Of all the monuments and natural wonders that populate Peru, the Pastoruri Glacier is perhaps one of the least known. Located 35 kilometers south of the city of Huaraz, in the Huascarán National Park, the mountain is one of the many peaks of the Cordillera Blanca with more than 5,000 meters above sea level. Easily accessible throughout the year, the area is especially recommended to enjoy a day out with the family and enjoy iconic views that are very different from those you can imagine if you visit the country.
Due to the reduction of its size due to the effects of global warming, Peru has created what is known as the Climate Change Route. An original proposal to make visitors aware of the problem by showing them where the glacier was several years ago and the location of what was an ice cave.
The Pastoruri landscape is an amazing combination of the three states of water. On the one hand, ice is always present in the structure of the glacier itself. Second, Laguna de Patococha presents water in its most natural state. Finally, we find gasified water with springs that emanate from the depths in the form of gas.
In addition to the grandeur and beauty of the glacier, the great variety of wild flora and fauna is another attraction of the landscape. Wild ducks or birds such as the chiritos and typical high Andean plants such as the Puya Raimondi inhabit the area, but they are not the only living beings that inhabited the Pastoruri. Fossil remains have been found in the area that show the presence of dinosaurs thousands of years ago.
And animals have not been the only historical inhabitants of the glacier. Archaeological remains of ancient cultures have been found in the Pumapama area, thanks to the appearance of cave drawings and writings that are currently accessible to visitors.
A day on the glacier is much more than admiring a block of ice. Snow is the perfect ally for winter sports and activities. Hiking, horseback riding and even climbing in the different terrains of the landscape are some of the options available to those who come to see this wonderful setting.
As you will see, the offer is very wide. Its location and structure give it a unique character and totally different from the rest of Peruvian landscapes. Even if you are from warmer places you cannot miss this wonder of nature and enjoy the plans offered by the Pastoruri Glacier.
Quite contrary to what it may seem, the Pastoruri glacier has been clearly retreating for years. In fact, according to experts, this glacier will completely disappear in just a decade.
The Pastoruri Glacier is one of more than 700 ice formations that occur in the Cordillera Blanca of Peru. This mountain range is home to the highest peaks in the country (with Huascarán at its head, with more than 6,700 meters above sea level) and, next to them, there are numerous lagoons, waterfalls and glaciers. It is an area of incredible landscape and natural value, which is why it has been declared a Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site.
In the mountain range is the Huascarán National Park, and within it, to the south, is the place that concerns us in this post: the Pastoruri glacier. It takes its name from the snowy peak where it is located and forms a beautiful image, as its white color contrasts enormously with the dark rock around it and the blues of the sky and the lagoon caused by its melting.
And it is that, like most of the world's glaciers, the Pastoruri is receding due to climate change, leaving less than 2 square kilometers of its surface. It is located at 5,000 meters, but neither the altitude, nor the temperatures nor being surrounded by other masses of ice make these freshwater reserves conserve.
During the path that leads to the Pastoruri glacier, one of the most accessible on foot in the Cordillera Blanca, you can see that there is hardly any snow at more than 4,000 meters.
Due to climate change, the Pastoruri glacier has lost a large part of its ice cap, in addition to the 40-meter ice cave that was located here and that today is a small lagoon.
This route shows visitors where the glacier was several years ago and the location of a former ice cave, as well as the states of the water in it.
In the Cordillera Blanca of the Peruvian Andes, the Pastoruri Glacier is one of Peru's lesser-known destinations. Specifically, this glacier is part of the Huascarán National Park, and is located 5,000 meters above sea level, which could lead to the conclusion that it is in a good state of conservation. Quite the contrary, climate change has caused this glacier to recede considerably in recent years, losing much of the ice cap as well as the 40-meter ice cave that was located here and is now a small lagoon.
It is in this context that the Climate Change Route was created five years ago, which aims to make visitors aware that this phenomenon is very real. In addition, with this route we want to show the damage that the increase in the earth's temperature is creating in some natural areas of the world, such as the Pastoruri glacier, which is believed to disappear within a decade as a result of climate change.
