Caylloma – Arcata – Abra Arcata – Abra Condorillo – Culipampa – Abra Azuca – Quiñota
One of our favourite routes in the Andes. Great scenery, very high passes, a good surface…this road is fantastic. After climbing out of Caylloma the route is below 4,500m for less than one of the next 200kms, and around Abra Azuca it is above 4,900m for 25kms making it one of the highest routes in South America. Ensure you’re well acclimatized before setting off, or else take the climbs nice and slow. Covering the route in 4 days means averaging more than 1,000m climbing per day.
As with all these high altitude routes which only occasionally pass through villages, make sure you have sufficient kit to survive the elements. The state of the road however wasn’t a problem – it is generally good with only a few bumpy sections.
This road wasn’t on any maps we found but is not as remote as this suggests. It is possible to get basic supplies at the villages of Arcata, Culipampa and Huacullo as well as in Caylloma and Quiñota. There is also accommodation at all these villages. Water also wasn’t a problem – we always carried 3 litres each to be safe, but there were regular water sources along the route (see details in the route description tab for the rare sections where we didn’t see water for a few hours). There was also some traffic (not much, but some) and only a couple of times did we cycle for more than an hour without seeing a vehicle, or a campesino out tending their alpacas.
The only problem with this route is that you have to pass through the Arcata copper/silver mine and the Azuca silver mine. There are security barriers at both, but the guards were very friendly to us and after a few phone calls allowed us to pass. At Arcata we were given a pick-up ‘escort’ to follow, while at Azuca they just let us cycle through. I’m not sure whether they’d be so friendly if lots of cyclists begin cycling this way, but I asked if it was a public road at the Azuca mine and they told me it was, so I assume they have to let you through.
The short section between Culipampa and Huacullo is part of the Abancay-Antabamba-Cotahuasi route we also cycled, so it is possible to go from Caylloma to Cotahuasi or Antabamba instead of Quiñota as described here.
|Total dist.||Stage dist.||Description|
|0km||Caylloma (4,350m). Village with 7 accommodation options (including the basic but very clean and friendly Hostal Yenny), restaurants, shops.|
|26.6km||Leave Caylloma on the road to Orcopampa. After 7.6kms go L at a junction (4,410m – signposted to Mina Arcata; R goes to Mina Caylloma). After a further 15.3kms is another junction – go R (4,760m – signposted to Arcata; L goes to Cedimin SAC). 3.7kms from this junction reach the pass.|
|26.6km||Abra Tolconi (4,860m – GPS01).|
|19.9km||Some climbing, but mostly descent to Tolconi.|
|46.5km||Tolconi (4,603m). Small village with accommodation, shops.|
|17.2km||Descend slightly to a river, then climb to the next pass. 15.5kms from Tolconi is a junction to the Ares gold mine (R) – go L to Arcata. The pass is 1.7kms from this junction.|
|63.7km||Abra Ares (4,871m – GPS02).|
|14.0km||Flat for 5.8kms to a signposted junction – L is Orcopampa, but go R for Arcata. Then descend by nice lakes to a junction near Arcata. Crossing the bridge over the lake you’re below 4,500m for the only time in 200kms.|
|77.7km||Junction by Arcata (4,510m). L goes to Arcata, 0.7kms away, where there is accommodation, a very basic restaurant and shops. R is the way to Mina Arcata and Quiñota.|
|~7.3km||Climb to Mina Arcata.|
|~85.0km||Mina Arcata. Security barrier where we registered and were then given an escort through the mine.|
|10.8km||2.4kms through the mine. Leave the mine 9.7kms from the junction near Arcata village. 1.1kms after leaving the mine go R (signposted Selene) at a junction – just about all the traffic goes L. In a further 1.2kms go L at a junction (R is signposted to a village), then 0.2kms further on stick to the main track (R) at a fork. Climb for a further 5.9kms to the pass, going past some houses at 4,910m on the way.|
|95.8km||Abra Arcata (5,101m – GPS03).|
|11.8km||Beautiful descent. 9.2kms from the pass cross a small bridge at the tiny settlement of Pichirihuay (may not be inhabited). Descend a further 2.6kms to the main bridge.|
|107.6km||Cross main river on bridge (4,570m).|
