GPS readings (all 19L)

1 0183097 8509910bridge
2 0182091 8512170pass
3 0180813 8514520 crossroads
4 0179396 8513702 variants
5 0178655 8513554junction
6 0177531 8513596col
7 0177710 8513022pass
8 0176982 8512924junction
9 0176903 8512030pass
10 0176419 8511284  
11 0176172 8510968ravine
12 0176764 8509934pass
13 0176755 8509354 
14 0176855 8509172 shoulder
15 0177015 8508748 
16 0177272 8508104 
17 0177278 8507854junction
18 0177582 8507110 
19 0177861 8506410 
20 0178150 8505828 the ‘X-zone’
21 0175372 8514316 junction
22 0176608 8514366 
23 0177642 8514298 
24 0177942 8514172pass
25 0178042 8509822stream

First route: 1-20

Leave Cusco on the Pisac road. Passing through Corao you see a school on your right, and here you turn left onto a dirt road. After a km or so the road turns left but there is a bridge carrying straight on into a village. Here you follow the road round to the left alongside a stream. But a few hundred metres later (1) another bridge crosses the same stream. This time you take the bridge, and immediately after crossing it you again turn right, almost doubling back on yourself. You are now on a fairly obvious road which zigzags up to the col (2, 4100m). We had to push a lot, but could probably have ridden all the way on our own bikes.

L. Qoricocha is spread out before you. It has no outlet. We went round its north side where the road continues, although the south is also said to be possible. At (6) you flank a col. It is worth climbing the few metres up to it for the view, which on a clear day must be spectacular. There is a faint footpath over it down to Chinchero, but it is no place for bikes.

Instead you follow the road to a second pass (7, 4200m) above L. Quellacocha. The road continues enticingly beside it, but here you must leave the road. A flat ridge leads due west. After a little while the ridge starts to climb, but a path leaves it to the left and contours round. It is demarcated by rows of stones and occasional cairns. You follow this path. At 8 another path joins from your right. Eventually you reach a pass (9, 4250m) crossing a ridge running north-south.

The path is now obvious. It takes you across a couple of ravines to another pass (12 , 4200m). You descend from it quite steeply, reaching another valley running south. You keep to the left hand side of the stream fairly high up. You are aiming for a whitish notch which crosses the left-hand ridge at a shoulder (14). From 7 to this point the path has been mostly rideable, but now you encounter a poorly defined and rocky descent. At 15 the gradient eases off and you follow a path which is little more than a few ruts. At 17 a better path joins you from your right – should we have been on it? As you proceed the route becomes easier. You pass an Inca wall and reach a meadow where you will probably see tourists on horseback: this is the ‘X-zone’. Now you are back on the main road near Sacsawayman.

The route would be possible in reverse, but route-finding would be difficult at the start without GPS and the rocky slope would be no pleasure at all. The way we did it ensured that all the significant climbs were on reasonable terrain.

Second route: 21-24, 5-7, 25, 1

Leave Cusco on the Chinchero road and take the dirt road on the north side of L. Piuray. Keep heading east towards the mountains. At the junction at 21 the road deteriorates to little more than a footpath, and after a couple of wiggles makes clear its intention to climb the hillside. Eventually you reach a pass at 17, 4200m. You carry on to 5 where you join the previous route, making a sharp right turn to head for L. Quellacocha. This time, when you cross the pass at 7 you stay on the road down the valley past the lake. The road becomes a footpath and progressively deteriorates. You manage to find away along the valley side, losing little height while the stream plummets. Eventually the stream bends round to the east and you have no path to follow. At this point we manhandled our bikes down a gully filled with long grass.

The stream itself is no obstacle. We crossed it at 25. There was still not much of a route (perhaps we should have climbed higher on the south side). At Quesere the dubious footpath becomes a broad mule track, delightful to cycle on as it contours along the valley. At Qorimarca it becomes a dirt road and the charm evaporates.

This route makes even less sense in reverse.