Huaraz, Peru

By Mariana Bazo

Climate change now has a historic route in the Andean cordillera. The gradual melting of tropical glaciers (glaciers located within the tropical latitudes) in one town has led to a decline in tourism that has made villagers look for alternatives to continue attracting tourists.

Peru is a country of multiple ecosystems. To travel from the seaside capital of Lima to 5,000 meters (3,107 feet) above sea level requires just a few hours driving uphill. One of the most important cities in the altitude, Huaraz, is famous for its nearby snow-capped mountains and glaciers. Huaraz is also frequented by mountain climbers, many of whom aim to reach Huascaran, Peru’s tallest mountain and the highest point in the world’s tropics at 6,768 meters (22,205 feet) high.

Huaraz is separated from Lima by about 500 kms (310 miles) of road, but it is much more distant in customs and economic development. One of the biggest attractions near the city is the Pastoruri glacier, on top of which visitors used to hike and play in the snow and ice.

In recent years the glacier began noticeably disappearing, and the shrinking has become so severe that the community had to bar direct access to the ice mass, thinking that the tourist activity was also contributing to the glacier’s crisis. Apart from the impact on tourism, there is also a serious lack of water for farming that used to come from the glacier’s normal melting, and that has a big social impact.

Today there is a new path which tourists can take to approach the glacier, without touching it. The creators call it the Climate Change Route. At around 5,000 meters above sea level, you can clearly see and feel the change; below the layers of ice there is brown and black rock which appears to be growing in relation to the glacier.