Wild camping at Laguna 69 - Ancash, Peru
The alarm goes off and I eagerly try to locate my phone, which has gotten lost somewhere in the thick layers of my down sleeping bag. Luckily it is still fairly warm inside the sleeping bag, although my nose feels like it is freezing right off my face. I manage to quiet my cellphone and it doesn't take too long before realising where I am and why the alarm went off at 5.30am: I quickly unzip the tent and the turquoise lake right in front of us is already reflecting vibrantly, even though the sun hasn't rose yet! All of a sudden I am completely awake - we survived a cold night in front of Laguna 69, the glacier peaks are starting to turn orange and it is going to be a good day - I am sure of that!
The Huascarán National Park has a lot to offer for all the outdoor enthousiasts. One of the more well-known hikes you can undertake, is the journey to Laguna 69. This turquoise lake is situated at an altitude of 4600 meters and usually people go to the lake as one of their first activities in the area, in order to acclimate for the longer treks they will do afterwards. Since the journey to the lake is usually undertaken as a day trip - guided by one of the many tour companies - it means that dozens of people arrive around noon at the lake, spend half an hour taking their pictures and then continue to descend in order to be back in Huaraz at the end of the day. How nice would it be to actually hike to the lake by yourself, spend the night in a tent and have the lake all for yourself? This is exactly what we did and it was more than worth it!
Usually the hike to the lake takes about 2-3 hours and can be quite strenuous because of the height. Before attempting the hike with all your camping gear, I would recommend to take the first days in Huaraz and surroundings (already at 3000 meters) really easy to let your body get used to the altitude. We read some things about the effects of the altitude beforehand and after experiencing it ourselves I can say for sure: the time you take to acclimate to the altitude definitely makes a difference: especially when you want to hike up to the lake with all your gear!
A brief overview of the journey to and from the lake:
- Acclimating in Huaraz, doing some short and easy hikes and enjoying good food in places like Café Andino and Chilli Heaven
- Early morning: take a colectivo (public transportation) to Yungay for 5 soles, which takes around one hour and fifteen minutes
- At the bus terminal in Yungay it is easy to arrange transport to the start of the Laguna 69 hike: just ask around for Laguna 69 and the drivers will pile up to bring you there. Shouldn't cost more than 15 soles and it will take another 1 - 1,5 hours to reach the starting point of the hike
- You'll pass by the entrance of the Huascarán National Park and you have to buy an entrance ticket. Either a one day ticket or a ticket which is valid for 21 days (65 soles). We obviously went for the latter and it gives you the opportunity to return for many more beautiful hikes!
- There is a clear path all the way to the lake and during the hike you'll find yourself on three steep sections, which might literally take your breath away, but eventually you'll find yourself at the end of the hike and all the sweaty moments are forgotten! Just take many photo stops during the hike, since the view is more than worth it and it is the perfect excuse to catch your breath again..
- We started our descend the next day in the late morning and when you arrive back at the starting point around noon there will surely pass enough colectivos or even some taxis to bring you back to Yungay
- Transportation between Yungay and Huaraz is easy to find at the bus terminal (again 5 soles)
The experience of sleeping next to a turquoise laguna surrounded by glaciers is hard to beat. What do you think, worth a try? I would really like to know whether you did the hike by yourself and how your experience was! Also, any additions are surely appreciated so make sure to leave them in the comments below.