Postcard from... Peru


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The Independent Online

Hanging on by my fingernails half-way up a 100ft cliff, this is not the place to be running out of breath. With almost infinite virgin routes, fingertip-shredding volcanic rock, the “Forest of Rocks” at Huayllay, in Peru's central region of Cerro de Pasco, is a rock-climber's paradise.

But situated at just over 13,000ft on the Andean altiplano, Huallay will never attract the droves of climbers who flock to Yorkshire's gritstone cliffs or the granite playground of California's Joshua Tree.

Even without the altitude, Huayllay is not exactly on the tourist trail. The hair-raising seven-hour drive up from Lima guarantees that, unlike at more popular crags, climbers will never have to queue for the best routes.

Peru, of course, has more than its fair share of vertical rock to attract world-class climbers and weekend warriors alike. Yet almost all of it is located high in the Andes. That seriously complicates the weekend ritual familiar to urban climbers around the world: Hit the road out of crowded cities on a Friday night for 48 hours of adrenalin-fuelled, back-country kicks. At Huayllay, two days will not get you even close to being fully acclimatised.

But with a bit of experience, a short climbing trip does become manageable. You might not set any personal records, but there are no shortage of rewards to climbing in Huayllay, including recatching your breath between routes as the tropical sun emerges from the dark clouds to send the mercury rocketing.

Yet none of them quite equal the relief of slipping into the local hot springs after a hard day huffing and puffing up the crags.