North of Lima! Finally!
I’ve been coming to Peru for the last 10 years but I’ve never been north of Lima. I seem to get stuck going back to my old familiar places, like Cusco and Machu Picchu (hey, nothing wrong with that!) but I was bursting with excitement to finally head out to the mountains and see the Cordillera Mountain range for myself. I had crazy ideas to hire a private guide to take me on a bunch of hikes, and I luckily ended up at the best hostal in Huaraz to find a suitable companion for my treks. But before I did anything else, I needed to do an acclimatization hike. While I’ve lived in Cusco a bunch of times, which is pretty high altitude, I was kinda out of shape at the moment and needed to get my hiking legs back. So the hostal owner suggested that my future hiking guide and I take a day trip out to Laguna Wilcacocha, about 15 minutes out of Huaraz, for a good bit of exercise.
We set out with day packs and hitched a ride on a combi (public transport) to the drop off point. From there, it’s a steep uphill walk to the top. I walked at my own pace, getting used to the rising altitude, and let my guide lead the way. Funny enough, he was more of a friendly companion as he wasn’t actually from Peru but a skilled mountaineer so I just let him figure out which way we had to go as he had never done this hike either.
The views, in my opinion, were typical of Peru- beautiful mountains and villages dotting the landscape. However the top of the hill, where the actual laguna is, has the best views to the cordillera blanca, which is a beautiful mountain range in this region with hundreds of glaciers. Huaraz is a hiker’s paradise.
We didn’t see too many people hiking up that day, but at the top we did see a bunch of Peruvian families setting up tents for camping around the lake. Laguna Wilcacocha is not the prettiest of lakes in the region but it is great for a day hike to get the blood flowing and to get used to hiking in high altitude. Definitely camping is allowed there, but our trip was to see how long it took us to get up and down. Training time I’d say. We did pretty good. Well, my companion could probably have run up the hill but I huffed and puffed my way up. Still made it it under 2 hours.
The sun is brutal up here. You need to apply sunscreen, and bring it with you so you can reapply it. Also, bring water and snacks in case you want to refuel. We had a rest and admired the views so I could catch my breath before we started back down.
Did I mention the sun is brutal up there? I ended up taking burning my face from not applying enough sunscreen. Seriously, I had red spots on my cheeks the next day. Don’t mess around with the sun.
There is no clear trail to the laguna but you pretty much get the idea that you need to go straight up, however is easiest for you to get there. We wandered through a farmer’s field before cutting back and hitting a gravel road, which we took on the way down. We did see a woman tourist running back down, good on her for having young knees and being fit! We walked as we went, as we were getting to know each other and this was our time to decide if we were compatible enough to do longer treks in the coming days. I decided I liked my companion, he was fit, good conversationalist, and he’d traveled a fair bit in the past year doing ice climbs all over South America. He would do. Hired!
At the end we crossed the bridge back over to the main road to wait for a combi to come by so we could hitch a ride back to Huaraz. The public transportation passed quite frequently during the day so we only waited a few minutes before we got a ride.
Would I have hiked this trail by myself? Probably not, as my sense of direction sometimes isn’t that good. I admire that chick we saw coming down all on her own. Even though I speak perfect Spanish, and I could have asked for directions had I got lost, I actually prefer hiking in groups just in case something goes wrong. Any kind of injury or illness and I know I have a buddy to help out. Could you do it on your own? Certainly.
We did encounter a very very old wrinkly man who probably had about 3 teeth and he walked with us for a bit, asking us if we knew the way. We told him we did, and he pointed up towards the top. He bid us goodbye as he asked us for money. He was nice though. And good on him for trying! Hey, it’s easy money if someone gives it to him right?
Overall, I thought this was a good day hike to get your body used to hiking uphill. Super cheap and easy to get to from Huaraz. And the views at the top are beautiful!
Coming to Huaraz? Have you done any other acclimatization hikes that you loved? Let me know in the comments below!