Santa Cruz Trek Huaraz

How to Organise Your Own Santa Cruz Trek in Huaraz: Prices and Points to Remember

Now that I’m in Ecuador scooting (fine, meandering) towards the equator, it’s almost impossible to imagine that a month ago I was freezing my extremities off atop a 4700m pass in Peru, reduced to a teeth-chattering mess by a spontaneous snow storm.

Yet times do change – and in a continent this ginormous and creative in its landscapes, they do so very often.

Wanding in Huaraz

After hearing about the speckled hills of Huaraz while still far away in Bolivia, I knew that it would have to form a part of my Peruvian lifestyle.  Located in the province of Ancash and base camp for some of Peru’s best treks (and much cheaper than anything Machu Picchu-related) Huaraz is constantly dotted with travelers ready to pop on their boots and explore.

I hiked the Santa Cruz trek – Huaraz’s classic – with a splendid group of Swiss travelers I met in that hazey stupor following a bad night’s sleep on a bus.  As there were five of us, we decided to pool our collective strength and brain space and organise the hike ourselves.

Huaraz Santa Cruz Trek

Of course, it’s much easier to let an agency do it for you…but far more satisfying to be responsible for your own good time (or, as it were, emotional breakdown atop a mountain).

The hills of Huaraz are fantastically gorgeous and come highly recommended.  For anyone planning on sourcing equipment and planning their own hike, here are the costs involved in renting equipment – as given to us in late 2012.

Camp Cooking

EQUIPMENT

Quoted by the very ‘ttractive Churup Hostel in Peruvian soles per day.  At the time of publication, $USD1 = 2.5 soles

  • 2 person tent – 10 soles
  • Kitchen tent – 15 soles
  • Two burner gas stove – 5 soles
  • Sleeping bag – 10 soles
  • Two sleeping mats (one blow up, one foam) – 5 soles
  • Wooden storage box – 10 soles
  • Leki sticks (pair) – 3 soles
  • Utilesils and crockery for 6 people – 6 soles
  • Gas – 40 soles (flat rate, no per day price)
  • Toilet tent – 8 soles

ANIMALS AND DRIVERS

In US dollars per day.  Paying in soles was coverted at 3 soles per dollar, losing you money.

  • Donkeys – $5
  • Arriero (animal handler) – $10

TRANSPORT

  • 380 soles in (A private taxi from Huaraz to trek start point at Cashapampa)
  • 90 soles back (Returning by public transport from Vaquería to Huaraz)
Arriero and Donkey
Our arriero Avelino and one of his faithful beasts…

OUR COSTS AS A GROUP OF SIX

We rented everything listed above for four days (five for the donkeys and handler), which after conversion left us at:

1467 soles ($587) for equipment, animals/arriero and transport.

Our food costs came out at a total of around:

400 soles ($155), bringing us to:

1867 soles or $742 IN TOTAL.

Plus park entry of $28 brings us to $151 per person.

Pre-arranged treks with companies based in Huaraz ranged from $120 – upwards of $260 (all inclusive, EXCEPT park entry and the first day’s breakfast).

Snow-capped Mountain

THINGS TO CONSIDER

  • Donkeys?  Animal handler?  Seriously?

Yeah, I thought so too.  But there’s the thing:  Huaraz, while fantastic as a base for all manner of gorgeous climbing, is not a fantastic place to find light-weight equipment.  Our stove was a very large and heavy affair stored in a wooden box – it would have taken up one entire backpack all on its lonesome.  Tents are big, the kitchen tent a veritable marquee.  Sleeping bags are those old-school types, poofy as hell and unable to be reduced in size unless you provide your own sleeping-bag-reduction-strap-kit (a contraption which I’m all too sure has a real name!).

All this means that your equipment is gonna be bulky, heavy and uncomfortable – something which you won’t want to carry up and down mountains at 4000m yourself. Hence, the donkeys.

