It was time for some more hiking so we decided to head to Huaraz, a city situated 3000 meters above sea level surrounded by the Cordillera Blanca range. We arrived at night into the bustling city center with guinea pigs cooking, chickens in the streets and people rushing around or eating dinner from a street vendor. After staying in a few quieter towns and cities, we were glad to be in a busier place even with all the chaos. That night we went out for a cheap vegetarian Indian in the front room of a couple’s house. We had a spicy soup, a bean curry served with rice, the BEST Indian bread and grape juice! All unlimited for 20 soles.
Trek 1 – 7km / 3,700m altitude
The next morning we wanted to get used to the altitude to lessen the risk of bad altitude sickness before doing some of the more challenging treks, so we made our way to Laguna Wilcacocha a 20 minutes colectivo van ride away. The van dropped us right at the trails entrance so soon enough we were beginning the hike up. You can take to road most of the way up, however we chose the trail which took us through farmers’ fields, a small village and a school. The view keeps on getting better as you climb up see the Cordillera Blanca peaks. After about 2 hours, we reached the small lake and sat at the top looking down over Huaraz and the snowy mountains. The walk was tough due to the lake being at over 3700 meters but we made it without any headaches or sickness.
Trek 2 – 10.5km / 4,500m altitude
The following morning we got up at 4.30AM to head to Lake Parón with 10 others from our hostel. The drive took 3 hours and was very windy and bumpy in the small van but worth it just for the initial view of the lake and mountains. We had our breakfast and sat around talking with the guide about the hike ahead of us. Although it wasn’t the longest of walks, it was instead technical as it was up over rocks for the most part. The lake itself is at 4,200 meters and the highest point we were to hike was 4,500. Most people that go to the lake for the day will just hike around the lake but we were on a tour that only sometimes runs and this was to get to a 360 viewpoint.
The hike was difficult as it involved a lot of concentration and jumping from one huge rock to the next following the guide. One girl fell backwards off the rocks and was very lucky to escape with a few bruises and scrapes to her arm, it could have been a lot worse. Eventually we made it to the top where we could see the lake in its full glory and surrounding snowy peaks. The Artesonraju mountain which some suggest is the logo to Paramount Pictures, can be seen along with other beautiful mountains from the viewpoint. We had lunch at the top and then made our way down to the lake that had a few more people at compared to the silence that morning. One of the guys with us decided to swim in the freezing water before getting out numb after 2 minutes but not before getting a huge cheer from all the locals visiting and a beer off Stu.
Trek 3 – 14km / 4,600m altitude
Another 4.30AM wake up this time for one of the most popular treks – Laguna 69. This was to be our hardest trek due to altitude and the 800 meters of ascent. We made the 2-hour bus journey, had breakfast and then began the hike. The first part was through beautiful fields with donkeys and cows filling them. Then we began the first climb that was much harder than usual as catching our breath was hard. Once at the top we hit a smaller lake where the views were incredible and we could see Huascarán the highest point in Peru. There was another steep climb up to the lake and we eventually arrived at the beautiful turquoise blue waters. There were not too many people there when we arrived so we were able to enjoy it before the crowds arrived at 12.30. We had lunch and then made the walk back down passing many people still making the walk up. The guide had said to leave the lake at 1PM latest so we could make the journey back to Huaraz, however we were still passing people on our bus making their way up at 1PM. Once back at the bus we relaxed and waited for the last of the people to arrive.