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Hiking the Santa Cruz Loop in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca: Global Test Photo Essay

Escaping the "boxes" of modern society in the heart of the breathtaking Peruvian Andes.

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by Kristin Tennessen and Danny Milks | 2011-04-19 00:00:00-06

Editor's Note: click here to see all the articles (and a brief synopsis of each) in this excellent series.

Introduction

One of the drawbacks of our contemporary lifestyle is how much time we spend in boxes. Our homes and offices have floors, ceilings, and walls set at ninety degree angles. To connect us to these stationary boxes, we often use wheeled boxes to travel over flat and gray roads. The paths we take are the most efficient routes, not the most aesthetically pleasing nor the most representative of the land. It is almost as if modern society is attempting to cover up and disconnect us from the earth that gives us sustenance, and, as all backpackers know, a deep satisfaction.

Backpacking is a way to free us from the boxes of our civilized lives. It is a way to connect us to the earth, to explore the terrain around us, to view the world from a different perspective. We climb mountains to answer the question "what does the world look like from up there?" We scale rocks that demand the use of all four limbs and leave us calloused, scraped, chafed, and bruised. We glide over snow for the pure joy of speed, while experiencing a world colored mostly in white. We enter forests and meadows to inhale the pleasant smells of trees and flowers, and to feel leaves brushing against our arms and grass tickling our ankles. We paddle to the middle of lakes to observe life on shore from a different angle and to feel the bobbing sensation that only rolling waves can create.

Danny and I have been traveling internationally for over 18 months, and many people we meet along the way ask what draws us to this lifestyle. The shortest answer, and one that consequently requires the longest explanation, is that we are trying to escape the habit of living in boxes. Additionally, we are trying to learn from other cultures how it is possible to live securely without the stifling feeling of spending so much time in a box.

Danny and I still spend more time indoors than is ideal, including time in buses, trains, cars, and supermarkets. However, when we do escape, it is well worth the compromise. The following photographs from our May trek in the Cordillera Blanca are best viewed indoors, but I hope they inspire you to get outside the box.

The Global Test: Hiking the Santa Cruz Loop in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca - 1
Laguna Llaganuca sits at the entrance to Huscaran National Park, several hours north of the city Huaraz, Peru.

The Global Test: Hiking the Santa Cruz Loop in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca - 2
The village of Colcabamba - the “trailhead” for our hike.

The Global Test: Hiking the Santa Cruz Loop in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca - 3
There were few independent backpackers and no designated campsites, so it was easy for us to find a comfortable spot for the night.

The Global Test: Hiking the Santa Cruz Loop in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca - 4
Nevado Piramide as seen from the east side. We hiked over the pass, Punta Union, directly south of this peak.

The Global Test: Hiking the Santa Cruz Loop in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca - 5
The weather was variable and the summits were often obscured by clouds. It was sometimes warm enough to wear a tank-top while hiking uphill. We always wore high SPF sunscreen regardless of the cloud coverage.

The Global Test: Hiking the Santa Cruz Loop in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca - 6
As we reached the high point of our trek, Punta Union at 4,750 meters (15,500 feet), we turned around to admire the valley in which we had just hiked.

The Global Test: Hiking the Santa Cruz Loop in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca - 7
The ~5,700 meter (18,700 foot) tall summit of Taulliraju.

The Global Test: Hiking the Santa Cruz Loop in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca - 8
We saw several of these servicios higienicos which were poorly designed and too putrid to use. Instead, the guided trips carried a portable canvas outhouse. We used the standard cat hole.

The Global Test: Hiking the Santa Cruz Loop in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca - 10
Kristin wore the right camouflage for this time of year.

The Global Test: Hiking the Santa Cruz Loop in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca - 11
The north side of Nevado Alpamayo as seen at sunrise from our campsite.

The Global Test: Hiking the Santa Cruz Loop in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca - 12
Outside of the jungle, we rarely encountered forests in Peru. We found this small band of trees tucked away in a valley above 4,000 meters (13,123 feet).

The Global Test: Hiking the Santa Cruz Loop in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca - 13
This lone flower Senecio comosus grew next to a glacier lake at 4,200 meters (13,780 feet).

The Global Test: Hiking the Santa Cruz Loop in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca - 14
Kristin wished she had a packraft to get closer to the glacier.

The Global Test: Hiking the Santa Cruz Loop in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca - 15
We saw many vibrant flowers during our trek, including these Taulli blooms.

The Global Test: Hiking the Santa Cruz Loop in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca - 16
Walking back to the main valley, the 6,025 meter (19,767 foot) peak of Artesonraju punctuated the skyline (top right).

The Global Test: Hiking the Santa Cruz Loop in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca - 17
Danny wished he had a packraft to mosey down the crisscrossing waterways instead of soaking our feet in the flooded meadow.

The Global Test: Hiking the Santa Cruz Loop in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca - 18
A bonus feature of a lightweight pack: it was easier to jump across creeks.

The Global Test: Hiking the Santa Cruz Loop in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca - 19
The high-altitude solar radiation was intense. We built a shelter for our lunch break using our five-ounce sil-nylon tarp. The smell of fresh cow pies ruined our peaceful meal. When the smell followed us along the trail, we realized Kristin’s shoe was the culprit, as she had unknowingly stepped in a fresh, gooey cow pie.

The Global Test: Hiking the Santa Cruz Loop in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca - 20
I’m likin’ this lichen.

The Global Test: Hiking the Santa Cruz Loop in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca - 22
Nothing like the sight of vibrant patchwork fields to welcome us back to civilization.


Citation

"Hiking the Santa Cruz Loop in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca: Global Test Photo Essay," by Kristin Tennessen and Danny Milks. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/global_test_cordillera_blanca_peru.html, 2011-04-19 00:00:00-06.

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Hiking the Santa Cruz Loop in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca: Global Test Photo Essay
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Scott Ireland
(WinterWarlock) - MLife

Locale: Western NY
Re: RE: Southward Bound / Santa Cruz Loop on 05/05/2011 07:03:13 MDT Print View

Cam -

I really don't want to derail this excellent thread, but tried to send you a PM and it's not set up...so if could send me one, I have a few South American questions unrelated to the Santa Cruz loop (which is outstanding, by the way)

Thanks, and sorry Danny for stepping on the thread...

Scott