And where there are donkeys, there is stubborn-ness (and do you really want to be responsible for four donkeys digging their hills in at 4000m?).  Hence, the handler.

(Our stuff was so heavy that we needed four donkeys each carrying 30kg.)

Camping in Huaraz

  • How can I spend less?

Bring your own equipment. And make it light, durable stuff that you can carry yourself thus making donkeys obsolete.

As donkeys were already a must, we had some weight to spare and so brought whole foods. If you want to do away with donkeys, it will mean coming prepared with light, dehydrated foods. But if you look for the light-weight, high-energy trekking foods in Huaraz that you’re used to seeing in Canada, New Zealand or Switzerland – you’ll be hard pressed to find anything more exciting than two minute noodles.

Things like toilet tents and Leki sticks are negotiable.  (It’s quite likely that upon arrival some days you won’t want to put it up anyway.  Happily, bushes are mostly available for hiding your bits.)

Hiking in Huaraz

  • Is that super expensive mini van you mentioned really necessary?

No, of course you can get to Cashapampa via public transport (setting you back about 90 soles as per the return). But remember that if you rented the aforementioned bulky-ass equipment available in Huaraz, you’re going to have a LOT of boxes, bags and backpacks with you.  As an added bonus, if you are group of four or less, you can expect to pay only 260 soles.

Public transport will require one change of bus, and at 6am we were not so keen on lugging our own stuff and repacking it on another bus.

(Ok, so we were soft, sue us.)

Crazy Looking Cow!

  • Anything else?

Yes!!!  If you rent donkeys and an arriero, you will need to pay them for an extra day (ie, we paid for five, though our trek was four days).  This is because the animals and their handler need to make their way back to the start point – a working day for them.

Also!  You must include the arriero in your food estimates. Buy an extra serve of everything.

Finally!  After finishing, my group and I felt that it was definitely best to start the trek at Cashpampa.  This way, your hardest day’s climb at the 4700m pass will take place on Day 2 – not Day 3, when you’re just that little bit more tired.

Also, the view on the last leg to Vaquería is very downhill and not as spectacular as the previous three days.  Deciding to start at Vaquería would mean that your first day (as well as not being that attractive), will be very dusty, hot and uphill.

(Thankfully, as we learned in pre-school, donkeys eat grass.)

Donkey and Handler

  • Summary?

For a similar price (or much less if you were willing to fork out $200 or more), you can organise your own trek.  If you’re rad and are traveling with your own equipment, I salute you, you will spend less much less.

The views and scenery are spectacular, no questions there.  Go, go, go…

Pásenlo buenazo!

Day One Santa Cruz

Huaraz Santa Cruz

Valley Blue Sky

Hikers

Yellow Tent Near Mountain

Happy Hikers

Hikers

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22 thoughts on “How to Organise Your Own Santa Cruz Trek in Huaraz: Prices and Points to Remember

  1. Wow, this blog is so helpful for preparing for a pretty complicated trek.
    My boyfriend and I are going April 26 – 29 and trying to plan an independent trip. I was just looking online at a tour company that said “according to Huascaran National Park’s latest regulations, some trekking circuits, the Santa Cruz trek route in particular, are no longer open to independent travelers and can be done only through a tour operator or travel agency accredited by Huascaran National Park”.
    I have been looking online for more information but it has been a bit difficult to come by. Seeing as your blog is quite recent I was hoping you might be able to clarify this for me. Really, any information you might have would be helpful.
    Thank you!

    1. Hey Kaley! So glad you’re finding the blog useful 🙂
      When we were there in September no one told us anything of the sort. Ours was a much more “official” hike given that we hired donkeys and all…though while hiking, we met two or three small groups and couples hiking alone with small packs (full of, I imagine, LOTS of muslei bars!).

      So I guess I can only say that 6 months ago, the word on the street WASN’T that you couldn’t do it alone. I’d recommend that you arrive in Huaraz a good few days in advance to ask around and plan the best combo for you: ie, group trek / with animals and arriero / only a guide or without any extra help at all.

