The Urus massif is a small group of three peaks situated on the western slopes of Peru’s Cordillera Blanca.
While the massif is composed of three summits – Urus Este, Central (5,495 metres/18,030 feet) and Oeste (5,450 metres/17,880 feet) – most mountaineers only climb the eastern summit.
One of the main reasons for this is the difficulty of access; in order to access the two other peaks, climbers will first half to climb most or all of Urus Este en route. This requires getting a very early start and spending a long day climbing. Since the views are very similar. Many climbers stick to Urus Este.
Urus Este is generally considered to be a trekking peak and is usually climbed as a warm up for some of its neighbouring 6,000ers.
Quick Facts about Urus
- Urus takes its name from the local Quechua language and means “brain” or “zucchini”. However, the peak is also called Yanaraju, which is the Quechua word meaning “black ice mountain.”
- Due to its relative ease of access and the incredible views it boasts from its summit, Urus Este is frequently climbed by trekkers during the Santa Cruz trek or by mountaineers heading on expeditions to neighbouring Ishinca, Tocllaraju or Ranrapalca.
- While all three peaks on the Urus massif are classified as trekking peaks, it is possible to make a technical rock climbing ascent of Urus Central via its southern wall.
History of Urus
While Urus has long been known to the local Quechua people, it was not explored by Europeans until the 1930s.
The first people to summit the peak were Peruvian mountaineers, Alberto Morales and Cesar Morales. In 1954, the duo summited Urus Este before continuing on to climb Urus Central shortly afterward.
In 1963, a team of Swiss climbers led by A Apotheloz became the first people to reach the summit of Urus Oeste.
Experience Required for Climbing Urus
Urus Este is widely considered to be one of the easiest 5,000ers in the Cordillera Blanca to climb.
When the weather is good, the peak can be climbed with very basic glacier and snow climbing techniques and many guides can provide instruction on the necessary skills prior to the ascent.
However, most guides recommend that climbers have previous experience at elevations of at least 4,000 metres (13,100 feet) and have a good level of physical fitness as well prior to climbing.
Urus Central and Oeste are considered slightly more challenging peaks to climb. Both are steeper than Urus Este and require slightly more technical mixed snow and rock climbing abilities.
Main Routes up Urus
Due to the relatively straightforward access to its summit, there is one main route up Urus Este: the normal route.
The base camp of the peak sits right at its foot, so the ascent begins with some steep hiking up the trail. As climbers approach the summit, there is some mixed snow and rock climbing, none of which is too technical, but does require crampons.
For climbers heading to Urus Central, it makes the most sense to climb the normal route up Este, before traversing a ridge that connects Este to Central and climbing up to its slightly higher summit.
For Urus Oeste, climbers will begin by following the normal route up to the base of the summit, before turning west and hiking across the base of the three peaks. From here, climbers will ascend Urus Oeste from its eastern ridge.
Useful information about Urus
Height: 5,423 m (17,792 ft)
Weather: During the climbing season, average daily temperatures hover around 15 ºC (60 ºF) at the base of the peak and drop below freezing as one approaches the summit. The climbing season also coincides with the dry season on the western slopes of the cordillera, so there is little precipitation. Even so, snow is not infrequent at the end of the climbing season.
Peak Climbing Season: May to September
Summit Window: May to September
Average Expedition Length: 2 days
Accepted Currencies: Sol (PEN), but many guides also accept US dollars (USD).
Language: Spanish, Quechua, Aymara
How To Get To Urus
The vast majority of guides for trips to Urus will meet with their clients in the northern city of Huaraz. To get here, most climbers will fly into Jorge Chavez International Airport (LIM), in Lima, and take an eight-hour bus ride on to Huaraz.
Your travel route will vary depending on the expedition you choose. Please refer to the individual guides expeditions for more information.