Situated in the Cordillera Blanca, the world’s highest tropical mountain range, Mount Huascarán rises to 6,768 m above sea-level. The deep ravines watered by numerous torrents, the glacial lakes and the variety of the vegetation make it a site of spectacular beauty. It is the home of such species as the spectacled bear and the Andean condor.
Huascarán National Park is located in the Cordillera Blanca Range, in the Sierra Central of the Peruvian Andes. The park covers the most of the Cordillera Blanca, the highest tropical mountain range in the world. It has 27 snow-capped peaks 6,000 m above sea level, of which El Huascarán (6,768 m) is the highest.
The park encloses a diversity of geomorphologic features. The deep ravines contain rushing torrents formed from one of the 80 glaciers, and there are some 120 glacial lakes ranging in size from 1 million m3 to 10 million m3 of water. Lower down are thermal springs used for their therapeutic properties. There is still seismic activity in the area, which was affected by an earthquake in 1970. The wide topographic range has lead to a wide range in vegetation types. Vegetation is characteristic of humid montane forest in the valleys, with nival, alpine fluvial tundra, and very wet subalpine paramo formations at higher levels. The distinctive alpine bromeliad is abundant. Other plants include Bromeliceae , mountain orchids and relict forests.
The spectacled bear, puma, mountain cat, white-tailed deer and the vicuna are important indigenous species, but all have been heavily hunted in the past. The North Andean huemul, a rare species of deer, is also found here. Among the birds the most noteworthy are the cordillera hawk, the Andean condor, giant coot and the giant hummingbird, ornate tinamou as well as various species of duck, including the torrent duck.
The Cordillero region has for centuries been a site for the settlement of ethnic groups, as witnessed by ruins at Gekosh and Chuchumpunta and at Willcahuain-Huyllap-Pumacayan, Hechkap-Jonkapampa and others. These represent the largest collection of such remains in the world known to date. The most ancient cultures seem to have developed in the northern part of the park; the remains at the Cueva Del Guitanero in Yungay date back 2,000 years before the Chavin culture, spreading from Carhuaz to Pomabamba.
The Callejon de Huaylas is a valley containing numerous towns and is intensively used for agriculture, grazing, mining and plantation forestry. The national park is uninhabited, although there is some grazing in the lowlands by native livestock (llama and alpaca) under an agreement with the local people.