Climbing in clouds

Cycling in the Cordillera Blanca in wet season can be a thankless task. Muddy roads, afternoon rains, impassable torrents and a blanketing of clouds all conspire to complicate riding. The clear blue skies of July seem a long way away in a drizzly March.

A 2000m, 50+ switchback climb from Caraz into the fog led to a damp camp whose location was something of a mystery to us. But set an early morning alarm and your efforts may just be rewarded…


Our ride from Caraz got off to a faltering start. This was the bridge we were intending to cross over the Rio Santa. Turns out it won’t be built until later this year. But there’s an old bridge a few hundred metres downstream…


Unfortunately it’s looking a bit unstable at this time of year. As even the locals weren’t risking crossing, we headed back to Caraz to cross the next-closest bridge, which added a couple of hours to our ride. (This turned out to be a good decision – when we passed this old bridge two days later, it had collapsed; and falling into the raging Santa at this time of year is unlikely to have a happy ending.)


For most of the climb into the Negra we could barely see past our front wheels. But at 4000m the clouds cleared for a bit, and we caught this view of a shamlet perched on a hillside.


No hillside too steep to cultivate!


We set up camp in the rain, just off the road. We didn’t really know where we were. But at 0600, all became clear…


Santa Cruz – Caraz – Huandoy.





A lone puya raimondii. The hillsides at Winchus boast the largest stand of puyas anywhere, apparently.




The paved climb gave way to an upward traverse on dirt. The views only improved..







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6 thoughts on “Climbing in clouds

  1. Amaya

    Good call on the bridge–if the Rio Santo had swallowed you up we’d probably all get a tad lazier and just stick to tarmac. Your tales of true adventure always remind us of the rewards of taking the hard way round. Amazing photos (as always).

    1. Neil and Harriet Post author

      Cheers Amaya! You guys must be pretty fit after all those climbs in Sulawesi. That definitely looks like the hard way round! When do you think you will return to South America to tackle the climbs here?

    1. Neil and Harriet Post author

      Thanks Aurora! I’m sure you’ll have a great time here – just make sure you visit in the dry season!

    1. Neil and Harriet Post author

      Yeah, the rivers are pretty high at the moment. Not sure what you’d die of first if you fell in the Santa, drowning or heavy metal poisoning…

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