Laguna 69: Bonafide Mountain Porn

Looking around for more hikes to do in the area around Huaraz, we constantly heard that we should go to Laguna 69. This hike is located about three hours north of the city, at the head of the Llanganuco Valley. It’s another alpine hike that promises a stunning glacial lake and white-capped surrounding at the finish. Sounds good, let’s do it!

Being a bit farther afield, we decided to arrange transport with our hostel, getting picked up at 6 am, ughh. About 40 minutes north of Huaraz, we finally got a view of the massive bulk of Huascarán rising in front of us.

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Soon after, we pulled over at a mirador with a Virgen, in order to appreciate it more fully. On the left, further away, you can see Huandoy (6360 m), and on the right, Huascarán, the highest mountain in Peru (6768 m).

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We continued further down the valley until we reached Yungay, where we turned in towards the mountains, and got on a rather bumpy dirt and rock road that wound steeply upwards, constantly switchbacking. After an hour or so of this, we came to the stunning blue waters of Lago Llanganuco. Along the shores are the equally stunning ‘paper trees’, so-called because of their flaky orange bark.

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We could see up and down the valley, with glaciers and snowy peaks poking out everywhere, and the sky was beautifully cloud free this early in the morning.

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Continuing onward, we arrived at the start of our hike at the carpark at Cellopampa.  Before starting, we made sure to take a look back the way we’d come.

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We descended to the valley, where we made sure to stay to the right of the small river showing us the way. To the left was the trail to the base camp for Pisco, one of the more popular mountains to climb in the region.

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All morning the weather cooperated, with gray clouds coming in, but never threatening rain. At times, the big mountains became hidden, but that’s expected.

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We kept seeing new glaciers appearing from nowhere, and encountered more than one cow grazing.

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After an hour or so we came across a small lake, not our destination, just a bit of a tease.

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From here, the path became steeper as it climbed the side of the valley towards the hidden lake above. Looming over it all was the imposing vertical face of Nevado Chacraraju (6108 m), constantly darting in and out of cloud.

As we crested the top of the hillside, next to a waterfall, we began to walk along a crystal clear stream, running through the gray broken down rocks of the basin. And then we came upon the lake, at an altitude of 4550 m (14,900 ft.)

Laguna 69 is absolutely stunning. With the sunlight playing off the water, it’s that vibrant blue-green that only comes from glacial sediment.

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In the background, you can see Pisco and Chacraraju, with their glaciers dropping down towards the lake, and then the moraine below. Everywhere is the rubble of thousands of years of crushing ice working on the rock.

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We couldn’t help taking picture after picture, trying and mostly failing to capture what we were seeing in front of us. We also tried video!

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The colors kept changing as the light changed, sometimes revealing the water to be crystal clear, other times opaque.

After sitting in awe for a suitably long period of time, we headed back the way we’d come, only to be greeted by more stunning views, as the mountains that had earlier been in cloud were now revealed.

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The combination of stark black and white peaks with the rocks and vegetation along our path was truly memorable, and a fitting final vision of this spectacular day.

Logistics (October 2013):

Here’s what we paid per person to do this trip.

Tour van from Huaraz to Cellopampa and back: s/40 (It’s possible to do this independently, but wouldn’t really be any cheaper, and it would be quite difficult to find a ride back from the start of the hike).

Huascarán National Park daily entrance fee: s/5 (we’d already paid the s/65 for the monthly pass, so didn’t have to pay this again)

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