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Clay Wadman on the second ascent of Middle Earth (IV 5.8 WI5, ca. 400m, Donahue-Donahue, 2001), Taulliraju South (aka Tuctubamba, ca. 5400m), in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca. The Parque Nacional Huascaran contains nearly every peak in the Cordillera Blanca, including Chacraraju (6112m) on the lefthand skyline, Huascaran (6769m) in the center background and Artesonraju (6025m) on the right. In August, a series of restrictrive regulations were quietly placed into effect by the Park that severely curtail the freedoms of climbers. [Photo] Christian Beckwith

Established in 1975, Peru’s Parque Nacional Huascaran contains nearly every peak in the Cordillera Blanca, the highest mountain range of the Peruvian Andes and the highest tropical mountain range in the world. Despite assurances that last year’s proposed regulations for the Park, so vehemently objected to by mountaineers the world over, had been put on hold until at least August this year, it appears they were quietly approved in July with virtually no change and came into effect on August 19. The many letters sent from international climbers and mountaineering bodies, including Alpinist’s Climbing Life e-newsletter of October 2005, appear to have been conveniently forgotten: officially, climbers and trekkers entering the Park will now require a guide or authorized service provider, will not be able to leave marked trails, and could see the Park chief having the power to decide which areas will be open to them.

Fortunately, Lima resident and long-time Peruvian activist Jim Bartle, who over the last twelve months has spearheaded the protest against these draconian proposals, feels that neither Park staff nor the National Institute of National Resources (INRENA) has any intention of enforcing them. In fact, until very recently the Park Chief appears to have been unaware that any new policies had been published. Grave concerns voiced by the UIAA Access and Conservation Commission, which subsequently visited Peru, were taken very seriously by the authorities and according to Bartle, this and a similar intervention by the UIAGM/IFMGA means the current prognosis for reform of the restrictive regulations is quite good.

Contrast Peru’s approach to climbing with that of Pakistan, which over the last few years has been rescinding ill-thought restrictive measures, an action that can only encourage mountaineering visits. In line with the Pakistan Government’s decision to dedicate 2007 as Visit Pakistan Year, the Ministry of Tourism recently announced the following concessions for next year: (1) continued royalty-free access to peaks below 6500 meters; (2) a 90 percent royalty reduction on peaks in Chitral, Gilgit and Ghizar with the sole exception of the popular Spantik (7027m); (3) a 50 percent reduction on all peaks outside the limits of (1) and (2); (4) a 95 percent royalty reduction on all peaks attempted during the December-February winter season. For climbers selecting next year’s objectives, the choice of where to spend their time, and their money, has been made easier by the bureaucrats of Peru.