Hiking in the Cordilleras

Trip Start Jan 17, 2012
Trip End Apr 05, 2012

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Flag of Peru  , Ancash,
Wednesday, March 21, 2012

One exciting part of travel is to venture outside of your comfort zone and discover where your own limits lie.  While hiking in the Cordilleras a few hours north of Huaraz, I discovered that mine was somewhere between 4500 and 4700 meters.
We left Huaraz early, 6 am, with a small group from our hosel.  The trip was organized by the hostel owner Teo, who was a very friendly and outgoing guy, but also had a bit of a reputation - our guidebook said that he had previously "come to blows" with at least one guest.  Luckily, there were no problems for us, but it did turn out that he was a maniac on the road.  The first hour and a half were pretty smooth, but the second half of the trip was rough gravel roads that climbed upward into the mountains.  Didnīt seem to bother Teo, though, he just kept going as though we were on pavement.  After stopping for a nice breakfast at a cabin in the valley we continued on to the entrance for Huascaran National Park.  It was still only 9 am and the clouds were just burning off the tops of the mountains.  We passed several high-altitude turcoise lakes on our way to the trail head.  4000 meters above sea level.
We all tumbled out, thankful to be out of the van, and started on our hike up the mountain to the lake (which had the uninspired name of "Lake 69").  It was a gorgious hike, along a river and past Inca ruins and massive waterfalls, but by the time we reached the first plateauat 4500 m, I was definitely feeling the altitude.  Dana, being raised in slightly closer proximity to mountains than myself seemed to have no trouble at all, but was kind enough to wait up for me.  The last climb up to the lake was another 200 m up a series of about 20 switchbacks.  I think I paused twice on every one to sit down and catch my breath.  Eventually we pushed on to the top, though, where we caught up with the rest of the group.  The view up there was just stunning - a beautiful turcoise lake surrounded by mountains on three sides.  The snowline was just a few hundred meters above our heads, so the snowy peaks rose up above us until they met the clouds.  Also,  luckily for me someone brought along some coca leaves, and I chewed some to counter the effects of the altitude.  Between that, and a little bit of rest and food, I was good to go on the way down.
Although I think the "going down" part helped out a bit too.
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