other, even experienced hikers struggle up the 4,750m-high Punta Union pass in the heart of Peru’s Cordillera Blanca mountains. But once they reach it, they are rewarded with some of the world’s most spectacular views.
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Stretching east from the pass is a long valley pocked with ultramarine lakes, watched over by sheer walls of striated granite that are striped with the wispy white of flowing waterfalls. To the west are the saw-edges of glacier-encrusted rock and ice, serrated by more than 30 jagged peaks heavy with snow, the highest of which is 6,768m-high Huascaran, the tallest mountain in the tropics. The Punta Union pass is only reachable by foot or mule along the spectacular 50km Santa Cruz trail, part of which is an ancient Inca road. The trail runs through a string of tiny mountain villages before cutting into the heart of the Cordillera Blanca, the world’s highest tropical mountain range.