This past week, our TTS crew tackled the Santa Cruz trek, named for the 20,535 foot Santa Cruz mountain. The Santa Cruz Trek is a popular 32 mile one-way trail in Huascarán National Park in the Cordillera Blanca area of the Andes. It  ascends about 13,000 feet and descends about 10,000 feet. reaching a high point of 15,616 feet. In other words, it’s no joke! 

Our group trekked for four days and three nights. Below is a day-by-day overview of our trek, followed by student reflections and photos. Below the info about the trek is a mini activity blog for the two students and one teacher who were not able to go on the trek. 

– Arden


Trek day 1: We hiked just under 7 miles to our first campsite, Llamacorral. We left our hostel at 5:30 in the morning, and drove several hours before meeting Viviana and Alejandro, our guides/cooks.  We also met Julio, the man in charge of the burros and pitching/taking down camp each day. We then set off alongside our horses and burros for our first day of hiking! The hike was challenging due to the steady incline and heat. We arrived at camp around 6:30 pm were grateful to our fantastic crew that our camp was already pitched and dinner (chicken, soup, rice, and veggies) was already prepared. We spent some time chatting over dinner and stargazing before heading to sleep. 


  • Total climb: 4,719 feet
  • Total descent: 1,987 feet 
  • Max elevation: 12,549 feet 


Trek day 2: After a hearty breakfast of eggs, sausage, fruit, and toast; and after packing our lunch of veggie fried rice and fruit, we split into two groups for a “challenge by choice” day of hiking. 

One group (Maeve, Camden, Olive, Katherine, and Adelaide) went straight to camp. They hiked about 8 miles. They arrived around 2 pm and spent the afternoon napping in the sun, chatting, playing games, and enjoying our campsite, known for being  “the most beautiful campsite in the world!” It certainly was stunning.

Another group (Cambyr, Chloe, Claire, and Ryan) chose to trek to Arhuaycocha Lake, a beautiful glacial lake before heading to camp. They trekked about 12.5 miles.

Their stats: 

  • Total climb: 3,501 feet 
  • Total descent: 2,308 feet 
  • Max altitude: 14,492 feet at Arhuaycocha Lake

This group arrived to camp around 5:30 pm. Both groups enjoyed reuniting and catching each other up on their days. 

Trek day 3: Our highest day!  On this day, we hiked 9.7 miles and crossed over the Punta Union Pass. Students pushed themselves to hike to the top of the pass and then enjoyed views of glaciers, glacial lakes, and towering peaks. 

This day, we had our first Student Leader of the Day, Cambyr! Cambyr leveraged her backpacking skills to lead the group with positivity and determination to the top of our highest climb. The group’s team oriented mindset, positivity, and endless motivation made this day one of the most awe-inspiring and exhilarating yet. 


  • Total climb: 2,602 feet
  • Total descent: 4,128 feet 
  • Max altitude: 15,616 feet at Punta Union Pass (wow!) 

Trek day 4: The final day! On this day, students hiked 3.3 miles to meet the bus for transport back to Huaraz. This day’s student leader of the day was Chloe, who led the group with spunk and cheer. This morning, the group enjoyed a bit of solo hiking as well as celebrating Camden on her birthday!! Camden even got to ride a horse a bit on her birthday morning.


  • Total climb: 1,630 feet 
  • Total descent: 1,495 feet 
  • Max altitude: 11,930 feet 

Once returning to Huaraz, the group enjoyed a birthday dinner of burgers, sandwiches, and salads to celebrate Camden‘s birthday. We ended the night with our Saturday circle and a surprise birthday party complete with a tres leches for Camden.

We are so proud of the group for completing the Santa Cruz trek! 

Three more notable things about the trek:

  1. Throughout the trek, we were joined by three friendly dogs, who hiked with us in pursuit of our meal scraps. We gave them names and now call them our new friends.
  2. The weather forecast predicted rain and cold every day of our trek, but we had incredible luck. It did not rain once, and we had beautiful, clear blue skies and warm days. We are so lucky!
  3. Most importantly: the group was incredibly resilient, positive, and supportive. The Santa Cruz trek is known for being moderately challenging for its climbs and altitude, but the group rose to the challenge with gusto and found great success!!

Below, please enjoy pictures and student’s reflections from the trail.  

Two students and one teacher had to stay back from the trek, and at the very bottom of this is a brief blurb about their activities.

