WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO EXPLORE QUELCCAYA GLACIER?
Like most trek in the region, the best time to do the trek to Quelccaya Glacier is in the dry season between May and September. Unlike other popular treks, the Quelccaya is very quiet, even in peak season.
In the shoulder months of April and October weather is still pleasant and the trek is very possible. However, because of its altitude you’ll have to contend with freezing nights, even in the dry season. Because of the altitude and snow, the trek is best avoided in the wetter colder season between November and February.
Temperatures during the day in the dry months are usually quite mild and visibility is very high. Because of the height you’ll want to make sure you are wearing layers, especially for the colder nights. Visitors to Quelccaya Glacier should come prepared with clothes for all weather, as conditions can also change quickly.
WHAT IS THE WEATHER LIKE ON QUELCCAYA?
The weather at Quelccaya Glacier is very unpredictable, changing frequently and quickly. You might see warm weather and sunny skies one minute and then cloudy skies and snowfall the next. The best idea is to make sure you’re prepared for all weather by dressing in layers.
In the Vilcanota Range, there is a dry season and a wet season. The dry season is between May and September, and is considered the best time to hike in the Andes. Keep in mind, however, that the dry season, containing Peru’s winter months, is also the colder time of year. The coldest months are May through July. Expect the days to be cool, no warmer than 40 degrees F, and the nights to drop to freezing temperatures as low as 10 degrees F.
The rainy season is between October and April. While the rainy season is warmer, it can still be cool at night. In fact, there can be heavy snow as well given the elevation. The rain and snow can cause muddy conditions on the trail and even partial closures. It is especially inclimate between January-March, with February bringing the most precipitation. The shoulder months of October and April bring more moderate weather with mixed rainy and dry days.
Dry Season – June to August
- Daytime: 64℉ (18℃)
- Nighttime: 28℉ (-2℃)
Should Season – April to May & September to October
- Daytime: 64℉ (18℃)
- Nighttime: 35℉ (2℃)
Rainy Season – November to March
- Daytime: 64℉ (18℃)
- Nighttime: 39℉ (4℃)
WHAT IS THE ALTITUDE OF THE QUELCCAYA GLACIER?
The highest ridge of the glacier is at 5,650 meters above sea level and the terminal tongues fluctuate between 4,900 and 5,100 meters above sea level.
Climate change is causing a retreat and lowering of the level of the main tongue of the Quelccaya glacier, which leaves the strip of rock and debris uncovered. Small lagoons around the glacier are also evidence of decline, as they occupy depressions left behind by the retreating glacier.
WILL I SUFFER FROM ALTITUDE SICKNESS ON THE TREK TO THE QUELCCAYA GLACIER?
Quelccaya Glacier is not like some other high-altitude treks e.g. Everest Base Camp trek or Annapurna Circuit that start at lower elevations and gradually gain altitude. The entire route of the Quelccaya goes over 4900m. Good acclimatization is the key here.
Altitude sickness, or Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), is a health effect that can arise at high elevations. Minor symptoms include headache, fatigue, difficulty sleeping and dizziness. More progressed cases can result in vomiting, shortness of breath and high altitude cerebral edema, which is associated with lethargy, nausea and disorientation.
Altitude sickness occurs in 20 percent of people at 8,000 feet and 40 percent of people at 10,000 feet. For a hike like the trek to Quelccaya, it is highly likely that you will experience some form of altitude sickness, as elevations reach as high as 16,800 ft. For this reason, it is important to acclimate properly, take your time on the trail and take measures to combat symptoms.
The possibility of experiencing altitude sickness is one of the most common concerns for visitors to Quelccaya. Altitude sickness is caused by a lack of oxygen at higher altitudes and can set in at altitudes above 2,500 meters (8,000 feet) above sea level, putting Quelccaya Glacier’s altitude of 5,400 meters (17,700 feet) well above the minimum elevation where it can occur.
Many people arriving in Cusco by bus from Lima or the Amazon get altitude sickness. It is normal if you fly or go by bus from a low altitude to a location more than 3000m above it. Our body needs time to adjust to the decreasing amount of oxygen available due to the altitude, the higher you go the lower the air pressure and the less oxygen available to you.
HOW TO AVOID THE SOROCHE WHILE HIKING THE QUELCCAYA GLACIER?
How to prevent
- First days in Cusco rest and sleep, don’t walk too much and don’t exercise.
- Drink enough water. Locals in Peru and Bolivia drink a lot of “coca tea” a hot drink made with leaves – it’s considered to help acclimatization. An herbal remedy for altitude sickness used by local peoples for thousands of years.
