Chopicalqui - Millisraju Expedition
The logistics required for any group of climbers varies with the needs and financial means of the group. I’ll say a bit about our group’s expectations before I delve into our logistical choices, setting the stage for the choices outlined in below.
We range in age from 35 to 48 and are all at some point in a professional career. Our useable span of vacation is tempered by family obligations, employment limitations, or the stark reality that we are from the U.S. and do not benefit from a more European vacation outlook. We must make the most of a block of two weeks and three weekends. If you have more time, you can handle logistics personally, reducing the cost but perhaps at a greater frustration or cost in days spend organizing. We do not have that option.
Instead, we used an expatriate logistics provider, Chris Benway, who was able to make arrangements of a cook and porter weeks to months ahead of our arrival and later handle other needs such as transport, upon our arrival. The financial cost of this option is within our means as professionals and effectively gives us all the comforts of a packaged climbing trip at one third to one half the cost and without the hassle of being part of a guided trip. Finally, having ridden many a chicken bus in my 20’s and early 30’s, I’ll admit to enjoying the extra bit of comfort that comes with logistical support.
I want to make a note regarding Chris Benway and La Cima Logistics. We came upon Chris as a logistics provider by word of mouth and we have no business connection with him. My consistently positive comments regarding his handling of our logistics comes after using him two years in a row and being very pleased with his service over both years. We will climb again in Peru and without hesitation; we will use Chris on any future trips to the Blanca.
Wyoming to Lima
We flew Delta Airlines from Denver, Colorado to Lima, Peru with a change of planes in Atlanta, Georgia. Our choice of Delta was price based, as we had no particular reason to select a specific U.S. flag carriers servicing Lima. All the carriers arrive in Lima at about the same time, dump everyone into the same immigration hall and hopefully gets the luggage and climbing gear to Lima on the same plane. We did not consider the non-U.S. carriers based upon our Bolivian experience when a member of the group used a South American carrier and waited for her bags for four days.
Lima Transport and Lodging
We contacted the Hotel Aleman to reserve a room for the night of our arrival and asked that they have a ride waiting for us at the airport. Hotel Aleman is in the Miraflores district and directly across from a huge and well-stocked supermarket able to meet every shopping needs. The Aleman is clean and quiet and the staff is always helpful, so coming back again this year was a no brainer.
The ride from the airport to the hotel cost $11.00 and a double room came in at $45 per night.
Transport to Huaraz
We used Movil Tours (bus line) to get from Lima to Huaraz in 2004 but this year we wanted to get out of Lima in the morning and make as good time to Huaraz as possible. Instead of an early afternoon departure (1 a.m.), we wanted an early morning start (8 a.m.) departure and Chris Benway arranged for a dependable car & driver to meet us at the Aleman at exactly that time. The cost was $185 and we were in Huaraz in 7 hours, including stops for lunch and multiple picture taking.
Transport Huaraz to Llanganuco and Santa Cruz Trailheads
Chris arranged transport from Huaraz to both trailheads, leaving at appropriate times and at a cost of $60 per one-way leg. The transport was via Toyota van and every driver was on time and knew exactly where he was going.
Cooking and Comestibles
We arranged for Elias Morales to accompany us and cook for our group based upon the great job he did for us in 2004. Elias takes care of all the shopping, plans all the meals, does the cooking and covers clean up. We were on the trail for 11 days and nobody had a moment of stomach upset and that says a great deal about the quality of his cooking and attention to sanitary details. Having a cook may seem like an extravagance, but it takes an incredible amount of hassle out of the trip, translates into relief from the spectre of freeze dried meals, includes fresh meats, vegetables, soups, and deserts, and saves you the hassle of buying and packing all the food for the trip. Elias fee services was $30 per day and the food cost was calculated at $30 per day for four persons. We also put the “master/servant” relationship to bed on day one, meaning everyone eats the same thing, at one sitting.
This trip started as a Chopi/Artesan climb; hence we made no plans for an arriero and train of burros. We lined a high altitude porter as last year for the duration of the trip, a fellow by the name of Joaquin Vargas. Joaquin has been just about everywhere one might want to go in the Cordilleras Blanca and Huayhuash. He’s been up Huascaran 118 times and can walk me into the ground on my best day.
We wanted a porter to assist with moving our camp up Chopi and later to help set up our camp on the moraine below Artesan. In the course of modifying the second half of the trip, we had less need for a porter but a real need for information about lesser-climbed peaks. Joaquin’s daily fee is $25 per day.
We also ended up with an arriero, five burros and a horse for the Santa Cruz portion of the trip. That portion of the trip covered a distance of 50 miles with two separate camps. Four-legged transport was crucial and we utilized the pack train for a full five days. The daily cost for the arriero is $10, with an additional $5 per head of pack stock. Also depending on the haul, there may be a cost for the pack train to deadhead home or a set number of days rental regardless of the actual number of days required. Sorting through this issue can justify the cost of Joaquin if for no other reason than his knowledge of the players, the going rates, and the proper corners to be cut.
While discussing local staff, I’ll note that these guys are much more than cooking and hauling help. They are decent Spanish coaches, a wealth of knowledge, and negotiators with the locals when the need arises. For both of our Peru trips, our plans have changed and we did not necessarily have continuing porter needs but, we never regretted keeping them on for the duration of the trip and they never failed to provide a service equal to the daily cost.
We had miscellaneous rentals including a tank of propane, a two-burner stove, pots and pans, pyramidal kitchen/mess tent, etc. The daily cost for these items probably accrued to $25 or so per day, depending on the details. Every trip and group need will be different and the costs will vary. All are readily available in Huaraz and Chris and Elias took care of these details.
We stayed at the Familia Meza, a lodging associated with Chris’ family and adjacent to the Café Andino. The lodging was comfortable, convenient to the center of town and the bus stations, and secure. Done it twice, going to do it again.
I looked around for travel insurance and kept hitting dead ends that precluded coverage of rescue and evacuation due to the fact that we were on a climbing trip. I am not a member of the American Alpine Club but I will note that they have mountain rescue insurance. My problem is that I think there is a relatively low per occurrence limit and I was not sure it would do much good in the event I was really racked up in the Andes. Instead, I bought evacuation insurance and accepted the risk of paying the Peruvian rescue/police the better part of $5000 or $10,000, while maintaining covered for the very high cost of getting a seriously beat up body back to a U.S. hospital.
I bought a one-year “Medjet Assist” policy that would haul my injured self back to the U.S. The policy cost $195 and I figured this would preclude exposure to the biggest cost of a foreign accident, evacuation to the States, as compared to the lesser cost to get you to a Peruvian hospital. The policy also covered the possibility of a gallbladder job gone bad, an unknown medical issue, or a good old-fashioned highway accident. Climb insurance is an individual call you will have to tailor to your own needs but I thought I’d pass on my handling of the issue.
The final bill?
The final tab for all the logistics from being picked up in Lima to getting off the bus in Lima two weeks later was about $2450 for the two of us. I probably spent about $150 on other miscellaneous costs over the two weeks between pick-up and re-delivery. $1225 per person for two weeks in the Cordillera . . . not a bad deal.