      Have fun!! You won’t regret going!

    2. Hi Kaley, Have you came back, or not yet? I m going there 10.05 and also planing some solo trek. I really want to stay alone in that beautiful mountains, so any organize trek is not really for my, I hope there is possibility to do it;)

      cheers
      Marcin

      1. Hello!
        It is possible for you to arrange your own trek, but it is somewhat tricky. We took the overnight bus Cruz del Sur from Lima to Huaraz. The bus is about $50US pp, each way and departs around 10:30pm and arrives in Huaraz by 6am. When you arrive in Huaraz you will be bombarded by guide and tour companies trying to convince you to use their services. Politely decline & ask for directions to the “collectivo” (unless you have about $150 to take a private car there). We used the collectivo (a shared taxi service pretty much) and paid $7 soles each on the first leg (to Caraz) and then caught a different collectivo and paid around $10- $20 soles each (can’t remember exactly) for the second part to Cashapampa.
        I should also mention here that apparently we went the wrong direction! Really, you can go either direction, one starts in Cashapampa & ends in Vaqueria, while the other way you start in Vaqueria & end in Cashapampa. The way we did it, you gain more altitude, quicker so some would say it is a bit more difficult. It is up to you which way you go & you should consider the Punta Union pass (at 4750 meters above sea level, it is the highest point on the trek) in your decision. Regardless, the collectivos should take you to your desired starting point.
        Oh, and in case you need gear, we rented a tent, stove & propane in Huaraz. There are a bunch of outfitters, look into which ones are recommended online and make sure you check the gear out before you depart. It was around $100US and we left a couple of our bags in his office (as collateral and so we would only have our big packs).
        You have to pay for a permit to enter the park, which was about $65US pp. Keep this, you have to show it on your way out.
        Also, my biggest piece of advice would be to invest in a good map of the route! Especially going alone, there are some sections that are a bit confusing, and unless you know Spanish and there happens to be someone around to ask directions from, it is difficult without a map! We brought a terribly basic one printed off the web and headed the wrong direction a couple times.
        I think that covers most of it, I hope it helps.
        Enjoy!!

  2. hi if anyone is planning on doing an independent santa cruz trek in august- september keen to have a chat. myself and my girlfriend are looking into it and will be keen to share the adventure

  3. thanks for the tip! oh just wondering if trail shoes would be suitable for the trek or if hiking boots are a must?

    1. I went with low-topped trail shoes and was fine as our packs weren’t very heavy. BUT, I have had ankle issues in the past and so was verrrry careful about where I put my feet and was probably not as relaxed as I could have been. The others in my group all had full hiking boots, and I’d say I saw more of those types of footwear around.

      The hardest parts on the ankles were the descent from the highest point at the 4700m pass, and the final descent on the last day. The rest is mostly flat, or easy slopes. No climbing or scrambling.

      I’d say if you have access to both sorts of shoes and/or experience weakness in the ankles, take the hiking boots for extra support.

      Have a great trek!!

  4. I am glad you provided this info, one tour operator is quoting us $540 USD per person including park pass in group of six, plus $20 extra for english speaking guide, what a rip off, that’s what I told them, others are averaging the same what you indicated, ~$150 for a group of five, for 4day Santa Cruz trek,
    thanks,
    Andrew

    1. Hi Edgar, as mentioned in the post, some agencies do quote similar prices (and others, far higher). But for many travellers, the “do it yourself factor” is half the fun. This post is for them.

    1. Hi Helmuth,

      I wouldn’t like to be your final reference on the matter, so please check other sources too 🙂

      It wasn’t *badly* marked, but that said, there were times when I completely zoned out and just followed our arriero. I can’t say I was actively looking for landmarks and I don’t remember there being that many signs throughout the place. While in Huaraz, if I were you I would definitely check lots of maps and talk to guides and hikers who’ve recently finished the trail to get a better idea of it. Have fun!

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