Showing posts with label Laguna 69. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Laguna 69. Show all posts

Monday, 11 June 2018

Trekking Above the Clouds

Chinancocha, Llanganuco

The air is cold and just light enough to show the outline of a lake lined by bent and crooked silhouettes like old spirits crowding the shoreline in the predawn mist. The vehicle swirls of the air and moves the mist at times to reveal high and towering shadows of some of the highest peaks, still over 3,000m above us. Still ascending, we gradually get more hemmed in by forest, alpine grass and large boulders with glacial streams bubbling over onto the dirt track. Windows frosted over, everyone’s been woken up by the bumpy ascent and trying to see the views still stubbornly hidden by the early mountain fog.

And then we stop...the guide telling us that soon we’ll be able to have some hot coffee, tea or coca tea, the natural high altitude med for those who might not feel well at this altitude. We’ve just arrived at about 4,700m above sea level in the Cordillera Blanca, the highest snow-covered mountain range in the tropics. As he talks, the light outside goes bright and he quickly loses everyone’s attention momentarily as there’s a frantic wiping of windows to see outside but not to be worried, he opens the door to the icy air and with thick layers of clothing there’s almost a rush to photograph the first sun’s rays against Peru’s highest mountains - Huascarán with its two peaks, the highest at 6,768m in Peru. Across the Llanganuco valley, the various peaks of the Huandoy Massif, Pisco and Chacraraju are being lit up by the morning sun.
Cordillera Blanca Bfast
Time for our pre-trek breakfast with scrambled eggs, toast, fruit salad and juice - and more coffee or tea for those hot drink fiends. Finishing off we get the trail briefing and then also importantly, briefing on what to do if anybody starts feeling the effects of the high altitude...drinking water and staying hydrated up here at altitude is one of the most important things to remember. As this trek starts at a high altitude, there’s no opportunity for acclimatisation on the trek like some of the other popular treks here in the Cordillera Blanca.With patches of snow around, parts of the trail are icy so we move a bit more carefully, especially some of the rocks that are covered in ice. Other than for the altitude, the first section is not difficult as it starts off level along a little trail until there’s an ascent where the trail disappears at times between the rocks. Here you might feel the altitude a bit on your breathing which is why it’s important to only go on this trek once you’ve acclimatised more to high altitude. 
cloudy views

This little ascent will bring you to one of the best viewpoints on this trek with views down the Llanganuco Valley and its lakes, Chinancocha and Orconcocha, and then views across to Refugio Peru (ascent to Pisco) and the glacier of Yanapaccha “behind” you. The rest of the view includes the peaks of Chacraraju and Pisco (where Laguna 69 is situated), the Huandoy Massif, two peaks of Huascaran and the almost pyramid shape of Chopicalqui.Yanapaccha Viewpoint

After all the group shots and inevitable selfies, we continue on the trail in the direction of the Yanapaccha glacier and a winding descent through grass and rock. Keep your eyes open for the deer in and around the queñual forest (Polylepis sp.) further up and the early viscachas warming themselves on some sunny rocks.
Grassy descent

 Due to there being very few people who pass along this route, there’s still a fair amount of wildlife here, not to talk of all the birdlife. The descent continues through a patch of queñual forest and over a ridge where we get our first view of the pale green lake at the foot of Yanapaccha and its glacial streams. In very cold weather, it’s not unusual to have ice on the lake surface.
Green Yana lake

Snack time! ...and time for more photos. From here we only have a short distance of up and downs before we join the main trail to Laguna 69 at 4,200m altitude. This is a lovely section though and one of my favourites with the small river descending from the small lake we were just at, patches of very tall grass and some forest. Of course, there might very well be some local cows enjoying the juicy vegetation but there’s also a fair amount of viscachas around and I’ve twice already come across some puma tracks here - so keep your eyes open.
Laguna 69 trek

There’s no mistaking the main trail to Laguna 69 when we reach it, a wide trail where we might already encounter some of the early/quicker day hikers making their way up. Reaching a little open spot, sort out our clothing - taking off jackets if it’s getting warm or putting on other gear, all depending on the gear. This is also where anybody not feeling up for the next hour, hour and a half ascent to Laguna 69, can start descending and enjoy some time down at the Llanganuco lakes. Many will also remember this as the end of the most spectacular part of the trek which very few people have the opportunity of seeing although, the rest of the trek to Laguna 69 at 4,650m is hardly boring. Not easy, but worth every step. You can read more about the Laguna 69 trek on my post “How Blue is Blue?

This trek is only offered by Akilpo and for trekkers that are already acclimatised to trekking at high altitude. If you’re not sure, have a chat with them as they also offer various other 1-day treks that will help you acclimatise.
Laguna 69

Included with this trek is the transport to and from the trek start and end points, breakfast and an experienced mountain trekking guide qualified in First Aid. You will also be provided with a list of clothing etc required for the trek; if needs be, some can be rented from Akilpo as well.
Contact Akilpo:  via their Facebook page @akilpohuaraz to message or e-mail them.

Instagram: @akilpo_trek

Office: Parque Ginebra 30-B, 02001 Huaraz (Ancash, Peru)
Tel:  +51 433 906
Laguna 69 panorama

Saturday, 6 September 2014

How Blue is Blue?!

The azure blue waters of Laguna 69 at 4,625m
Describing a colour is often just an exercise in relativity as each individual’s definition/perception of a specific colour varies quite a bit. In Peru though, I’ve come across a colour where most people agree on it being the best, and most beautiful, example of blue. A lake that goes by the name of “Laguna 69” is the subject - ’69’ get’s most peoples attention for reasons probably not specifically related to trekking in mountains at high altitude but a view of this lake will have you speechless, temporarily anyway!

Your trip will start with an early (c.5:30-6am) departure from Huaraz to the Llanganuco Sector of Huascaran National Park. The route will take you through some picturesque villages and eventually leaving the tar road in Yungay, turning east towards the national park. During this drive, if you’re not sleeping still on the bus like most, you’ll be enjoying gorgeous views of the snow-covered peaks of Huascaran and Huandoy mountains. The south peak of Huascaran is the highest in Peru at 6,768m - on the right as you ‘face’ the mountain on this road trip.

After a short breakfast stop near the park entrance, the bus will head into the park and follow the winding road up to an altitude of 3,850m where you’ll get the first big colour treat of the day, the emerald waters of Lake Chinancocha. Right above the lake as you’re taking photos, will be the north face of Huascaran mountain. This is just a taster so don’t hang around too long here, there’s another 15min drive to Cebollapampa where the trek to Laguna 69 starts off. Along the way the bus will pass another lake; Lake Orconcocha. 

The names of these two lakes are Quechua and “cocha” means ‘lake’. “orcon” is ‘man/male’ and “chinan” is a ‘woman/female’. These names originate from a story relating to the daughter of the Inca chief Huascar after whom Huascaran mountain is named.

Cebollapampa is located at 3,900m and this is where you’ll start your c.7km trek to the famous Laguna 69 whilst also ascending 725m. The name of this area, also used as base camp for the Santa Cruz trek and Pisco trek/climbs comes from plants growing on the plains that look like onions (cebolla = onion). Enjoy the views from here of Chacraraju and later Yanapaccha mountains high above you. 

This first section is about 3km long and ascends 200m, a reasonably easy walk but also where you could taste the first affects of high altitude trekking. Enjoy this section though along the river where you will encounter some cattle, donkeys and horse - all part of trekking in a biosphere. This isn’t distracting from the beauty of the area at all so include them in your photos. Culminating at waterfalls, the walk would’ve taken you around 45-55min depending on how your body is dealing with the altitude and exercise. Don’t forget to look back now and then to get some photos of the imposing beauty of Huascaran mountain.

(Remember, if you get headaches, nausea and/or dizziness anywhere during this trek - stop! At higher altitude this will only get worse and could become life threatening. The only proper remedy is to return to a lower altitude!)

The following section is a short 2km but certainly more strenuous as it zig-zags up the mountain and crosses to the nearby saddle north of the waterfalls you just passed. Once again stop now and then and enjoy the views over Cebollapampa that you’ve just ascended from; there’s some stunning photos to be had. Above you on this section, the peaks of Yanapaccha tower. Into the saddle is the last little bit of a climb, for now, and you’ll get to a little lake unofficially referred to as “Laguna 68”. Good time for a 5min break but the wind might be chilling you to the bone so move around to the far end of the lake where you’ll be a bit more sheltered from the icy wind. In front you will be the massive shape and peaks of Chacraraju mountain. 5km completed now and you’re at an altitude of 4,400m. 

The final section of 2km has two parts; the first is a 15-20min flat walk to bottom of what will be the final ascent to Laguna 69. The walk across this little pampas is a good time to make up some time. At the start of the ascent there are some large rocks where you can take a final 5min break before the last push up to 200m higher. By now you’ll have seen another mountain to the left of Chacraraju, those are the peaks of Pisco - yes, named after the famous Peruvian drink. 

Ascending now will go even slower, for many anyway, the air is getting much thinner. Get yourself a steady pace with some short stops - as they say in East Africa, “Pole Pole” …slowly slowly! This is not all slogging as the views are drop-dead stunning all around you. Another mountain to the left of Huascaran will come into view, this is the beautiful mountain Chopicalqui - the famous logo of Paramount Pictures. In the direction you’ve come from you’ll see another couple of lakes, Lagos de Brogi which are also glacial lakes of Chacraraju. 

This breath-taking (pun intended) final section can take you anything from 30-60min depending on how much/little your body’s liking it. Once you get over the last little ridge, there’s a 2min flat walk before you get your first view of the bluest blue of lakes; these are the azure waters of Laguna 69. Down at the shoreline, relax and have a drink and bite to eat. Your options for photos are multitude here; over and above the standard selfies, there are some higher areas for the more energetic to get more panoramic shots from. 

The waterfall might have some pieces of ice coming down now and then, or like we saw the other day, a ‘small’ avalanche from one of the peaks of Chacraraju. Try not to stay later than 2pm at the most as there’s usually some weather moving in later in the afternoon plus a later walk means longer sections on the return trek in the shade, a considerably cooler experience. 

All along the trek you’ll encounter a variety of flowers and plants and hopefully at least get a glimpse of the shy but quick Northern Viscacha, a relative of the chincilla family resembling a large rabbit. There is no shortage of birds around for the avid birder with a good supply of humming birds and sierra-finches plus the seemingly omni-present blue-grey Tit-like Dacnis. Keep an eye on the sky too as there is of course a small chance of a condor but more likely some vultures. (Keep an eye out for further posts on the fauna & flora of Llanganuco Sector)

The trek back to Cebollapampa takes an average of 2 hours.  Take care though so you don’t end up sliding down too much on the loose rocks on the trail. Once back in Huaraz, or probably on the bus already, you’ll be having a good sleep after the 14km trek to find out how blue is blue! 
Please note that times mentioned are an average only and is dependant on your personal physical condition and ability to adapt to the high altitudes.

(my trip was organised through Akilpo Backpackers {their Facebook page} in Huaraz)