Before arriving in Huaraz we had heard a lot about 2 of the treks, the 3 day Santa Cruz camping trip, and Laguna 69 day tramp. Well unfortunately we didn’t do our research on the best time to go to the Andes and arrived in wet season, so for me the multi day treks were out. Pitching a tent in an afternoon storm then putting up with me complaining about my wet feet for 3 days was not something I was willing to put Steve through! So we decided to take on the notoriously difficult Laguna 69 day trek as a slightly more fail proof way to test our endurance.
We spent about a week in Huaraz before attempting this one to acclimatise (check out my posts on Pastoruri Glacier and Laguna Churup for ideas on easing into it) because we have the benefit of time on our hands. But most people were fine allowing one or two days before getting stuck in. Altitude sickness is a funny one, it’s impossible to tell how badly, or even if, it’s going to effect you. During the 10 days we spent at Churup Guesthouse we met 4 people that had been affected, 3 had to bail on pre-booked tours. So don’t rush into pre paying anything, go easy on the booze, get lots of rest and make sure you drink LOADS of water.
We booked our Laguna 69 trip through the same travel company we went through for the glacier (Ganesa), we paid 30 soles each and this time they arranged to pick us up from our hostel at 5.30am. The whole experience was much more organised than the glacier fiasco and our mini bus was filled with international tourists and on the road by 6am. We had the weather gods smiling on us and a beautiful sunrise floated along with us as we headed back up into Huascaran National Park. The drive is just stunning, we passed through the small town of Yungay with the mountains watching over us, and zigzagged our way up to the park.
Just past Yungay the tour bus stopped at a small restaurant for breakfast. Usually I’m anti these rip off joints, but this one was nice. We had an egg roll and a cup of coca leaf tea for 5 soles each which really hit the spot at 8am!
After breakfast you head up to the entrance of the park, it costs 10 soles to get in each trek you do, unless you take a multi-day pass which is 65 soles and is what you will need if you plan on doing an extended trek.
About 20 minutes after the park entry you will reach the famous beautiful twin Llanganuco Lakes and the driver will stop to enable you to take a quick shot with the gigantic Hauscaran which towers in the background and at 6,768m is the tallest peak in the park. There are also hundreds of lakes in the national park, Laguna 69 is the 69th lake and these two are 64 and 65.
About 40 minutes further up the road the laguna 69 trek starts at Cebollapampa 3850m above sea level. It’s considered a difficult trek and climbs up to the crystal blue lake sitting at 4500m so I must reiterate that the altitude will get you!
The 1st part of the track is pretty easy going and passes along the right hand side of a lovely blue river, which flows through lush green meadows, and waters the friendly local cows. There is something so magical about walking through a valley surrounded by waterfalls and lush nature! However, be warned… You will have to cross over the river in a couple of places, hopping from stone to stone.
I managed to keep my feet dry for about the 1st hour, unfortunately, because it had been raining and snowing the night before the next part of the track was like following a small zig zigging stream to the top of a waterfall. The climb was pretty tough going and started to seperate our tour group. I found that I was OK for the most part about a quarter of the way up you come to the bottom of a beautiful waterfall and I kinda thought the lake would be at the top of it. Well I was wrong and should have been focussing more on the snowy peaks off in the distance because that’s how far we still needed to climb!
Once you reach the top of this 1st climb you come to a pretty lake, however this is not 69, this is only 66 or 67… So you still have a way to go but reaching this point still feels pretty special. I felt like Jack, reaching a plateau at the top of the bean stalk, there are more cows chilling out munching grass, and a lot more mud!
Once you have crossed the plateau it’s time for the final climb. This is the tough bit. This is the bit that will make you question your sanity. But it doesn’t last long and the reward, well.. The first glimpse of that turquoise lake surrounded by the mountains Chacrarju and Pisco, which on a clear day leave reflections on the lake and who’s melting peaks create trickling waterfalls… You will almost forget about the hard work.
It took us around 3 hours to get to the lake and about 2 hours back down. The trek down is a treat in itself, as the light has changed and you are now looking towards the mountains Huascaran, Chopicalqui and Yanapaccha. We both managed to get very wet feet chasing the squirrels to try and capture a decent photo! Be warned, the grass looks solid but is very marshy when it’s been raining…
We ended up back at our home in Huaraz (Churup Guesthouse review) around 6pm. So it was a BIG day. In spite of the slog, our smiles were even bigger.