- Always take the time to acclimatize to the altitude for a day or two before attempting to hike Quelccaya Glacier or completing any other strenuous physical activity.
- You can take Diamox, this medication speeds up acclimatization, consult your doctor before taking it.
- Avoid heavy meals, alcoholic beverages and smoking cigarettes.
- Make sure to keep well-hydrated.
- Don’t consume alcohol.
- Don’t go any higher if you skip acclimatization at lower altitudes you won’t acclimatize if you go higher.
- Try to sleep at lower altitudes – “climb high, sleep low”.
HOW IS THE VARIATION OF THE HEIGHTS IN QUELCCAYA?
As a foreground, the point from where this excursion will start is Cusco, which is located at an altitude of 3500 masl.
It is there where you will have to acclimatize before starting the Trek to Quelccaya, together with your friends and all the crew that will accompany you.
The second day you will start a trek from the town of Phinaya (4700 masl) towards the mythical mountains of Quelccaya.
On a normal day in the trek to Quelccaya you gain height from 800 to 1000 meters per day. The highest steps exceed 5,200 masl. With all this data, it is considered that the Ausangate route is to be well prepared and adapted to the climates and challenges of the Andes.
HOW DIFFICULT IS THE TREK TO QUELCCAYA GLACIER?
The Trek to Quelccaya Glacier is considered strenuous, with a few moderate days sprinkled in. The trek is classified as Grade C in difficulty, which implies altitudes between 15,400 to 17,700 ft (4700-5400 m) and 6-8 hours of hiking per day. There are many steep sections that cause rapid altitude gain in a short time. Anyone with a good level of fitness can manage this hike, but it is recommended that trekkers have experience with multi-day hikes at high elevations.
Another factor to consider, aside from the steep sections and 16,000 ft+ elevation passes, is the weather. The weather can be quite unpredictable, and blizzard conditions at the higher altitudes are not uncommon. It is important to factor the low temperatures and your tolerance to cold and snow when determining your suitability for this trail.
WHAT KIND OF FOOD THERE IS ON THE TREK TO QUELCCAYA GLACIER?
Andean Great Treks is proud to have the best staff of chefs specialized in high mountains, with more than 15 years of experience, in the different trekking routes in Cusco. On our Quelccaya Glacier route we provide you with the best food service every day, our chefs will prepare meals with 100% fresh and organic foods, since our company is focused on community work and support for farmers who provide us with their best fruits.
We have fantastic trek cooks who prepare a wide variety of meals, and each cook has his or her own specialties.
Breakfast can be porridge or cereal & yoghurt, with toast and eggs, or pancakes, marmalade, honey and spreads tea, coffee, coca, tea, herbal teas. For lunch the cook prepares hot or cold lunch dish speciality. Sometimes it can be trout, or pasta or some salads, and we have hot tea, coffee or herbal tea. Afternoon tea is biscuits with guacamole popcorn, wantons or a special treat from the cook with more tea & coffee. Dinner is always 3 course – a hearty soup with is a Peruvian specialty, a main dish of chicken or meat with vegetables, or vegetarian option and a dessert, plus tea and coffee, or drinking chocolate.
We give you a snack pack for the day with biscuits, chocolate, dried fruits, muesli bar, pieces of fresh fruit.
We also cater for vegetarian or vegan diets, gluten or dairy free and special diet requests.
THE TOUR GUIDES SPEAK ENGLISH?
Andean Great Treks has professional, knowledgeable, dependable and experienced guides, who all are well trained for us every year. All of our guides have spent years exploring the mountains and studied in Universities and Institutes of Cusco. All guides speak fluent English and have a great knowledge of the various trekking routes. Our Guides will have the pleasure of guiding you in the most beautiful trails in the Ausangate Trek, Inca Trail, Lares Trek, which will enhance your holiday experience and make it a real success. Our guides are trained in first aid and know how to do in any emergency situation. And most importantly our guides are very friendly and enjoyable and want to share with you the faith of Peru.
ARE THERE AGE LIMITS TO DO THE TREK TO QUELCCAYA GLACIER?
Because it is one of the most demanding trekking routes in terms of physical and mental levels, we recommend doing this activity only for young people between 15 and 55 years of age.
Since they are the ones who can manage with great skill in these difficult routes of the Andes of Peru.
Although there were people up to 60 years old who were able to complete this fabulous route . Always before embarking on a trekking adventure anywhere in the world, we advise you to consult your doctor.
HOW FIT DO I NEED TO BE TO TREK OR CLIMB IN PERU?
