After a few days hanging out in Huaraz we were ready to get out and stretch our legs and test whether or not we had lost all of our acclimatization after a few days down at sea-level in Lima. There are many possibilities for day walks in the Huaraz area, but we decided on the walk to Laguna Churup, which is nice and close to town.
At around 7 am we headed off to find a collectivo (shared van) that would take us up the hill towards the trailhead. The track starts at the very small village of Pitec at around 3800m. If you are not willing to fork out a few extra soles for the trip to Pitec, collectivos and taxis can also take you as far as the village of Llupa. Pitec is an hour or so walking up the hill from here. In true South American style, before we could find a collectivo, an old guy found us – “Llupa? Pitec?” he asked. We agreed on 10 soles for the trip up to Pitec. He pointed us towards his car. It was covered in dents and it took us a few attempts to tug the back door open. Samara looked a bit worried, having heard a story of a taxi that had taken a trip off the side of this road and into a tree just a few days before. The driver stopped to buy some automotive oil. It seemed he was a bit worried that we weren’t going to make it up the hill as well. Strangely, sitting in the back seat as the old car rumbled into action I was reminded of trips in my grandfathers car when I was a kid and I felt very comfortable. Dogs attacked the car from all angles as we chugged up the hill, and on several occasions donkeys had to be nudged out of the way with the front of the car. Maybe that is where all the dents came from…. A couple of locals dressed in their brightly coloured clothes squeezed in beside us.
Laguna Churup is located in the Huascaran National Park. At the trailhead the National Park sign reminds visitors to “kill nothing but time and mosquitos”. We headed up the wide track that heads (quite steeply) up the ridge towards the mountains. Looking back down the track, we could see that the National Park ranger had just arrived on his dirtbike. While we took a much needed water (and oxygen) break he skipped up the hill towards us. We paid the 65 soles for a 21 day pass into the National Park. A day pass can also be bought for 5 soles.
After spending time on the stunning Ausangate trek near Cusco the first part of this walk was nothing special. Being one of the more popular day-trips from Huaraz there were quite a few groups on the trail – Peruvians and gringos. There were nice views back down the valley towards Huaraz and across to the nearby ice-capped mountains. After an hour or two of walking we reached a cascade flowing down a valley. Through the gap between the hills towered the snowy peak of Nevado Churup. We clambered up the left side of the waterfalls, pulling ourselves up on thick steel cables which were attached to the rocks.
As we clambered over the top, Laguna Churup came into view. A sign told us that we were at 4450 m. There was little wind, and the surface of the lake was a like a mirror. As our driver had promised us, this lake was one of many colours, with many shades of blue and green. The clear glacial water looked inviting for a swim. People laid about on the rocks enjoying the sun. I had taken my camping stove so we cooked up a deliciously nutritious meal of packet soup and dehydrated potato mash as we took in the view.
I scrambled an extra 30 minutes up towards the mountain to reach a smaller glacial lake, which offered great views of Laguna Churup from above.
The trip back down the hill was a bit hard on the knees but only took and hour or so. A collectivo was waiting for us at Pitec (10 soles each). It was a bumpy and dusty ride back down to Huaraz where a coffee and shower were awaiting.
Overall, the walk up to Laguna Churup was a great day-trip out of Huaraz. It would make a perfect acclimatization walk for those planning on heading off to do any of the multi-day treks in the area. Highly recommended. For those who are not yet acclimatized it may be a bit tough on the lungs – take it slow. The trail is super easy to follow and (despite what others may say) no guide is necessary.