably in trouble. – fgysin reinstate Monica Dec 5 '17 at 6:48

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