For trekking, it is not necessary to be “super fit”, but you do need to be of generally good fitness and a regular walker. You need to be able to hike continuously uphill (sometimes steep) for 2 to 2½ continuous hours with rest stops to reach the top of a pass. Total walking time in a day varies from 3 or 4 hours to up to 7 hours for moderate treks and the hard treks can be up to a 9 hour day.
For climbing you need have good aerobic fitness and be generally strong, and it is important to be well acclimatised. On many of the climbs, you have to carry your equipment with sleeping bag, mattress, clothes and climbing gear up to a high camp in a backpack and you need to be strong enough to manage this.
IS REQUIRED A TRAVEL INSURANCE FOR THE TREK TO QUELCCAYA GLACIER?
We recommend purchasing travel insurance if you plan to trek in Peru. Most of the trekking spots in Peru are very remote so if something goes wrong you will likely need an emergency evacuation and that can be incredibly expensive.
When choosing travel insurance, be sure to purchase a plan that covers high-altitude treks and helicopter rescue, just in case.
WHY DO I NEED TO COME TO THE BRIEFING?
The briefing is very important because it is when you will meet your guide. During this meeting, your guide will provide you with important details regarding the Trek to Quelccaya Glacier. If you are participating in any of our treks, you will be given a duffle bag for your luggage. At the briefing, you will also pay your remaining trek balance. You will be given a map to our offices with your booking information.
HOW MUCH SHOULD I TIP MY CREW MEMBERS?
Tipping is not mandatory on a guided Trek to Quelccaya, but it is highly recommended. You will be amazed by the amount of work and dedication that the guides, chefs, porters and other crew bring to your experience. Tipping is a great way to show your appreciation for the incredible experience. A good rule of thumb is 30-50 soles ($8-$15) per hiker per day. All the hikers on the team can pool their tips and then hand to the trekking team, who will distribute among themselves.
IS WATER INCLUDED ALONG THE TREK TO QUELCCAYA?
On the route to Quelccaya Glacier it is possible to find shops to be able to supply water on the first day. You will then be provided with water that is boiled and then filtered, to avoid any kind of illness or discomfort. It is not a good idea to drink water from waterfalls, lagoons or streams, as many of them could contain toxic minerals or bacteria that are harmful to human health.
DO I NEED TO BRING EXTRA MONEY ?
Yes. This is very important!!! We recommend that you bring 300 to 400 Peruvian soles. It is possible that you may not need any of this money, but just in case of an emergency you should make sure to have plenty of cash. If you are struggling on the route, you can use the money to purchase alternative forms of transportation such as: car, horse.
HOW MANY PEOPLE WILL BE IN MY GROUP?
Groups are usually 2 to 8 people. This also depends on the time of year. The maximum is 10 people and the minimum is 2 people.
WILL I HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO CHARGE MY DEVICES DURING THE TREK AND WILL I HAVE WIFI?
If you can charge your devices, in our lodge we have electricity during the night. On the internet it is possible to access but only very limited, and you must pay the owner of the Wi-Fi signal.
IF I CAN’T HIKE VERY FAST I CAN RENT A HORSE?
Andean Great Treks organizes the Ausangate treks with a responsible and serious team of muleteers. Those who are in charge of their times and walk controls on the Ausangate Trek route. If you have a deficit in the pace of the walk, you will be given an assistance horse, which you can use, until you recover and you can continue the trek normally. Attention that our programs do not include horse rides during the whole journey, if in case you wish to do the tour on a horse you must communicate it at the time of your orientation in Cusco, and the guide will tell you how much it will cost and how is the service. For reasons of animal protection our company has some restrictions on the weight that you must carry or of the same person, Andean Great Treks does not allow animal abuse under any circumstances. Remember that we do the Ausangate trek to walk and enjoy the beautiful landscapes of the mountains and lakes, which will surely be a unique experience in your life.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I’M NOT ABLE TO COMPLETE THE TREK TO QUELCCAYA GLACIER?
If you could not complete your Quelccaya Trek program, because of health problems or any other circunstances, in the first instance you will be evaluated your vital signs, then you will be evacuated as soon as possible to a nearby place with highway, and once there you will be transported in local mobility to Cusco. Since there are no well-equipped hospitals in the Ausangate Mountains, these expenses will be covered by you. So it is suggested to have travel insurance that covers such incidents. In adition our company will not refund the tour cost already payed.
DO YOU BRING OXIGEN TANK, FIRST AID KIT?
Andean Great Treks is a serious and formal tour operator travel agency. As such, in all our Trekking activities we normally carry the oxygen tank, which can be used if one of our clients requires it. Remember, it is a medium oxygen tank, which is used as an emergency mediation to stabilize the tourist, if it still requires more oxygen, you will be evacuated to a closer control point where a vehicle passes, and will also descend to a lower height, to avoid altitude sickness or a tachycardia.
