My day hike to Laguna 69

IMG_2438Living in Huaraz surrounded by beautiful snow-capped mountains, it’s hard not to imagine yourself on one of the summits or visiting one of the many turquoise colored lagoons. Since I am having a bit of downtime from doing my project, I decided to join the many tourists and locals on the one day hike to Laguna 69, the most popular of the lagoons in Ancash. Brief history lesson, the Laguna is oddly- but interestingly- named Laguna 69 because the locals couldn’t find a traditional name for it so they settled on its inventory number, 69.

Stationed about approximately 4,600 meters above sea level, Laguna 69 is a breathtaking turquoise lake that is literally hugged by snowy peaks of the Cordillera Blanca mountain range. It is a steep hike/trek demanding an ascent beginning at 3,800 meters, but the actual challenge is coping with the high altitude- as you know from my last post, I was struggling with altitude sickness. Well, I like a good challenge so even though I hadn’t fully recovered, I decided to get this once in a lifetime event over with. Actually, the day before the hike, decided to go spontaneously accompany some three of my hostel mates on a short (no it wasn’t short!) hike to Laguna Wilcacocha (3725m) to see the sunset. It was a good hike despite the fact that I occasionally felt my heart and lungs were doomed to fail any second. Nevertheless, I eventually made it and as you can see below, the views were rewarding.

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Anyway, I told myself that if I survived the Wilcacocha hike, I can definitely make it (barely!) to Laguna 69. It costs about 40 soles ($13) to join the hike along with a seasoned tour/mountain guide. I prepared for the hike by drinking tea made with coca leaves, packing fruits, granola bars, and most importantly WATER!! I had to leave the hostel at 6am on an organized tour bus among 14 others eager to see the famous lagoon. Since it took us about 3hours to get to the Parque Nacional Huascarán, Yanguy where the hike begins, definite caught up on some sleep and drank tons of water. The van made its way through a few Andean towns where traditional ways of life such as subsistence farming was still very visible. We stopped for a quick breakfast in one of the Andean villages where I grabbed another cup of coca tea as the nervousness was beginning to set in.

At about 10am, we finally entered the boundaries of the park, where there are several lakes, waterfalls and streams that would make you believe that you just crossed into another world. The nearby peaks were lined with massive, grey rock faces, as if slick mud had covered them, hardening and producing a slight shimmer in the morning light. It took us about 3hours of climbing to get to the lake (well it took me an additional 30mins) after mounting several hills and crossing valleys that literally makes it feels like a journey to middle earth. The lake itself was beautiful and magnificent, the same bright teal/turquoise as many of the others in the area. It was nestled into the base of Mount Chacraraju and fed by waterfalls running off the glaciers above. It was too cold to take a dip- although some people were crazy enough to do it in the lake- but I made sure to wash my hands in it (it was cold!).

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Unfortunately, I didn’t stay up there for long since the guide was sort of rushing us. The descent took about 2hrs and honestly felt longer than the climb, it was at this point when my never ending migraine, body aches I never knew existed and tiredness decided to set in. Thanks to encouragement from my hiking buddy, Matt from England, I finally made it to the bus – thank goodness I wasn’t the last person to make it. After another long drive which felt like forever since I was completely out of energy, I arrived at my hostel at 9pm and passed out 15mins later.

With all of its many natural appeals, hiking to Laguna 69 was amazing although and absolutely worth it but it is not to be taken lightly. Will I do this again? Probably not – well not in Peru, I might in another country. I definitely recommend it but make sure to get acclimated to the altitude because those migraines are no joke.

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