Through this route, visitors are shown where the glacier was several years ago and the location of what was an ice cave, as well as the states of the water in it: the ice cap, the Patococha Lagoon, where you can see the peaks of the snow-capped mountains in the background, and the springs that emanate from the depths in the form of gas. In addition, you can see the efforts that are being made to maintain the ice of the glacier. In this sense, the glaciologist Benjamín Morales Arnao has tested a method to prevent melting that consists of covering the ice with a layer of sawdust 15 cm thick, which managed to maintain 4 meters of ice, since the sawdust works as an insulator.
But not everything is climate change, this route also shows the native flora and fauna as well as the historical archaeological remains that are found along the way, such as some fossils that show the presence of dinosaurs and archaeological remains in the form of cave drawings and writings in the Pumapama area.
Going to the Pastoruri glacier is quite simple, since it is connected by road from Huaraz. Being one of the most famous places in the Cordillera Blanca, you can take a full day excursion to visit it, although if you have your own vehicle you can also easily access it.
All transport can reach the car park and, once there, you have to walk about 200 meters to reach the glacier. It is quite tiring due to the altitude (5,000 meters), so there is the option of going up a few meters on horseback. From my point of view this is savage, because if we lack air at those altitudes, the poor horses do too, so I take the opportunity to ask you to walk, taking breaks and calmly, and not contribute to this form of tourism so little responsible with animals.
If you are going to travel alone to Huaraz, my recommendation is that you go to the Pastoruri glacier on an excursion. On the one hand, you don't have to worry about anything. On the other hand, it can be safer, since it goes up to 5,000 meters of altitude and, if you are not acclimatized, you can have a really bad time (and enough to drive in the mountains!). Also, if you go on a tour you will have the opportunity to meet other travelers, and it is very likely that some will also go alone, so in this way you can make friends.
During the excursion from Huaraz, it is used to go through other places of interest. One of them is the Pumapampa gasified water spring, where the water gushes out seeming to boil due to the gas it contains. You will also be able to appreciate the Raimondi puyas, elongated plants that grow at more than 3,000 meters of altitude in the areas of Peru and Bolivia.
Once on the glacier, you will have time to walk the path and take photos next to this wonder of nature. If you take something to eat you can have a picnic here admiring the views, although the tours usually stop at a restaurant to eat on the way back.
If going on an excursion is not for you and you prefer to go at your own pace, then you can go with your own vehicle or rent a car if you do not have one. To get to the Pastoruri Glacier from Huaraz, you must take the N3 highway to the south. You will pass several towns and, once you reach Catac, you only have to continue a few more meters until the detour to the glacier.
Once you leave the N3, the path that follows the glacier is a gravel track, although in good condition. After several kilometers ascending you will arrive at the car park, where you have to leave the vehicle to access the glacier.
As it is a high altitude and high mountain place, there are some things to take into account before climbing. Here I give you some tips to go to the Pastoruri glacier and be able to enjoy it.
To visit the Pastoruri Glacier, I recommend you bring a backpack with everything you will need for the day. Keep in mind that you will be out all day, so you can not miss a bottle of water and a snack. I also suggest you carry an external battery so you don't run out of battery on your mobile. You will want to take hundreds of photos!
Take warm clothes, because it is very cold up there. Between the altitude, the cold of the glacier and the fact that there may be fog or clouds, it is best to wear several layers of clothing to maintain body temperature. In addition, I also recommend you to wear a hat, gloves and something to cover your neck. Sunglasses cannot be missing from your bag or backpack either, because, even if the day is cloudy, the white color of the glacier reflects the light and is very annoying, even being harmful to the eyes.
Many are the routes that take you to Machu Picchu, but none is like the Inca Trail Tours, the most famous pedestrian path in the Americas. After flying from the capital of Perú, Lima, you will arrive in Cusco to walk for four days along a path through forests and dense fog, millenary stone steps and discovering the ruins of ancient fortifications and Inca cities, and all the time enjoying majestic views.