A first aid kit is also carried, which serves to help tourists in emergency circumstances. But have this information: No person who does not have the certification of a doctor, pharmacist or nurse can prescribe any medication, since we do not know the true medical history of the patient, which instead of improvement can worsen their situation. That is why we suggest as an important measure, if possible, bring your own first aid kit with the pills that a doctor has prescribed before starting the Trek to Quelccaya.
DO I NEED REALLY THE TREKKING POLES ON THE QUELCCAYA TREK
The answer is , YES, since having trekking poles on the Quelccaya Glacier routes is vital, this instrument will help you overcome very difficult barriers, and have it in good balance during well-sloped descents. The type of cane that is recommended is of free will for you, since these define according to the food you are going to provide, it can be aluminum, carbon fiber, or other material, but if it has a good resistance When hiking, another no less important detail is that you must have the metal protectors at their tips, usually you will be accommodated with rubber soles. Preferably those that can be easily packed and tied.
WHAT HAPPENS IF THE TREK OR CLIMB IS CANCELLED DUE TO BAD WEATHER?
We trek in any weather, and to date have never cancelled a trek due to bad weather. If clients choose not to make the trek because of bad weather, we can work with you to decide an alternative trek or day hikes, subject to our trek cancellation policy.
All climbs are subject to weather and if the guide considers that weather conditions are dangerous for climbing, then you will be taken back down the mountain.
We have a cancellation policy which you will receive with the booking form when you confirm that you will make a trek or climb with us. You need to read this so that you understand the cancellation terms. NOTE that if you cancel your trek or climb at late notice, we are still obligated to pay our crew the full trek fee for the period that we have booked them for unless we can provide alternative work.
CAN I HIRE GEAR IN CUSCO?
We have some sleeping bags and climbing equipment available for hire and there is a reputable gear hire shop in Cusco that we work with who hire almost all types of trekking and climbing equipment and some clothing.
WHAT IS THE ELECTRICAL SUPPLY IN PERU?
The Peruvian system is 220V, 60 cycles AC Power points generally are two point which either flat and round plugs. Adapters are not always available in Huaraz so you should bring your own.
CAN I RECHARGE DIGITAL AND OTHER BATTERIES?
You can recharge batteries in the cities if you have an adaptor. On trek there is no electrical supply available and no opportunity to recharge batteries.
The cold weather makes all batteries including digital camera batteries and headlamp batteries go flat very quickly. It is advisable to bring spare non-rechargeable batteries with you and always keep your digital camera warm by wrapping it in something warm when not in use.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I GET SICK?
Our guides and porters are trained in mountain first aid and altitude related illness. We always have a horse carrying equipment along with the donkeys, and for larger groups we take a separate rescue horse. If someone is unwell or has an accident, we evacuate them out by horseback to the nearest road or village where we organise evacuation back to Cusco. We always have sufficient staff with our crew so that one of our people can leave to care for the sick/injured client and the rest of the group can continue on with their trek or climb if they wish to. We have a company evacuation policy which the guides carry with them – it details the action to take evacuation is needed, the nearest evacuation point on the trek route and contact emergency telephone numbers.
It is important to realise that we are trekking in remote areas with limited communication to the outside. In some of the most remote areas it can take as much as two or three days to reach a village to be evacuated back to Cusco, while on other trekking routes we can have you safely back in Cusco in a day. There is no radio or cell phone contact in most of the areas we trek through. With large groups in remote areas and on climbing trips where there is no base camp radio or cell phone coverage we have a satellite telephone for emergency.
WHAT IS THE CURRENCY IN PERU?
Official currency is Soles. US dollars widely accepted in bigger towns and large hotels, but you need soles for small hotels, shops and in villages.1 US$ = around 3.30 soles.
The exchange rate is fluctuating regularly because of the weakening US$ and exchange rates can change daily.
Always carry plenty of soles in small denominations in coins (2 soles, 1 sole, 5 soles). Street stalls, taxis and even most shops do not have change.
CHANGING EUROS TO PERU CURRENCY
Euros can also be changed easily in Lima and Cusco for soles. Generally Euros can only be changed at banks or change houses (not hotels). There is a bank agency in the customs hall of Lima airport.
ATM / MONEY MACHINES
There are cash machines in Lima and Cusco. Don’t totally rely on them though for your cash as sometimes they are not functioning. Maximum withdrawal each time is between US$200 and US$400 depending on the bank. You will need your ATM cards to withdraw cash. Most machines do not accept debit card cash withdrawals. Cards must have a PLUS or CIRRUS symbol to work in an ATM machine.