The Cordillera Blanca
the Huascarán MTn. 6768 meters
The Cordillera Blanca (Spanish for "white range") is a mountain range in Peru which is part of the larger Andes range and extends between 8°08' and 9°58'S and 77°00' and 77°52'W, in NW direction. It includes 33 major peaks over 5,500 metres (18,040 ft) high and 722 individual glaciers in an area 21 kilometres (13 mi) wide and about 200 kilometres (124 mi) long. The highest mountain in Peru, Huascarán of 6,768 metres (22,205 ft), is located here.
The Cordillera Blanca lies entirely inside the region of Ancash, and runs parallel to the Santa River valley (also called Callejón de Huaylas on its upper and mid-sections) on the west. Huascarán National Park, established in 1975, encompasses almost the entire range of the Cordillera Blanca.
Snow melt from the Cordillera Blanca has provided part of Northern Peru with its year-round water supplies, while 5% of Peru's power comes from an hydro-electrical plant located in the Santa river valley. The area of permanent ice pack shrank by about a third between the 1970s and 2006.
The Cordillera Blanca is the most extensive tropical ice covered mountain range in the world and has the major ice concentration in Peru. It is part of the Cordillera Occidental (the westernmost part of the Peruvian Andes), and trends in a northwesterly direction for 200 km between 8°08' and 9°58'S of latitude and 77°00' and 77°52' W of longitude. It has five of the most spectacular peaks above 6,000 m in the Peruvian Andes; the highest peak, Huascarán, rises to an elevation of 6,768 m asl. The Cordillera Blanca also acts as a continental divide: Santa River on the west drains into the Pacific Ocean whereas Marañón River on the east drains into the Atlantic Ocean.
A total of 722 individual glaciers are recognized in this mountain range, and these cover an area of 723.4 km2. Most of these glaciers are on the western side of the ranges, where 530 glaciers cover an area of 507.5 km2; while on the eastern side 192 glaciers cover an area of 215.9 km2. Most of the glaciers, 91 percent of the total, are classified as mountain glaciers (they are generally short and have extremely steep slopes); the rest are classified as valley glaciers, except for one ice cap.
As with all Andean glaciers, the Cordillera Blanca has witnessed a major retreat of its during the 20th century due to global climate change. Studies have shown a retreat of over 15% since the 1970s.
Among the most important lakes in the range are: the Llanganuco Lakes which are located at the northern side of Huascarán, and accesible from the town of Yungay; Lake Parón (the biggest lake in the Cordillera Blanca), located just north of Huandoy, accesible from the town of Caraz, its waters have a deep turquoise hue; the lakes Ichikqucha and Hatunqucha, which lie in the vicinity of Artesonraju and Alpamayo and are accessible only by trekking or on horseback from Caraz.
Other notable lakes are Laguna 69, Alliqucha, Awkishqucha, Pallqaqucha, Qiruqucha and Conococha.
There are sixteen 6,000 m peaks in the Cordillera Blanca with a 400 m topographic prominence, and a further seventeen peaks over 5,500 m. Huascaran Sur, the highest peak, has two commonly quoted heights - 6,746 m from the Peruvian National Geographic Institute (IGN) map, and 6,768 m from the Austrian Alpine Club (OeAV) survey map.