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EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE HIKING AUSANGATE TREK TO RAINBOW MOUNTAIN

Ausangate to Rainbow Mountain trek offers superb alpine scenery, a challenging route, few people, strong cultural components, and gorgeous countryside that exceeds your expectations. For those who love hiking and mountains, it is an epic trip.

It starts at 4200 m(13,800ft) and covers high passes close to 5200 m (17,060ft). Unlike most other hikes in Cusco región, Ausangate hike is not about Inca Archeological sites   It is all about unparalleled landscapes – pristine glacial lakes, jagged snow-capped peaks, sweeping valleys, and colorful mountains.  There is an opportunity to witness more than 20 other species of birds, llamas, alpacas, vicunas (a wild relative of the alpaca), Vizcacha (a type of chinchilla resembling a rabbit), black-winged Andean geese and the incredible Andean condor. All of this combines to create a setting that can only be described as utterly sublime.

In recent years the farmers of the Ausangate area who charge the entrance fee, have invested in infrastructure and security measures which have made the area safer. Ausangate is becoming popular among tourists in recent years, but it is still not as well-known as Inca Trail and Salkantay Trek, so the natural environment remains mostly untouched.  That is what makes it perfect for those who want to experience the Andes at their most tranquil and picturesque.

Ausangate Mountain in Peru

HOW TO GET AUSANGATE?

You need to take a public bus from Cusco to Tinki town. Busses go every 20 minutes and don’t cost much. Buses leave from the Estadio de Parque Zonal which is 10 minutes in a taxi from Cusco city center. The name of the company is Siwar. Make sure that the bus is going to Ocongate which is a bigger town before Tinki and double-check that the bus will continue until Tinki. The bus ride from Cusco to Tinki follows the highway towards Puerto Maldonado and it takes about 4 hours. Tinki is located at about 12,500 feet. There are not many accommodations and restaurants to eat in Tinki. We recommend leaving Cusco at 05:00 am and hike on the same day to the first campsite which is Upis.

Llamas and Alpacas heading home in Ausangate region

AUSANGATE RAINBOW MOUNTAIN TREK CAMPSITES AND SLEEPING ARRANGEMENTS

Four local communities administer the campsites along the different Ausangate trekking routes. This community-based system is relatively new. It used to be that hikers could pretty much set up their camp anywhere, and for free. reasonably, local people got a bit tired of people using their lands, and often not cleaning up after themselves. Communities were not receiving any financial benefit from tourism development in the region. A system was then set up to compensate the local communities for using their lands and also to help share some money and benefit from tourism and trekking growth.

Campsites are still pretty basic and located in remote areas, so don’t expect services or shops. In general, you’ll find a place to pitch tents and a squat toilet. There is no running water at the campsites. Expect to trek without showers. (Note: if you are on a fully-supported trek, you will likely be provided a bowl of hot water in the morning for washing.)

Each community collects a fee from each person (usually $3.5 /person) who stays at a campsite and uses its facilities. You’ll often find an individual or family visiting early in the morning or afternoon to collect the money. You’ll receive a receipt for your payment.

The most common practice for this trek is camping in tents along the way. However, AB EXPEDITIONS is the only company that offers guided trips as a Cabins-to-hut trek, allowing you to stay in basic lodges each night. You can even go with them in the rainy season because they have shelters at every campsite.

Ausangate Cabins at Upis Campsite on the way to the Rainbow Mountain
AB Expeditions private Cabins at Upis campsite on day 1 of Ausangate Trek 4 and days

 

ACCLIMATIZATION

For the Ausangate Trek with its daily high mountain passes, at least three acclimatization hikes are recommended before setting off. The best way to do that is to go on a day hike from Cusco City (3,300m/11,00 feet) to Cristo Blanco (3,700 m/12,139 feet) and do the tour of Maras Moray. Both of which are higher than Cusco.

Don’t sabotage your trip for the sake of saving a couple of days. It is a poor decision. Altitude sickness is no joke. It is not fun and it can become very dangerous. It is better to take the time to get used to the altitude properly before leaving on the long trek.

AUSANGATE TREK & RAINBOW MOUNTAIN MAP

Ausangate Trek Map

BEST TIME TO DO THE AUSANGATE TREK

The best time to Hike the Ausangate region is from April to November to maximize the number of clear days, as most of the things we recommend here are all outdoor activities. That said, with favorable weather, come more hikers hitting the trail. That might be a good thing, but if you want to have the places only for you, try visiting during the shoulder season, as of late March or December while some Travel agencies will still offer the trek, the demand is obviously lower around this time of year. Because of this, it will be more expensive and more difficult to find daily departures for the trek. Of course, if you are going by yourself, then the Ausangate is opened at all times of the year.

