As soon as the bus pulled into the Lima city limits my decision was made. Originally I had planned to stay in Lima one night but wasn’t real excited about it. The whole bus ride I was debating if I should stay or go. When I approached the city limits and saw an ocean of concrete buildings beneath a drab, gray sky I knew one night would be one night too many.
Seven hours in Lima was more like it. Just enough time to walk around the city center, grab some food and buy a bus ticket out of town to Huaraz. Huaraz, on the other hand, was exactly what I was looking for. A town not too big or small and the gateway to the Cordilleras Blancas. ‘Impressive’ is an inadequate adjective to describe the region but maybe one of the first that comes to mind. Being the home to 22 peaks over 20,000 ft the Cordilleras are the second highest mountain range in the world after the Himalayas. To give some perspective the tallest mountain in North America, Mt. McKinley, is 20,335 ft. The mountains here seem to touch the sky which puts the 20,029 ft of Mt. Everest into perspective (Planes fly that high!). The range is home to Mt. Artesonraju which is more famously known as the logo to Paramount Pictures and Mt. Alpomaya which many claim to be the most beautiful mountain in the world.
The skyline of Huaraz are snow capped mountains and the sight had me excited to do a multi-day hike through the mountains. Then the frigid, night air that still lingered in the early morning hours seeped through my clothing to chill my bones. Shivering with numb hands and a cold face I began to reconsider. Did I really want to be out in the mountains when it gets dark at 6:00 pm and shiver myself to sleep at night on a cold, hard ground, again? Or, would I rather hike during the day and return to a hot shower and a warm bed?
Not a hard decision to make.
At 6:30 am I was up and out the door in the early morning cold that reconfirmed my decision to not sleep in a tent. Soon enough the sun was warming the earth and I was in a minivan with six women speaking Quechua. Or was it Aymara? I don’t know, it’s all indecipherable to me. I think I heard ‘Gringo’ thrown around a few times though.
I was headed for the town of Llupa to start a 3.5 hour hike to Lake Churup. For 60 Soles ($20) a tour company would take me on the hike but a minivan costing 3 Soles ($1) and an extra hour walking to the park entrance made my decision easy.
Unless I was doing some multi-day hike my final destination would be a glacial lake. Like Patagonia the lakes here are some shade of turquoise blue or Emerald green. Rivers are pristine and the surrounding area is gorgeous providing spectacular views. Of course, to get that view you need to hike up the side of a mountain in thin air. Which is exactly what I spent the day doing. After the hour walk to the trail head it was 2.5 hours up a steep incline sucking in the thin air and wishing for more.
In February I hiked to Fitz Roy and stared out at snow capped mountains and a turqouise blue glacial lake and thought, “I wanna jump in.” Wind and too many people prevented me from acting but not this time.
Snow capped mountains: ✔
Turqouise blue glacial lake: ✔
I was in and then I was running back out within a few seconds. Heart racing, freezing cold, but feeling invigorated.
The next morning was more of the same. Up at 5:30 I was driven 2.5 hours to the starting point of the Lake 69 trek.
This hike had my eyes gorging themselves on the mountain scenery – 5 snow capped mountains over 6,000 meters, water falls, wild flowers in bloom and the ultimate destination of another turquoise blue glacial lake. At the lake there was nothing to be heard but water falls and the thunderous booms of ice no longer able to cling to the summit of Mt. Chacraraju.
Too many people around to take a dip this time so I settled for lunch and a mid-day lake side siesta on the rocks.
Cordillera Blanca Photos: