Inka Waqanqa: an OM away from busy Huaraz5 min read
If you are in Huaraz with climbing shoes and a chalk bag in your backpack, rather than crampons and axe, you are in it for a treat. The area offers a variety of options. Try your best on-sight or get stuck on a project, your choice. Hatun Machay is the most popular place among foreigners. But if you pass the turn for the famous rock forest and drive for another 20 minutes, you will find a hidden gem—Inka Waqanqa.
We arrive in Huaraz after a 30-hour journey. Though the first day is a shock for the biological clock, it is time to chalk up those hands. The Los Olivos crag is by the city, so we make our way there. Climbing is a challenge. The altitude takes its toll and just a few moves leave us breathless. Even though the lines are 10-15 meter long, they seem more than enough. While I am struggling, a local climber recommends a different “not-so-popular” option for the next few days of acclimatisation.
At its 4000 m, with no entrance or camping fees but with the luxury of tap water, Inka Waqanqa offers sports climbing and bouldering in an idyllic setting. Get to know the routes of all 10 sectors online. Or get a printed topo for 5 soles from Andean Kingdom, located next to the Casa de Guias in Huaraz.
Transport in and out of Huaraz varies from the local options (tuk-tuk, transporte publico or collectivos) to taxis and private transport. The cheaper way to get to Inka Waqanqa is by getting a public transport to Catac. From there you change to another which gets you to Conococha. It is the closes inhabited area to the crag. You either walk the final 5 kilometers or hitchhike. It all costs about 10 soles (2018). I’d suggest you go for the hitchhiking instead of walking, as the road is a spiral of turns with no defined sidewalk.
Approach with caution the option of hiring a taxi or a private transport. The locals tend to change the initial deal. It is common for taxis to stop prior to the intended destination and ask for more money. You are then in a position of paying, arguing for a while and paying, or getting off pissed. There are, of course, local agencies that can provide reliable service. You just need a solid referral.
Camping and approach
Unlike Hatun Machay, where one pays an entrance fee of 10 soles and 10 more for each night of camping, Inka Waqanqa is free.
It is free of charge and with a free spirit.
The options for camping are various. You could pitch the tent close to the entrance and tap water, or closer to a specific sector.
The crag offers climbing for all levels with routes from 5a to 8b. The volcanic rock formations are beautifully carved with pretty specific features. The easier routes look a bit like Swiss cheese. Some of the lines need cleaning but if you follow the chalk, you will enjoy solid rock. The approach to the sectors varies from 15 to 30 minutes. Beware the only orange plant in the region for it stings like Mohamed Ali!
Far from the buzz of Huaraz, Inka Waqanqa offeres us a great way to acclimatise before we head up to the big mountains of Cordillera Blanca. On our first day, the approach seems slow and exhausting. Each move on the routes is draining. But by the third day, we are fit to go three pitches in a row. Which means, we are ready to go.
There are shepherds by the crag, hanging around with their loyal dogs. The latter ones are particularly good at hunting climbers’ food. We forget a bag of provisions on the ground, only to find scattered bits and pieces of it.
Note: Leave your food hidden high on one of the many boulders around.
With little food left, we somehow make it through the following days but not all the way until the end of our stay. And so we hitchhike to Conococha to buy food. The options are limited but the local cheese compensates for the lack of assortment.
The transport which is supposed to pick us up is more than fashionably late. It doesn’t show up. Are we were left to the fortune of faith? I can’t say it is unexpected. My conversation with the driver as he dropped us could just be the reason for that.
Upon leaving Huaraz we were asked 20 soles more than the arrangement, and another 20 just before we arrived at Inka Waqanqa. I refused to give the guy what seemed to be a rip-off and told him:
“If you don’t like it, don’t come and pick us up!” – in a heated Latin manner, with my improving Spanish.
Luckily, we met some really cool people who were also heading back to Huaraz. The day was saved by an old, almost falling apart van, a bohemian Slovenian girl and a free-spirited Argentinian guy.