January and February are the worst months of the year in terms of rainfall, that is why the Inca Trail is closed during the month of February for maintenance. Hail is often common, as are thunderstorms, which are amplified by the surrounding mountains and can be sincerely scary.

Ausangate 7 Lakes Hike

TAKING A TOUR VS GOING SOLO

The safest and easiest way to do this trek is to book a guided tour from the many local travel agencies in the region. Though doing the trek on your own is surely possible, it is not recommended to try this unless you have experience hiking over 4000 meters (13,123 feet), suitable equipment, plenty of food, and a solid command of Spanish and/or Quechua. It is obviously possible to get yourself in trouble on this route (either with local people or with natural hazards on the trail), and you need to fend for yourself in isolation if something goes wrong.

If you decide, against our advice, to do this trek without a travel agency, we recommend hiring an Arriero and pack animals such as horses to carry food and supplies that are needed for the trek. Hiring pack animals can be arranged while in Upis. We recommend you, Tomas, as your Arriero. He has been working for 10 years on this área so he knows the área like the back of his hands. His phone number is +51984226363. He speaks Spanish and Quechua.

Some advantages of hiking Ausangate to Rainbow Mountain independently including being able to create and adjust your own route and set your own pace. The cost will be much lower as you are not paying for a support team, guide, Arriero, and Cook but you should still stay at community campsites and pay the fees so as to respect local people and local community rules.

Check out our Ausangate Trek tour for more information about guided tours. 

Puca Cocha Campsite on Ausangate Trail
AB Expeditions private Puca Cocha Campsite with 4 Shelters, kitchen, and dining room.

 

AUSANGATE WEATHER 

The weather in the Andes of Peru is always unpredictable because of the geographical conditions. On the Ausangate Trek, you will experience a wide range of temperatures. Given the high elevations, it doesn’t get hot, but the sun is intensely strong and that’s the biggest battle. Along the Ausangate trek, temperatures range from 10-20º C (50 – 68 °F) during the day if it is sunny, to 05-10º C (41 – 50 °F) during the day if it is not sunny. Given the high altitude of the campsites, temperatures drop significantly in the evening and especially at night, where they may get down to -10º C (14°F) or even lower in the dry season. Warm clothes are therefore required for this trek.

Because of global warming, it can even rain in the dry season so carry a waterproof cover for your backpack. Protect your valuable electronic gear like smartphones or cameras in a dry bag or multiple Ziploc plastic bags. All the gear is carried by donkeys, and all the bags are wrapped in multiple layers of plastic tarp to protect them from rain. In addition, you need to pack your clothes, sleeping bags and other important items in an additional layer of plastic bags.

If you are trekking on your own and carrying all your gear with you, you have to carry a good waterproof cover for your backpack and use Ziploc or other waterproof bags to keep everything dry inside in case of heavy rain.

Sunrise at Rainbow Mountain Peru

TREKKING FEES

Ausangate & Rainbow Mountain is managed by the specific community that lives in the area. Each community charges an entrance fee to their grounds. This entrance fee will cover different things depending on the community. For some, it only covers usage of the path. Others include campsites, toilets, and even night guards. If you choose to take a guided trek with a travel agency, these fees may or may not be included–this should be clarified with the specific company.

Ausangate 4 Day Trek ending in the Rainbow Mountain entrance fee

Andamayo Community: Passing by their territory S/. 10.00 per person
Upis community: Camping site and passing their territory S/. 10.00 per person
Huayna Ausangate community: Puca Cocha camping site S/. 10.00 per person
Chillca Community: camping site and passing their territory S/. 10.00 per person
Pampa Chiri Community: Visit Rainbow Mountain S/. 10.00 per person
Chilliwani Community: Visit Red Valley S/. 10.00 per person
Hot Spring: S/. 10.00 per person
There is also a charge of S/. 3 per night for each pack animal (donkey, horse or mule) for grass consumption at every campsite.

Ausangate 6 Day Trek ending in the Rainbow Mountain entrance fee

Andamayo Community: Passing by their territory S/. 10.00 per person
Upis community: Camping site and passing their territory S/. 10.00 per person
Huayna Ausangate community: Puca Cocha camping site S/. 10.00 per person
Chillca Community: camping site and passing their territory S/. 20.00 per person
Pampa Chiri Community: Visit Rainbow Mountain and camping site S/. 20.00 per person
Chilliwani Community: Visit Red Valley S/. 10.00 per person
Hot Spring: S/. 10.00 per person
There is also a charge of S/. 3 per night for each pack animal (donkey, horse or mule) for grass consumption at every campsite.