|16.5km||After 2.1kms go L at a junction (R goes to Tambo). 7.3kms later stay straight at a junction (R to Crespo). Climb for 7.1kms to the pass.|
|124.1km||Abra Condorillo (4,993m – GPS04). Another pass with lovely views.|
|24.3km||Slow descent for 7.1kms to some inhabited houses (4,800m). Ups and downs to high point (4,900m) 9.8kms further on. Descend then climb again to high point (4,910m) 2.3kms further on. Descend past a small lake to cross a bridge (4,720m) at the tiny village of Huanso 3.6kms from the high point. Climb 1.5kms to Culipampa.|
|148.4km||Culipampa (4,770m). A shepherd we met just before the village told me ‘Tiene de todo!’ which I thought was a bit of an exaggeration as it only has about 20 houses, but there was accommodation, restaurants and shops.|
|6.8km||Go R in town and take the road with a big ‘Quiñota’ sign, not the main road which goes to the mine at Selene. It is 6.8kms on ok surface to Huacullo. (See https://andesbybike.com/peru/routes/cotahuasi-to-espinar for a description of that road.)|
|155.2km||Huacullo (4,680m). Slightly bigger than Culipampa, and in a beautiful location. Basic accommodation, restaurant, shops.|
|13.7km||Take a very round-about route out of the village on the ‘main’ road to avoid marshy areas. Climb to 4,730m in 1.7kms then cross between two lakes (4,640m) after a further 3.1kms. Stay on the main road (straight) at junction after another 1.9kms, then climb for 7.0kms amidst beautiful scenery to a high point. After crossing between the two lakes there is no water until after the high point. (The road stays very high from this climb until after Abra Azuca – best to camp before this climb unless you don’t mind a night above 4,950m.)|
|168.9km||High point (5,060m).|
|16.9km||Descend 4.3kms to a low point (4,940m) then climb 2.0kms to a small high point (4,990m). Descend in 3.5kms to another low point at 4,920m. Climb for 1.7kms to a junction (4,920m) – go R/straight to Mina Azuca (L descends to some buildings). Then climb for 2.1kms to the entrance gate (5,020m) to Mina Azuca. Register, then continue 3.3kms to the pass.|
|185.8km||Abra Azuca (5,130m – GPS05). Pass in the mine complex with no real views from the highest point.|
|8.2km||Go L at a junction 0.2kms from the pass then leave the mine in a further 3.6kms. Stay L on the main road at a junction 3.7kms from the mine exit gate, then continue descending for 0.7kms to a low point.|
|194.0km||Low point (4,650m). Last water until stream crossing in 25kms time.|
|25.5km||Climb up to a high point (4,860m) on a plateau in 5.9kms. Stay on plateau for 13.7kms – the only uninteresting part of the whole route (though there are views of Ausangate to the NE) – before beginning to descend. Stay straight on the main road at a junction 2.7kms from the start of descent. Then descend 3.2kms to a stream crossing, going below 4,500m for pretty much the first time in 200kms.|
|219.5km||Stream crossing (4,330m).|
|4.9km||Climb to pass.|
|224.4km||Abra Anabi (4,654m – GPS06).|
|36.3km||Pass Mina Anabi 3.5kms from the pass. Descend to 4,070m then climb to a high point at 4,160m 11.9kms from the mine. From here it is a fast 5.6km descent to the small village of Accoito (3,790m). Gentle 13.9km descent following a river to a junction (3,540m) below Quiñota. This is where you join the main Santo Tomas to Haquira road. R to Santo Tomas, go L to Quiñota, a 1.4km climb away.|
|260.7km||Quiñota (3,610m). Large village with friendly residents all proud of their ancient sundial. Internet, accommodation, shops, restaurants.|
|Time taken – 4 days and amount climbed – 4,550m||8 hours: Caylloma – Arcata (1,210m climb).
8 hours: Arcata – Culipampa (1,490m climb).
5 hours: Culipampa – Abra Azuca (880m climb).
6 hours: Abra Azuca – Quiñota (970m climb).
|Traffic||One or two vehicles an hour on the whole route, except between Mina Azuca and Mina Anabi where there was nothing.|
|When we cycled||Early November 2010.|
|How much we had to push on this route||Not at all|
|GPS01||Abra Tolconi||15.1979 S, 71.9333 W, 4,860m.|
|GPS02||Abra Ares||15.0618 S, 72.1745 W, 4,871m.|
|GPS03||Abra Arcata||14.9450 S, 72.3551 W, 5,101m.|
|GPS04||Abra Condorillo||14.8392 S, 72.4803 W, 4,993m.|
|GPS05||Abra Azuca||14.5858 S, 72.4789 W, 5,130m.|
|GPS06||Abra Anabi||14.4832 S, 72.2948 W, 4,654m.|
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