Cordillera Blanca

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Cordillera Blanca
Alpamayo (5,947 m)
Highest point
Peak Huascarán
Elevation 6,768 m (22,205 ft)
Coordinates 9°07′17″S 77°36′32″W / 9.12139°S 77.60889°W / -9.12139; -77.60889
Length 180 km (110 mi) N-S
Width 21 km (13 mi)
Cordillera Blanca is located in Peru
Cordillera Blanca
Location of Cordillera Blanca inside Peru.
Country Peru
State/Province Ancash
Range coordinates 9°10′S 77°35′W / 9.17°S 77.58°W / -9.17; -77.58Coordinates: 9°10′S 77°35′W / 9.17°S 77.58°W / -9.17; -77.58
Parent range Andes

The Cordillera Blanca (Spanish for "white range") is a mountain range in Peru which is part of the larger Andes range and extends between 8°08' and 9°58'S and 77°00' and 77°52'W, in NW direction. It includes 33 major peaks over 5,500 metres (18,040 ft) high and 722 individual glaciers[1] in an area 21 kilometres (13 mi) wide and about 200 kilometres (124 mi) long. The highest mountain in Peru, Huascarán of 6,768 metres (22,205 ft), is located here.

The Cordillera Blanca lies entirely inside the region of Ancash, and runs parallel to the Santa River valley (also called Callejón de Huaylas on its upper and mid-sections) on the west. Huascarán National Park, established in 1975, encompasses almost the entire range of the Cordillera Blanca.[2]

Snow melt from the Cordillera Blanca has provided part of Northern Peru with its year-round water supplies, while 5% of Peru's power comes from an hydro-electrical plant located in the Santa river valley. The area of permanent ice pack shrank by about a third between the 1970s and 2006.[3]


The Cordillera Blanca is the most extensive tropical ice covered mountain range in the world and has the major ice concentration in Peru.[1] It is part of the Cordillera Occidental (the westernmost part of the Peruvian Andes), and trends in a northwesterly direction for 200 km between 8°08' and 9°58'S of latitude and 77°00' and 77°52' W of longitude.[1] It has five of the most spectacular peaks above 6,000 m in the Peruvian Andes; the highest peak, Huascarán, rises to an elevation of 6,768 m asl.[1] The Cordillera Blanca also acts as a continental divide: Santa River on the west drains into the Pacific Ocean whereas Marañón River on the east drains into the Atlantic Ocean.[1]

The mountains Ocshapalca (on the left) and Ranrapalca, the Llaqa glacier and Llaqa Lake


A total of 722 individual glaciers are recognized in this mountain range, and these cover an area of 723.4 km2.[1] Most of these glaciers are on the western side of the ranges, where 530 glaciers cover an area of 507.5 km2; while on the eastern side 192 glaciers cover an area of 215.9 km2.[1] Most of the glaciers, 91 percent of the total, are classified as mountain glaciers (they are generally short and have extremely steep slopes); the rest are classified as valley glaciers, except for one ice cap.[1]

As with all Andean glaciers, the Cordillera Blanca has witnessed a major retreat of its during the 20th century due to global climate change. Studies have shown a retreat of over 15% since the 1970s.[4]


Among the most important lakes in the range are: the Llanganuco Lakes which are located at the northern side of Huascarán, and accesible from the town of Yungay; Lake Parón (the biggest lake in the Cordillera Blanca), located just north of Huandoy, accesible from the town of Caraz, its waters have a deep turquoise hue; the lakes Ichikqucha and Hatunqucha, which lie in the vicinity of Artesonraju and Alpamayo and are accessible only by trekking or on horseback from Caraz.

Other notable lakes are Laguna 69, Alliqucha, Awkishqucha, Pallqaqucha, Qiruqucha and Conococha.


There are sixteen 6,000 m peaks in the Cordillera Blanca with a 400 m topographic prominence, and a further seventeen peaks over 5,500 m.[5] Huascaran Sur, the highest peak, has two commonly quoted heights - 6,746 m from the Peruvian National Geographic Institute (IGN) map, and 6,768 m from the Austrian Alpine Club (OeAV) survey map.[6]

Chopicalqui (6354 m)

A selection of some of the highest peaks of the Cordillera Blanca is listed below.[7]

Taulliraju (5830 m)

Hot springs[edit]

Among the most important in the area are: Monterrey and Chancos, which are transformed in thermal bath facilities. Both are at 7 and 27 km respectively from the regional capital, Huaraz.[8][9]


Dry season extends from May to September, the months with less rain and more stable weather being June and July.[10]


The papery bark of Polylepis racemosa, protects the tree from low temperatures.

Flora and fauna are adapted to climate and elevational range of mountainous areas. Almost all the extension of the Cordillera Blanca is protected by Huascarán National Park, except for the northernmost areas of Champará and Pacra.


The main types of plant communities present in the area are: the vegetation of inter-Andean valleys (xerophytic plants in the lower elevations and shrubs and grassland at the higher elevations) and high altitude vegetation (Puna grasslands and patches of high Andean forest).[11]

Plants have adapted to the intense solar radiation, low temperatures and water availability. Most plant species have pubescent leaves, an adaptation which protects the plants from water loss for the intense solar radiation and from the low night temperatures of the mountain climate.[12]

Examples of typical vegetation of this area are: Polylepis racemosa, Escallonia resinosa, Alnus acuminata, Senna birostris, Vallea stipularis, Lupinus spp., Vaccinium floribundum, Puya raimondii, Calamagrostis vicunarum, Festuca dolichophylla, Jarava ichu, Azorella spp., Ranunculus macropetalus, etc.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Peruvian Cordilleras". USGS. Retrieved August 16, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Huascarán - Servicio Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas por el Estado". (in Spanish). Retrieved 2016-05-29. 
  3. ^ Painter, James (2007-03-12). "Peru's alarming water truth". BBC News Online: Americas. Archived from the original on 2007-03-14. 
  4. ^ Lynas, Mark: High tide: the truth about our climate crisis, pg. 230, ISBN 978-0-312-30365-5
  5. ^ Biggar, John; et al. "Andes Peak Lists". Andes. 
  6. ^ Jonathan de Ferranti; et al. "South American Prominence Lists". 
  7. ^ Taken from Mountaineering in the Andes by Jill Neate, RGS-IBG Expedition Advisory Centre, 2nd edition, May 1994
  8. ^ "Baños Termales de Monterrey". Inventario Turístico del Perú (in Spanish). MINCETUR. Retrieved 2016-06-01. 
  9. ^ "Baños Termales de Chancos". Inventario Turístico del Perú (in Spanish). MINCETUR. Retrieved 2016-06-01. 
  10. ^ Biggar, John (2005). "Northern Peru". The Andes: A Guide for Climbers. Andes. ISBN 9780953608720. 
  11. ^ Villanueva, Ricardo (2011). Características de la Cuenca del Río Santa (PDF) (in Spanish). UICN SUR. 
  12. ^ a b Smith, David N. (1988). Flora and vegetation of the Huascarán National Park, Ancash, Peru: with preliminary taxonomic studies for a manual of the flora (Ph.D. Thesis). Iowa State University. 

External links[edit]