The Sources of the Cordillera Blanca
Crowned by the southern peak of majestic Mount Huascaran (6,768 masl), the Cordillera Blanca is the largest chain
of the Peruvian Andes as well as being the most glacial of the globe's tropical region. And, in spite of being barely
100 kilometers from the Pacific coast, it forms part of the continental watershed: the rains this mountain range receives
on its eastern side flow towards the Marañon River, one of the main tributaries of the great Amazon river.
The Cordillera Blanca is located in the department of Ancash, part of North Central Peru, just 200 kilometers from the
city of Lima (straight line measurement). Practically the entire cordillera has been protected - at least officially - under
the category of a National Park since 1975.
The mountain chain is 180 kilometers long, following a north to southeast direction. It is 28 kilometers wide at its
maximum point and is almost one continual massif with the exception of the remote and little visited snow covered
peak of Mount Champara, located towards the extreme north of the chain. Somewhere between 20 and 30 peaks surpass
6,000 meters in altitude and several dozen pass the 5,700 meter mark.
The greater part of the most well-known mountain peaks - those of mounts Huascaran, Alpamayo, Huandoy, and
Chacraraju - are located in the northern third of the cordillera. The mid-section of the chain also possesses impressive
mountains, like Tocllaraju, Chinchey, Palcaraju, and Cayesh, besides the gigantic massif of Mount Huantsan. Finally,
there is the southern section, which does possess fewer peaks yet tends to be more interesting from a biological point
The Santa River flows towards the north through the deep valley known as the Callejon de Huaylas, which is
formed by the Cordillera Blanca to the east and the Cordillera Negra, lacking snow and whose maximum altitude
just passes 5,000 meters, to the west. After its birth, at an altitude of 4,000 meters, in the Conococha lake and
the wetlands that surround it, the Santa snakes its way down the valley, passing through the cities of Huaraz,
Carhuaz, Yungay, and Caraz as well as several other smaller towns and villages before entering the narrow
Cañon del Pato (Duck's Canyon) where the northern ends of the two mountain ranges almost touch each other.