Student Reflections:

Favorite animal friend memory:

  1. Peeing next to a donkey – Maeve 
  2. Shooing the cows off the path – Maeve
  3. All of the cows we saw on the way that were just grazing in the fields or in the middle of the path -Ryan
  4. Chicha (the horse) and I bonded on my bday when Alejandro let me ride him!! #Bffs4eva -Camden
  5. There was a bull that hung out with us during lunch one day and I lost my first ever human-vs-cow staring contest. -Adelaide 

If the donkeys could talk, they’d say:

  1. Holy guacamole this group has a lot of stuff -Chloe 
  2. Another backpack? Seriously! – Maeve 
  3. RAHHHHHHH -Ryan

Funniest memory:

  1. On the second day we had lunch with a bull that was lurking behind the bushes staring at us the entire time. – Katherine
  2. I wasn’t able to join the trek, but I made it to the very beginning after the bus ride, and a memory that’s funny to me know is me throwing up on a horse. I was sick and we were going to try the horse, but the second I got on I threw up to the side and it was funny seeing Mabel’s scared face as she backed up as I gagged. -Kate
  3. Our 5 person pee holding hands! – Maeve 
  4. Telling the other hikers that me and Camden were British twins and the rest of the group were all of our cousins from the States. -Ryan
  5. Paramount mountain sound effects

Favorite memory:

  1. I really enjoyed eating rice on the trek. The cook was amazing and it was probably one of the best tasting rice meals I’ve ever had. Especially the fried rice, that was hella good. – Olive
  2. Stargazing until we could no longer see Orion’s Belt – Maeve 
  3. Eating mint Oreos at the most BEAUTIFUL lake ever after hiking an extra couple of miles to get there – Ryan
  4. I fell sick shortly before the group left and wasn’t able to join them on trek—a fact that all the photos I’m seeing and stories I’m hearing aren’t making me feel better about. But we did have fun in our own way back in Huaraz. Semana Santa (Holy Week) means massive celebration — music, parades, marching, incense, you get the picture. One of my favorite memories was listening to the music of the band and watching the excitement in the eyes of a little girl next to us as she sat on her dad’s shoulders watching the floats go by. Dad and daughter sharing a tradition—reminded me of my old man. – Tula

Description of the most beautiful view:

  1. Our second night we camped in what’s known as the “most beautiful campsite in the world.” Whether or not that’s true, it was certainly gorgeous. We were in this beautiful lush valley with a HUGE mountain towering over us. It was straight out of Frozen (the movie). I know for a fact Elsa was living up there. -Claire P 
  2. The most beautiful view in the world….. a thousand images come to mind. The one that sticks out though is on the third day. We were coming in to camp. I had been at the front leading all day as SLOD (Student Leader of the Day.) I had asked Camden to go ahead and see if the camp was in view… it was. The energy in the group was spectacular as we moved a little faster through the field, I took a moment to look back. The group was alive smiling and laughing. We had to make it 10 miles over a 15,616 ft pass. Now not only had we survived, we were thriving. That was the most beautiful view in the world: watching people glimpse into the world I had fallen in love with. -Cambyr Skade
  3. So so so so many come to mind. I think my favorite was being able to see these beautiful snowy mountains, lush green fields, and bright blue-green lakes all at the same time on the way to our camp site on the second day -Ryan
  4. Beautiful doesn’t even begin to describe the views on the Santa Cruz Trek. I’m still in a state of awe, even three days later. The mountains were like nothing I’ve seen before, the valleys so lush and ethereal that I thought I was in a fairytale, the starry night sky so dreamy I got lost, and the water was so blue it almost didn’t look real. I will never forget my four days in the Cordillera Blanca. – Maeve 

Thing you’re most proud of:

  1. I’m proud of my body and its strength, and I’m proud of my group – Maeve 
  2. That I did the extra hike and didn’t collapse and die!!!! -Ryan

How this will impact you in the future:

  1. call me a backpacker now! – Maeve
  2. I ❤️ cows -anonymous

Note from Mary Reid about pictures from the trek: There were too many beautiful photos to choose from — here are just a few as well as the TikTok students created afterward on the bus to Lima. Click here for access to the full album.


Blurb about Kate, Tula, and Jenna’s activities:

Once Tula and Kate recovered from their stomach troubles, the three (including Jenna) got to enjoy some Semana Santa (Easter week) celebrations in Huaraz. This is an eight day festival to commemorate the passion and death of Jesus Christ. Huaraz is known for its Semana Santa – complete with parades, marching bands, dances, and sand art on Main Street.