Having miscalculated the time required to travel around the Southern region of Peru through the Andes Mountain Range and its windy roads, I was almost at the end of my month backpacking trip in Peru and already with a heavy heart I had to abandon the idea to travel to the depths of the Amazon. Still with a few days left until my return flight to London, I knew from my current location in the Huacachina oasis in the desert and being the hiking lover that I am, that I had to make it to the Ancash Region in the Northern side of Peru; two buses, one stopover in Lima and about 13 hours bus drive later I arrived to the charming town of Huaraz; the capital of the Ancash region.
Huaraz, known as heaven for hikers and mountain climbers alike, is flanked by mountains; on one side is the Cordillera Negra and on the other the Cordillera Blanca with its snowy peaks. If you are a mountain lover like me, do not miss Huaraz as is the gateway to a number of amazing hiking opportunities and easily reachable from Lima, just about 8 hours away by bus.
With my return flight fast approaching, I did not have time to acclimatize to the altitude of Huaraz, which stands at 3.052 metres before leaving to trek Lake 69 (at 4.600 metres high) and as soon as I found a hostel I arranged my trek for the very next day. Due to my circumstances and lack of time, I decided to arrange my trek with the same hostel paying a total of 40 soles (£10.00 / €11.50 / $13) for transportation and guide but you don’t need a guide as the path is quite clear once you start hiking.
Many people opt to do Lake 69 by their own. You can either book your own private transportation in Huaraz taking you to the starting point of the trek for just about 30 soles (but you will need to shop around town) and take you back or another option can be taking a public bus from Huaraz all the way to Yungay (closest town to the starting point of the trek) and from there a combi to the Huascaran National Park.
Also, taxis in Yungay can drop you off (1hr ride) and wait for your return.
If you would like to extend the adventure enjoying fully the flora and fauna of the National Park, there is a camping at the beginning of the trek or alternatively there is the possibility of doing a two days trek by sleeping in Refugio Peru after the lake.
Lake 69 stands at 4.600 metres high therefore is not advisable to go straight from Lima at sea level to Huaraz and start trekking right away for acclimation purposes. Give yourself a couple of days first and chew (or drink) coca leaves for the high altitude if you feel it affects you.
The trek to Lake 69 is rated from medium to high and clearly; the fitter you are the easier it will be.
A minivan picked me up fairly early in the morning at 5.30am and then it picked other people up from different locations around town until it was completely full. We had a cheerful guide but as soon as I started trekking I realised that there was no need whatsoever to have one as the path is clearly marked (except in just some few occasions) and besides, as soon as I started walking I lost sight of him J
The ride took about 3hrs drive to reach the starting point with a 30 minutes breakfast stop on route on a beautiful rural location (pic below)
After breakfast the minivan continued climbing by bus to an initial altitude of 3.900 metres. Overall the trek takes about 3hrs up and 2hrs down with an hour or two hours break time in the lake. The faster you are more time you can enjoy in the lake. Personally I was fast and just on my way back down I met my guide and some other people from my group making it to the lake.
During the ride, our guide collected from each of us an additional 10 soles entry fee for the Huascaran National Park. There is one stop at the entry of the valley which is the check point of the National Park and from there, the drive continues with a 10 minute photo stop at the Chinancocha Lake of an unreal turquoise color as the pic below shows.
From there, we continued our drive to Cebollapamapa at 3.900 metres, the start point of the hike. They don’t call it the most impressive day hike in the entire of the Cordillera Blanca for nothing! The combination of scenic mountain view of the main peaks of the Cordillera Blanca and the vegetation, cows and waterfalls that you find along the hike truly makes for an unforgettable day.
On a really hot day you can swim in the lake, otherwise it is advisable to bring snacks and water. It is just incredibly nice to treat yourself with a little picnic at the Lake. It is not often that you can enjoy such breathtaking landscape with your snack!
There are some other equally amazing treks you can do from Huaraz, these are some of them just to mention:
- Glacier Pastouri
- Laguna Paron
- Laguna Churup
- Laguna Aquak
The Lake 69 trek is beyond cool, it made me grateful to be in Peru, to be alive and fit enough to do it because it was one of the very best days I had in my whole month in Peru.
Truly an unforgettable experience.