Cordillera Huayhuash: Cognitive Shifting

Immediately on the heals of the Santa Cruz Trek, I decide to let El Gordo sit a bit longer as Orlando of Eco Ice Peru needs to do little convincing to get me to sign up for an eight day Huayhaush Trek.  Billed as one of the top treks in the world, second only to the Himalayas, the Huayhuash is easily one of the best things I’ve done on this trip thus far.  Each day brought head swiveling beauty as we circumnavigated the entire Cordillera Huayhaush.  I feel grateful to have done it with new friends and even more grateful to have had the opportunity to experience the Huayhaush now as glaciers are quickly melting and the character of the trek will continue to change rapidly with each passing year.

Below are a selection of my favorite photos capturing eight days of mind blowing vistas:

Looking down the valley towards Pocpa and a glimpse of the northern edged of the Cordillera Huayhuash (D01).

Laguna Mitucocha with Ninashanca (5610m) beyond makes for a stunning lunch break (D02).

Ninashanca's striated leading teeth.

Sunset on Toro (5965m) and Yarupaja Chico (6089m) from Laguna Charaucocha camp brings a meditative close to the day.

Near perfectly still waters at the edge of Laguna Charaucocha (D03).

 Laguna Charaucocha's mirror like surface looking down the valley is no less fantastic.

The famed Tres Lagunas on the way up to Punta Siula.

More jagged beauty from the top of Punta Siula (4800m).

At times the Cordillera Huayhuash stretches out and at times becomes compact; the scale shifting daily (D04).

Roberto, our Huayhaush on again off again companion, takes a break at Portachuelo (4750m).

A short day brings us to the hot springs of Atuscancha for a long soak and a cold beer.

The first pass of the following day brings us up close and personal with snow packed Cuyoc (5400m) (D05).

A toes only grinder up San Antonio Pass (5000m) affords a breathtaking look through the afternoon haze deep into the valley where Joe Simpson's epic survival struggle unfolded in Touching the Void.

The west face of Siula Grande (6356m), the peak from which Joe Simpson crawled back to his base camp barely alive. Stunning.

 Love that Andean fading light. 

We awake to a dusting of the good stuff (D06).

Ahh those deep Andean valleys.

A quick pass through Huayllapa for a new stash of Blancos. Sublime

Flash back to the back porch at 86 Buxton Hill circa '88: Filson trips on Horton's boney leg, smashes into all three Glovers, stumbles past Corey still wearing the dog collar, and "waters" the bushes.  Udi whips up a set of "cards" and we while away an afternoon hail storm with a more mature, dry reprise of A-hole. 

The morning silence at Paso Tapush (4800m) passes straight to your soul (D07).

Paso Yaucha (4800m) brings cold moody skies.

We skirt the top of the valley, head swiveling backwards at the south western face of the Cordillera Huayhuash. Nearly impossible to capture the majesty on film, it is one of the highlights of the trek.

Guide Gilmer in his office.

A quick 700m drop brings us down to Laguna Jahuacocha and yet another fantastic campsite.

Andean sunsets flat-out never get old.

Adios amigo. Suerte (D08).

In a weird way, standing atop the passes and deep in the folds of the Cordillera Huayhaush has me thinking multiple times about the “Overview Effect.”   

Coined in 1987 by Frank White, the "Overview Effect" refers to a cognitive shift in awareness reported by some astronauts and cosmonauts during spaceflight, often while viewing the Earth from orbit or from the lunar surface.

It refers to the experience of seeing firsthand the reality of the Earth in space, which is immediately understood to be a tiny, fragile ball of life, 'hanging in the void', shielded and nourished by a paper-thin atmosphere.

From space, national boundaries vanish, the conflicts that divide people become less important, and the need to create a planetary society with the united will to protect this 'pale blue dot' becomes both obvious and imperative.                                                                                Wikipedia

Cynically, I admit to often shrugging and thinking the “pale bue dot” has progressed past the tipping point and is beyond repair.  But, I also realize that’s not very positive and exactly what the “machinic” nature of our consumptive society wants us to do – shrug and go back to business as usual waiting for someone else to figure it out. Being an utterly tiny spec in the engulfing beauty of the Cordillera Huayhaush, however, makes you want to do everything in your power to try to ensure the “pale blue dot” sticks around for as long as it can.