Back in the Cordillera Blanca, Peru.

Almost a year after I left off, I’m now back in Huaraz, the largest settlement in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca.

These last few days have afforded the chance to acclimatise, clock up some day rides and prepare for an attempt on the Huayhuash circuit.

There’s not a great deal to report just yet. For now, I’ve connected with the Huaraz (downhill) Riders once more; most of our outings so far have been seat down/hang on to your handlebars kind of affairs, hence no time to stop for pictures. For an idea of what’s available here, check out the torrid little YouTube link below, which is steeper, more exposed and looser than it looks! The rigid-forked Ogre, a little out of its element, is doing an admirable job nonetheless, festooned as it is with its brand new set of wheels – though I’ve already managed to put a ding in the rear MTX-33 rim )-:


Indeed, a stout bike is a prerequisite here for mountain biking. Many of the rides involve jamming steeds into the trunks of ‘collectivos’, shared taxis or minibuses, and shutting to the tops of mountains – namely, the Cordillera Negra, the range that peers down into the Blanca. Transport logistics are little different to the usual downhill shuttle though. With a little friendly pushing and shoving, cars in which you’d see three passengers at home will easily accommodate five over here, plus associated colourful bundles of produce and omnipresent family packs of Inca Cola – the Peruvian soft drink of choice.

Incidental Geekery

Riding here again has helped to distil my thoughts about my ‘ultimate’ travel bike, given my propensity to delve onto mountain bike trails whenever the opportunity arises. Before departing, I thought long and (probably too) hard about bringing the Krampus or ECT. Already, I’ve missed the rock munching 29+ tyres I’ve become so accustomed to, especially when they’re run tubeless. But given the miles that lie ahead to Bolivia, the Ogre feels like a good all rounder. Perhaps a set of Maxxis Ardents, in a voluminous 2.4in width, would have been preferable for the local trail conditions – which are extremely steep, loose and very rocky. For now at least, my Smart Sams are holding out ok. In related gear news, the Five Tens are doing a fine job too – for these kind of precarious descents, I’m glad to be riding flats. Now that I’ve removed the washers from my Shimano Saint pedals – exposing their talon-like claws to their full potential – their grip is more tenacious than ever.


After all this time on the road, you’d have thought I’d have fine tuned my packlist. For various reasons, the leadup to my departure was a particularly stressful one. Listed below are the things I forgot. I’ll write a post on what I didn’t forget soon.

1. Tea tree oil – makes me smell nice (-:

2. Tougher 29er tubes. Mine are a little flimsy, and my Smart Sams aren’t proving especially thorn or pinch resistant. I’m considering squeezing in some downhill 26×2.5in tubes, which are easily found here, and seeing if I have any better luck.

3. A Topeak Mountain Morph (with gauge) – a pump that’s more suited to the effort of inflating tyres at high altitude, rather than the compact Lezyne model I have. Running tubeless this last year has made me forgetful of the challenges of pumping up a 29er tyre to 40 psi at 4000m 13,000ft) plus. Anything much less, and I’ve been pinch flatting.

4. My spare spokes.

5. Yin Chiao – a common Chinese formula that seems to work wonders if taken upon the onset of a cough or flu.

Anyway, should anyone be headed out this way, I’d be grateful if we could make the necessary arrangements!

11.8.13 update. Unfortunately, I’ve been struck by a nasty strain of gripe – flu – that’s doing the Huaraz rounds. It’s had me bedbound, stemming my enthusiasm somewhat, and pushing back my bikepacking plans.  


My mountain biking companion this last week – a mechanical engineering student and local Downhill champion.


It’s been saddle down time with the local Downhill Boyz in the Cordillera Negra.


These, then, would be fabled post Incan steps.


Uplifts, Peruvian style. Bikes are lashed to the roofs of minibuses, which bounce their way up dirt roads that connect the remote pueblecitos of the Cordillera.


En route to the Cañon descent.


Oh, the traffic round here.


Just another Cordillera Blanca view…


Dogs lounge in the sun. Most leap up to take chase. Others are just grumpy.


More trail companions.


And a good potential trail snack: baked ‘n salted corn.


Peruvian food is generally a hit. This one was a miss. Rubbery intestine. No discernible taste. Best avoided.


More promising fare. Neil, aka one of the Pikes on Bikes, faces the eternal tourer conundrum: which desert to eat first.


And to wash it down? A jugs of juice, at just 6 Sol a pop. That’s a little over $2.


The view from the terrace of my 5 dollar hotel: Huascaran, 6768m (22,205ft) rising nobly above the dusty clutter of Huaraz.


And over my other shoulder: a passing storm retreats beyond the finger-like quebradas I so enjoyed exploring on my last visit here.


Lastly. As ever, I’m a sucker for a good mural…


Some useful addresses:

Huaraz Riders: an extremely welcoming, enthusiastic collective of riders who reside in Picollo restaurant, in the corner of ‘Gringo Square’. Collectivo shuttles and crazy downhills are their modus operandi. Good, stout bikes are available to hire for 30 Sol a day (a little over $10).

Arturo: The Man with the Park Tools. Probably the best equipped mechanic in the city, Arturo wears his Parktool work apron with pride. Address to come – in the meantime, it’s just up the road from Santiago’s House.

Brasa Roja: Aesthetically fancy yet extremely affordable local restaurant. Their gargantuan hamburgers are particularly recommend – just $3, inc chips.

Santiago’s House: Clean, economical and friendly hotel. Dark rooms but sunny terrace. Dorm beds (15 Sol/ $5.5), just off the tranquil Plaza Soledad.

Yurak Janka: The place to have your gear professionally repaired or modified. Uri also makes climbing chalk bags for Evolv, using local fabrics and following fair trade practises. Pje Augustin Loli 465. Just off Plaza Soledad. No sign. Website:


The Carradice gets the custom treatment. Webbing galore.


Seen in a guesthouse. You don’t need a Tubus rack to go touring…

10 thoughts on “Back in the Cordillera Blanca, Peru.

  1. Gary

    Hey cass…. Yikes. Sorry to hear about having the flu upon just getting started. Beautiful pictures!!! Look forward to hearing about. your adventures. Patti

  2. Mike Howarth

    Good to see you back on the road! Hopefully the bug will pass soon and we can look forward to seeing some new adventures unfold.

    Huaraz is definitely on the list once I make out to South America.

    Keep shredding!


  3. robert

    I’ll be in cuzco mid sept so can bring you some things. I’m sure we’ll catch up somewhere…let me know

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Thanks Robert. I know some other people heading out around that time, so I might be ok. But I’ll keep you posted. In any case, let’s meet up!

  4. Justin

    Looks amazing!

    Don’t fret about what you’ve forgotten, instead be thankful for what you have, which by most folk’s standards is a lot!

    In the meantime, I wish you speedy healing Cass!



  5. Valentine

    To ward off flu eat foods with high zinc content, peanuts, pumpkin and pumpkin seeds, cocoa powder and wheat germ are great sources. Good luck! and if you come to Brasil give me a shout.

  6. Sam

    You’re making me miss Huaraz… Fyi, Hostel Tambo down by the stadium is only 10 sol/night and it’s got a great vibe. It’s where all the Argentine/Chilean buskers stay. Though your terrace view looks pretty dope.

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Thanks for that Sam. As it happens, I stayed at Tambo last year. Agree, great atmosphere, and the lady who runs the place makes a mean chocolate pancake too! Right now, I’m over at Joe’s Place, as I was in need of a garden while I rest up.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.