I'll be honest. I really had no expectations for this trek. Having done the Teton Crest Trail, Everest Base Camp, the W Trek in Chile and the Tour du Mont Blanc in Europe, I was looking for something in the high Andes.
I had heard people speak about the Blanca for years, but it is only known to serious trekkers. And yes, while I had seen photos, I really had no idea what to expect.
Suffice it to say, I was awe-struck. Continually on this trek. What is wonderful about it? For starters you climb seven passes (ranging from 14,000 feet to almost 16,000 feet) in nine days. All of these passes are wonderfully different as are the surrounding peaks. You are looking up at a multitude of peaks in the 19,000 feet to a few in the 20,000 feet range.
The Andean peaks are dramatic, hugely so. Largely, because they are a fairly "new" mountain range. They haven't been as eroded as the passes and peaks in Europe. They are ragged, rough and defiant.
But what is wonderful about this trek is the combination of these peaks with magnificent valleys (where you usually camp at night). I am talking about hugely remote valleys: imagine valleys one mile across and five miles long. Usually these valleys have but one or two families occupying them. At most, a valley might have 10 families.
The fauna and flora are stunning. Wildflowers abound everywhere. We saw 7 condors during our trek. I could watch condors glide all day.
Finally, though, I would say it is the remoteness of this trek that I loved. Part of wilderness to me is not just nature's majestic, fierce beauty, but the remoteness of it. Unlike the Tour du Mont Blanc or the W Trek or certainly Everest Base Camp, this trek was incredibly unpopulated. We saw only one other trekking group during our trek. That is kind of stunning. While the Santa Cruz trek, nearby, is very popular because it is shorter, the Cordillera Blanca is more remote and empty. It was just wonderful. Because of the remoteness, you felt closer to nature.
Above is a video that tries to capture what this trek is truly like. Which is an impossible task. Enjoy