Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Where's that frozen lake?

Laguna Parón - Huascarán National Park
The spectacular Laguna Parón - the longest and largest in
the Huascarán National Park
I kept hearing about this Lago Congelado but somehow never did a search online to see what it looked like. It’s located at the foot of Artesonraju (6,025m) in the Quebrada (gorge/canyon) Parón but that’s all I knew. Sitting on the shore of the spectacular Laguna Parón at 4,200m, the longest and largest in the Huascarán National Park (Ancash, Peru), I was contemplating where I should go and explore the next day…I had a free the following day and was staying at the Refugio Parón and gagging for something new, even if it was hard work getting there.

The guy at the refugio who also sometimes worked as a porter, explained that I could get to the lake along the trail that goes to Artesonraju Basecamp and Campo Morena (Moraine Camp). Walking with a full load of gear, he said it took him about three and a half hours to get there. It was decided, I would head off the next morning and go and find Lago Congelado.
North shore trail view - Laguna Parón, Huascarán National Park
The view from the trail along the northern lake shore;
Nevados Pirámide (left) and Chacraraju (right)

The first section was pretty simple walking the 4.2km trail on the northern shore of Laguna Parón which with a bit of ups and downs took me about an hour. It was cloudy and cold but at least not raining…no rain and cool weather always made for easier walking and I was feeling strong. Dressed with a few layers but not thick, I was just warm enough to be comfortable and the backpack seemed to fitting better than ever.

At the eastern end of the lake, I started crossing some of the rivers and streams that ran down from Artesoncocha (cocha = lake) and from the glacier of Mt Caraz. I was aiming in the general direction of the trail that headed up the western side of Artesoncocha to the foot of Artesonraju. The river crossings were fairly simple as it was still early and the water levels were low - in the afternoon with more melt from the glaciers and snow, the levels would be up between 30-40cm.

On the ridge west of Artesoncocha, I was walking at 4,400m, 200m above the average level of the trail along Laguna Parón to the river crossings. The ascent hadn’t been too steep but I could feel it although going a bit slower now to take some photos and videos of the surrounding scenery.

View of Artesoncocha and Nevados Chacraraju and Pisco
Artesoncocha in the foreground with the peaks of Chacraraju and Pisco in the background.
Centre between the 2 mountains, another glacial lake.
Looking back, were the peaks of Chacraraju and Pisco, at times hidden in the clouds and then at the northern end of Artesoncocha, a massively high waterfall, I reckon at least 150m, coming from the foot of Artesonraju. The latter and then Mt Garcilaso to my right were still hidden in the clouds although their glaciers were visible at times.

Below to my left was a small river/stream passing through a little patch of Polylepis forest and a few open spaces - I later found out that this is the basecamp of Artesonraju, and I presume, at times for Mt Caraz as well. At this stage with the views around me, regardless of it being cloudy, I already had a huge smile that wasn’t leaving my face!

Trail junction to Nevados Caraz and Artesonraju
The junction with the 2 signs to Nevados Caraz and Artesonraju
The trail gradually starting ascending a bit more as it started curving more to the left over a rocky section till I reached a point with two signs “Nev Caraz 6,020msnm” and “Nev Arteson 6,025msnm” - according to the gps I was at 4,563m. The little stream here was handy for freshening up a bit and filling up my waterbottle and obviously, taking a few more photos. The trail to the right to Artesonraju went up steeply to the right but I wasn’t about to be stop now - I needed to find Lago Congelado!

Heading up the trail to the right it was about a slow step by step ascent which meant I could advance constantly without lots of stops - 560m in distance with a 207m ascent which, according to the gps took me about 40min. I passed what looked like a terraced area ideal for camping. (Later this was confirmed to be advanced basecamp or sometimes referred to as Campo Morena.) 

At the viewpoint of Lago Congelado
Lago Congelado at last! Artesonraju os to the right, Paria centre behind me
and Garcilaso to the right. (View from 4,786m)

The view from up here at 4,786m left me speechless but with a massive smile…three glaciers came together and down the centre, a huge wide joint glacier into a huge lake with massive blocks of ice (little icebergs?) floating around. From a point to the right the water flowed out into what was the waterfall that fed Artesoncocha. This just completely exceeded my wildest expectations of what I would find up here, especially as I hadn’t seen any photos of it! 
Trail to Campo Morena, Artesonraju
The trail leading up to Advanced Basecamp/Campo Morena
and the viewpoint of Lago Congelado.

While it started to snow lightly, I had something to eat and took some more photos - I was a very happy camper and there was little that could change that at this moment!  It had taken me three and a half hours to get here which I was pretty happy with and it had been a good trek as I was still feeling strong. The mountain peaks of Artesonraju, Paria and Garcilaso (Pirámide) were hidden in the clouds but with the bit of wind blowing I got glimpses of them. An incredible moment and place and I was savouring every second!!

Flowers growing up at 4,786m - Artesonraju, Huascarán National Park
Flowers growing up at 4,786m
Eventually after almost an hour it was time to head down and back to the Refugio Parón. The trek back only took me two hours although some time spent finding crossings over the variety of little rivers and streams which were now about 15cm higher - not more as there hadn’t been much sun/warmth around.

This trek is an excellent option for somebody who is well-acclimatised (a must!) and physically reasonably fit at least - totally worth every moment spent on the trail with a range of panoramas and views that will blow your mind!

Total distance: 15.3km Trekking time (return):  5h30min
Total ascent:  885m Highest point:  4,786m
Total descent: 900m Lowest point: 4,177m


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