12 August 2015

This is the most popular of day walks in the Huaraz area. We considered heading north and doing this trek ourselves, but it worked out to be just as cheap and easier to book onto an organised tour. All tour agencies and hotels in Huaraz sell this trip for 35-50 soles (some include breakfast, others don’t), and trips leave every morning.

We were picked up at 6 am from our hostel and headed north out of Huaraz. It takes about 3 hours to get to the entrance to the Huascaran National Park. I slept most of the way there, only to wake a few times when we went over a bump and my head slammed into the metal frame of the windowt. After a quick stop to purchase breakfast we entered the national park. We had already purchased a 21 day pass (65 soles), but most people paid 10 soles for the one day pass.

We had quick stop at the Llanganuco Lakes. These are some pretty photogenic glacial lakes – bright blue in colour with steep rocky cliffs dropping down into them. We only stopped briefly as the rain started to come down on us.

The walk to Laguna 69 started a bit further up the valley. As always on these popular walks, a few small stalls had been set up selling overpriced Coca-Cola, cerveza (beer) and Sublime chocolate bars to the passing trekkers.

The drizzle kept coming down as we headed up the flat-bottomed valley. “Oh well, my down jacket needed a wash anyway,” said Samara, who hadn’t taken her rain jacket (this was the first rain we had seen for quite some time). Our friend Heather stopped to watch and identify the birds through her binoculars. Samara and I were happy by just pointing and saying “hey, look at that fat blue one” etc. There were some cool birds though…

At the head of the valley we were faced with a decent climb up the hill towards the lake.Waterfalls plummeted off the cliffs around us, and horses and cows grazed on the green patches below.

We reached Laguna 69 after 2.5 hours of walking, just as the rain turned to snow. The lake was the usual beautiful turquoise blue typical of glacial lakes. We huddled behind some bushes to eat our lunch out of the slushy snow. A brave Israeli attempted to go for a swim but only lasted a few fractions of a second before he jumped back out of the water screaming loudly. There were some impressive rock cliffs on the other side of the lake, but the clouds prevented us seeing what lay beyond them. However, the occasional roar of ice breaking off a glacier coming from high above suggested that the mountain continued a fair way higher than these cliffs. Indeed, we had seen many photos of this place already that showed the snowy peak of the Chacraraju mountain (6001m) rising high above the lake. 

This is what we would have seen on a day with clear weather:

 

This is what we saw. Still dang nice:

  
Our fingers were feeling frozen so we headed back down the hill. As we dropped back into the valley, the clouds began to part and presented us with a glimpse of the mountains that surrounded us. It was a magical moment.

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TRIP DETAILS

Trip type: Organised tour, day-trip, trek

Highlights: Glacial lakes, alpine flowers, mountain views, waterfalls.

Costs: About 35-50 soles for an organised tour. These can be booked at any of the travel agencies in Huaraz, or at many of the tourist hostels. Some tours include breakfast (ask when booking). 10 soles for National Park day pass or 65 soles for 21 day pass.

Travel time to trailhead from Huaraz: Approx 3 hours in van or bus.

Trek distance: Approx 12 km

Trek rating: easy – moderate (depending on how acclimatised you are already)

Trek altitude: 3900m to 4600m

What to take: Warm clothes, rain jacket, snacks, water, camera.

Other notes:

  • Check weather ahead of going. If you want to see the surrounding mountains, choose a day with better weather.
  • If you want to do this trek idependently, consider taking a tent and making a couple of days of it. The walk can be extended into a bit of circuit, visiting Pisco basecamp.
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