The Ausangate Trek is a 43 mile backpacking trip that runs through one of the most beautiful landscapes in the Andes. Starting at 12,000ft and reaching high passes close to 17,000ft, the Ausangate Trek reaches some seriously high elevations. Along the way, you’ll pass by small villages, glacial lakes, towering snow capped peaks, and herds of alpacas. The Ausangate Trek is an adventure of a life time, and I’ll be covering all of the details in this guide.
Best Time To Go:
The climate in the Andes has a high level of variation based on season and elevation. The optimal time to hike the Ausangate Trek is July and August, at the peak of the dry season. I hiked the Ausangate Trek in July and had mostly dry weather with only one short rain storm. The daily high was around 35 (F) and the nightly lows approached 0 (F).
- The wet season in the Andes of Peru spans from November to March when the climate is warmest.
- The sunny and dry season spans from April to October and is the optimal time for backpacking and trekking. Expect cool days and very cold nights. Almost every night of my trek reached single digits (F).
Guided vs Independent Trekking:
For this trip to Ausangate, Julia and I went with a guided tour from Alpaca Expeditions. I’m usually a do-it-yourself kind of backpacker, but wanted to get the most out of this trip without having to pack food, a tent, or other items a self supported affair would require. I’m really happy we went with Alpaca Expeditions because our guide, Jose, was phenomenal. He taught us a lot about the history of the Andean people and the locals that live in the area. Our chef was from the local village and cooked up regional meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Finally, one porter was assigned to horses that carried all of our gear from campsite to campsite. This allowed us to carry very light daypacks for enjoyable daily hiking experiences. Having had this guided experience, I might go with a self supported trip next time to save on money and free up a little time. For a first time visitor, I would recommend a guided tour through Alpaca Expeditions.
- Knowledgeable guides with information on the region
- Regional meals and snacks
- Most gear is provided and transported from campsite to campsite
- Support of the local economy by giving porters jobs
- Transportation to and from Cusco is provided
- On a guided itinerary without much room for autonomy
- Expensive at ~$800 per person
Directions And GPS Tracks:
- To start the Ausangate Trek in Tinki, Peru, you’ll need to start in Cusco. There are a number of airlines that fly to Cusco. We flew in via American Airlines with a 2 hours layover in Lima. From Cusco, you’ll need to take a bus to the city of Tinki. For a guided tour this bus will be provided. If your tour is not guided, you will need to catch a public bus or charter a ride.
- Download GPX
- See track on Strava
- See track on AllTrails
Hike Map And Elevation Profile:
- Distance: 42.8 miles
- Elevation Gain: 9406 ft
- Minimum Elevation: 12498 ft
- Maximum Elevation: 16,828 ft
- Time: 5 days
- Permits: No
- Visa: Single entry tourist visa to Peru for US citizens
- Trail Condition: Wide fired road on the start which narrows to single track and alpaca trails
- Cell Phone Reception: None
Gear, Food, and Water:
The gear you bring will be decided by your choice of going with a guided tour or not. I’m not going to get too much into gear, food and water for self supported hikes because if you don’t already know what you should be bringing, you shouldn’t be going without a guide.
If you plan on going without a guide service, check out my John Muir Trail Gear Guide to see what I bring on a self supported backpacking trip. You can also see my John Muir Trail Food Guide. The only difference in my planning for a self supported trip of the Ausangate Trek would be to bring one more cold weather layer and a 0 degree sleeping bag.
If you plan on going with a guide service, make sure to check what they will be provided before you arrive. With Alpaca Expeditions, they provided food, water, tents, sleeping pads, and horse transportation for all of our things from site to site. The only things we needed to bring during the day were our hiking essentials. You can see what I bring with me on day hikes on my Essential Hiking Gear Guide. The exceptions to that list are that I would include rain pants, and an extra cold weather layer.
The Ausangate Trek is in a very remote part of Peru with only small villages and no hospitals. Make sure to come prepared with the proper gear, and most importantly, proper fitness. If you’ve never hiked at altitude before, plan to start slow. If this is your only trip in Peru, take at least 48 hours to acclimatize in Cusco. Here are a few other things to consider:
- If you’re not going with a guided group, make sure to leave a detailed itinerary with someone you’re close with.
- Make sure to stay hydrated. When hiking at high elevation in cold weather, you will sweat much less than you are used to. Once you are dehydrated it is often too late. Mixing dehydration with elevation sickness can be a nasty combination
- Familiarize yourself with the early signs of altitude sickness, and be proactive in your approach to combating these symptoms.Altitude sickness usually manifests itself with an early headache followed by dizziness and a loss of appetite. Don’t be afraid or too stubborn to stop.
- Be hyper-vigilant of weather. The conditions can change by the hour at high elevation in the Andes. Always have your warm layers and waterproof layers readily accessible. This is especially important when heading up and over the high passes.
- Have a first aid kit, gear repair kit, and blister treatment kit ready to go in your day pack.
- Check your health care plan to see what kind of international coverage you have. Consider international travel insurance for the off chance of a catastrophic event.
- Although crime is not common, keep an eye on your belongings when passing through the small villages. You can also bring along small gifts to hand out to the children.
- Make sure all water is boiled and properly treated. There are herds of alpaca and vicuna all throughout this region of the Andes. Treat all water as if it’s contaminated.
See My Documentary:
In this documentary I start out with my travels on the Salkantay Trek to Macchu Pichhu and follow with my experience on the Ausangate Trek. Please enjoy!
Miles (Elevation Gained)
|Day 1: Tinki to Upis||7.5 (2346 ft)||Upis|
|Day 2: Upis to Pucacocha||10.25 (2946 ft)||Pucacocha|
|Day 3: Pucacocha to Jampa||7.3 (2093 ft)||Jampa|
|Day 4: Jampa to Pacchanta||10.6 (2073 ft)||Pacchanta|
|Day 5: Pacchanta to Tinki||7 (272 ft)||None (Cusco)|
A few miles into our walk on day one, we stopped at a small village comprised of three one room adobe buildings with straw roofs. One was the house of our porter and chef. It was here that we ate lunch…
We continued on from the pass and before me stood the most beautiful glacial lakes I had ever laid eyes on. They were a deep sapphire blue, surrounded by flickering blades of golden grass, set deep…
The views of painted hills and the valley floor below stole the breath from my lungs in a way that not even the high altitude was able to manage. This was truly heaven. Snow capped mountain peaks…
The wind started to howl in a constant flow of air, like it was forced from a broken main. The cold wind couldn’t dampen our spirits though, we stood there for quite some time enjoying what would be our…