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Ausangate Peru

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Where is the Ausangate Circuit trek?
Most hikers start in Cuzco (near Machu Picchu) — also spelled Cusco & Qosqo), Peru.
Cuzco is one of the major tourist destinations in South America.
Many hikers fly to Cuzco from Lima, the capital of Peru, or travel overland by bus. Transport by bus from La Paz, Bolivia is very convenient too.

Where is the trailhead?
From Cuzco (3326m), travel S.E. to the small village of Tinqui (3800m) 5-8 hours by bus — over some bad & bumpy roads.
You can start the hike as you step off the bus or stay overnight in Tinqui as we did.

How do I get there?
That is the BIG & EXPENSIVE question for foreigners.
In 2005 the cheapest flights we found to South America were into Lima, Peru.
From there it is an easy flight to Cuzco — fares are kept as low as US$60 one way due to the competition between a number of airlines.
Recommendation? If you are flying in to Lima we suggest you connect directly to Cuzco. You can acclimatize there 3400m (11,600 feet) anticipating the two highest passes on the Circuit, both above 5000m!
Most hikers choose to travel overland if they have enough time. (Better for acclimatization.) Many bus companies compete on the Lima <> Cuzco route. The mountain highways have improved vastly over the years.

What does it cost to hike Ausangate?
Note: Big fluctuations with US currency make this section inaccurate. Use it only as a general guideline.
The big cost for foreign hikers is travel to Peru. The hike itself is comparatively inexpensive. Peru is an inexpensive country.
You can hire pack animals & guides in Tinqui less expensively than though an agency in Cuzco — and more of the money gets to the folks who actually do the work.
In 2005 you needed to budget about US$8 / day for a horseman/guide (arriero) and US$8 / day / horse. A bargain, though we normally prefer to carry our own packs.
It seemed to us that stiff competition in Tinqui was keeping prices lower than in other places in Peru. Large groups of Israeli hikers bargain hard for the lowest price possible.
If you are happy with the service you get, tip generously up to 25% of the negotiated price. (The rate should be closer to US$10 / day for both arriero & horse.)
Note that they do not seem to rent burros in Tinqui. This is horse country! And horses make much better ambulances for you than burros if something does go wrong.
If you prefer to sign on with a fully supported trekking company, you will find packages in Cuzco for between US$150 to $400.

When should I hike Ausangate?
The best time to hike is the May through September dry season.

Should I hike off-season?
There is no one to stop you trying any month.
In the wet season, snow on the passes may stop you. The rivers will be high. The valleys very wet.
Avoid February & March for sure when even the lower Inca Trail is often closed.

What is the weather like?
We were there in May and enjoyed weeks of uninterrupted sunshine. Unbelievable!
During the dry season your odds of good weather are excellent.
Still, every Ausangate hiker comments on how much colder the hike is than they expected. Most wish they had brought more clothes or a better sleeping bag. It is freezing during the 13 hour nights!

Where can I buy / rent gear?
It is fairly easy to rent gear in Cuzco though both Huaraz & Arequipa are better.
Check around in the many outdoor shops & tour operators near the main plaza & in gringo alley (Procuradores). Price varies with quality, but expect to pay US$3-6 / item / day. (i.e. tent, sleeping bag, stove, etc.)
You can purchase basic gear too. Quality, selection & price are, of course, not what you might hope for. Many items cost about double what we pay in Canada.
There is one high end gear shop if you really need quality: Tatoo, on the Plazoleta de las Nazarenas.
Best is to bring everything with you to Peru.

Do I need a Reservation to hike?
No. Nada.
Ausangate is completely unregulated.
No hassle. Hike when you want. Camp where you want.
This is the biggest advantage of Ausangate over the Inca Trail which officially requires a minimum of 30 day advance booking.

Where else can I get information?
The best source by far is in Cuzco. Ask if anyone around has hiked Ausangate recently. Post a note there if you want to find hiking partners.
The best guidebook is the excellent & essential Lonely Planet Trekking in the Central Andes.

Who should NOT hike Ausangate?
Anyone not yet well acclimatized for altitude.
NOT those with chronic knee, ankle or back injuries.
There are rough & steep sections. Evacuation from the far side of the mountain is nearly impossible.

What's the most difficult section?
The many high passes, two over 5000m are your greatest challenge. Weather is a concern. Expect wind & cold!
Many hikers experience symptoms of altitude sickness.

Do hikers ever get lost?
Yes, but not badly. There is often a choice of routes to take.
But the valleys are wide open & you can often use huge mountain landmarks to ensure you do not somehow stray into the wrong valley.
With map & the LP guidebook you will make it.

Should I bring a GPS?
No, not necessary. Bring it for fun, if you like.
We had a photocopied trip report from South American Explorers with GPS readings.

What special gear should I bring?
Don’t forget:

  • warm clothes (6 layers!)
  • sunglasses
  • toilet paper
  • waterproof jacket
  • sufficiently warm sleeping bag to -15 Celsius
  • lip protection from sun and wind
  • emergency cash (about US$50)
  • disinfectant alcohol gel

We recommend disinfectant gel (sometimes called instant hand sanitizer) which you use to clean your hands before snack breaks & after toilet stops in the woods. Alcohol gel is essential hiking gear.
You might find it in Peru but it is easier to get overseas.
Stove fuel for almost any stove system can be purchased in Cuzco — but not Tinqui. Do not fly with it, obviously.

What footwear is best for Ausangate?
You want to wear what fits you best & what works for you. No blisters!
Most experts recommend hiking boots. Modern boots are remarkably light & comfortable. A pair of good boots & gaiters make you feel invincible in the scree.
The valleys are wet. Stay high if you do not want to get your boots wet.

Do I need a water filter?
You definitely must treat water. Much of the trek is in grazing land.
Some make a distinction between these two:

  • Water filter removes protozoa & most bacteria
  • Water purifier removes protozoa & bacteria and deactivates viruses

Viruses are too small to be filtered so purifiers add something to disinfect them.
Make sure your purifier is well maintained & frequently cleaned.
You must either filter, boil, use iodine or water purification tablets.
One guide recommended we boil for 10 minutes! as water boils at a lower temperature at high altitude.
We filter.

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Office: Urb. Santa Rosa Nº T-2 Cusco - Peru
Telephone: 0051 + 84 + 273693 ó Cell phone: +0051+84+984567085
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