3 Llamas stand looking people who are hiking through Ausangate path

CHOOSING AUSANGATE TREK

The Ausangate treks fall roughly into two categories: short (2-4 days) and long (5-7 days). If you have the time, we recommend choosing a route that is 5-7 days. This length of a circuit can provide a complete Ausangate experience and deliver more views and stunning landscapes than you thought possible in one hike.

Short Ausangate Trek (2-4days)

Also known as Mini Ausangate Treks, these shorter routes intend to provide trekkers a sort of “best of” sample of the Ausangate region in a shorter period of time. These routes tend to focus around Lake Puca Cocha, Ausangate glacier, and Rainbow Mountain.

Full Ausangate Trek (5-7 days)

Longer treks will take you over more mountain passes in a full circuit so you can appreciate some of the high peaks from multiple angles. Each day includes at least one, and sometimes two, mountain passes ranging from 4,000 meters/ 13,000 feet up to 5,200 meters/17,0600 feet.

Ausangate lodge at Upis campsite
AB Expeditions private Cabins located at Upis Base camp

 

AMAZING SCENERIES EVERY DAY?

For those who really love to take pictures of an amazing landscape, Ausangate will have many rewards in store. The entire path is above the treeline, giving visitors a panoramic view of gorgeous mountainous landscapes every day.

LEAVING YOUR LUGGAGE BEHIND DURING THE TREK

Most accommodations and travel agencies will allow you to leave your big bags or luggage in their storage for the time that you are doing the Ausangate trek and then picked them up on your return.

AUSANGATE TREK DIFFICULTY

The main reason that Ausangate is considered difficult is that the whole hike takes place at high altitude. This trek is probably not suited to first-time hikers. If you are a strong walker and have finished some moderate treks prior to this then you should be fine.

RENTING TREKKING AND CAMPING GEAR FOR AUSANGATE TREK IN CUSCO

If you decide you’d rather handle gear rental in Cusco than lugging it around the world, here are 2 gear rental shops where you can rent camping and trekking equipment that we can recommend you. They are just half a block from the main square.

  1. ROSL, it is located in Procuradores Street #394, Cusco 08000, Peru
  2. SPEEDY GONZALES, it is located in Procuradores Street #393, Cusco 08000, Peru.

Rainbow Mountain Hut on Ausangate Trail

There are 5 Mountain Huts and 1 dining room at Kayrawiri Campsite. They are located 45 minutes from the Rainbow Mountain

 

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

Put your smartphone on airplane mode. There is no connectivity along the trek.

Drink enough water, it is important when hiking at high altitude. There are many creeks and rivers on the route but we recommend bringing a life straw bottle or water purifying Tablets due to the huge amount of Alpacas and Llamas all over the mountains you don’t know how clean is the water. Nothing can be worse than getting sick at high altitudes or having a running stomach. It’s recommended to drink at least two to three liters a day at high altitudes like this.

Be hyper-vigilant of weather. The conditions can change by the hour at high elevation in the Andes. Always have your warm layers and waterproof layers readily accessible. This is especially important when heading up and over the high passes.

Have a first aid kit, gear repair kit, and blister treatment kit ready to go in your day pack.

Bring a healthy amount of your favorite sunscreen, lip balm, sunglasses, and wear buff that both protected your head and neck and helped block the wind.

This tour is not recommended for children because they may have trouble walking, but if the child enjoys hiking at high altitudes, they can do it.

The higher elevation also means colder, nearly freezing temperatures, so be prepared. If you decide to take a multi-day tour, make sure to wear very warm clothes.

The best time to visit the Rainbow Mountain will be in the morning or evening hours, either right after sunrise, or right before sunset.

Don’t go to the Rainbow Mountain in the afternoon in the rainy season because of lighting. Since the high concentration of mineral. There is a high chance to get stricken by lighting.

Sunset at Rainbow Mountain Peru

WHAT WE RECOMMEND BRINGING:

  • Day pack with a Rain Cover.
  • Torch/ headlamp.
  • Extra socks (wool is best).
  • Hiking pants and shirts- layers.
  • Rain pants.
  • Swimming suit.
  • Camping shoes/ sandals- to wear in the evenings.
  • Camping pillow.
  • Water-resistant trekking shoes.
  • Warm clothing (thermal underwear, fleece, hat, and gloves).
  • Waterproof clothing (poncho).
  • Synthetic or cotton clothing (trousers, shorts, t-shirts).
  • Sunhat and sunglasses.
  • Sun cream.
  • Lip Balm.
  • Camera/ extra battery.
  • Water bottles such as Nalgene.
  • Basic medications.
  • Soap, toothbrush, and toothpaste
  • Walking sticks.
  • Personal items.
  • Medical Kit (for emergencies)
  • Electricity and Charging Batteries
  • Personal snacks.
  • Cash (if you’d like to purchase souvenirs).

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