The hike to Laguna 69, just outside of Huaraz is one of the most popular trails in the area. Many visitors approach the lake with a one day hike. Often they don’t have much knowledge about the length and the steep ascend of the demanding trail that´s waiting ahead. Tess´ first hike in Peru above 4000 mts was the day hike to Laguna 69, back in 2014. She loved the mountain scapes that surround Huaraz and found the Laguna 69 absolutely breathtaking. At the same time she knew that hikes at these altitudes had to be approached differently in the future, via an alternative hike.
Huaraz ended up being the very last stop on our 6 month journey through Latin America. We weren’t the only ones finishing their incredible adventure. Our friends from Peakbaggers would join us for an incredible week filled with backpacking in the Cordillera Blanca.
We came across an alternative hike to Laguna 69 and decided to add the hike to our plans. Laguna 69 is one of more than 400 lakes that form part of the Huascaran National Park. The ease of this alternative hike to Laguna 69 via Pisco base camp (also referred to as ´the high route´) is that it starts and ends at the same place as the one day hike.
Cebollapampa to Refugio Peru
After an early start and a ride from Huaraz to Yungay we almost made it to the trail head. Arriving in Yungay it was time to change into another minivan or a taxi collectivo (shared taxi) towards Yanama. We asked to be dropped off at Cebollapampa. On the way the taxi collectivo will stop at the checkpoint of Huascaran National Park. Purchase your 20 day pass (22 USD) or show the ticket your previously bought. After passing Llanganuco lagoon there’s little time left until you reach Cebollapampa. The hike starts at this curve in the road. Make your way down to the Cebollapampa valley and take the trail at the left towards Refugio Peru and Pisco base camp. This is the start of the trail of this alternative hike to Laguna 69!
This first day is all about climbing for about 3-4 hours until reaching Refugio Peru at the famous Pisco base camp. The surroundings are breathtaking and change as you get ascend. The first hour colorful flowers surround you as your make your way up, think about many yellow and pinkish colors. And then in the background several of Peru´s highest peaks – Huascaran, Chopicalqui, Huandoy, Pisco. That night we pitched our tents at the foot of the last one named, Pisco.
Camping at Refugio Peru makes for a comfortable first day of this hike. The mountain hut offers snacks, dinner and breakfast as well. And maybe more important a very comfortable bathroom. We spent the rest of that afternoon and early evening playing cards and drinking tea. We also took some photos as the sun disappeared behind the mountains, marking the end of day one.
If you don’t want to camp both nights, sleeping in Refugio Peru (20 USD for a basic stay/ 30USD including meals) is a great option as well for this first night. You do want to contact them in advance. Those who want to climb to the peak of Pisco mountain use the mountain hut as their acclimatization base.
Pisco base camp to Laguna 69
After another early rise and a good breakfast, time was there to make our way from Pisco base camp to Laguna 69, following ´the high route´. Leaving Refugio Peru in our back we make our way towards an enormous stone field. The area is filled with stones in all sizes, from those with a diameter of 5cm up to those with a size up to 4 times that of a human. Josh makes his way through the field and the 3 of us follow. Some stones lay a bit loose, which means that we need to be careful at any time. This trail is one of the routes that is less taken, alternative trails are often not in excellent shape, an unfortunate condition of this alternative hike. Luckily the famous little towers of flat stones indicate the route pretty well.
Once we cross the stone field we continue to ascend for another hour or 2, until we finally reach the peak of the trail. The path is very slim in several sections and this requires absolute concentration. Almost all of the track on this day is filled with stones and dust. We enjoy lunch behind some gigantic rocks at the peak of the trail, it´s pretty windy and we’re cooling down. It´s time to continue our way down to the lake.
At first the glaciers start to appear and then finally there it is, Laguna 69! The lagoon is surrounded and nourished by enormous glaciers. One of the most well known glaciers is the Chacraraju, one of the most challenging mountains to climb in the area.
The last day visitors are just leaving the lake and from now on it´s our kingdom for the night. We’re feeling incredibly thankful for being able to spend the night surrounded by such unique mountain scapes. The enormous glaciers make us feel so tiny. Another night camping surrounded by white peaks of Peru’s highest mountain range.
Laguna 69 to Cebollapampa
After a quick breakfast, time is there to pack up our tents and other gear and start making our way down. This may have been the coldest morning, but the sun making its way up and the stunning surroundings of the lake and glaciers as far as you can look make us forget about the cold. Mesmerized by the incredible landscape we start on our way down.
More colors appear and we descend and after passing the first valley and the small lake halfway we know that we’re almost there. Down in the last valley groups of day hikers start to appear, some of them already tired and the most challenging part is still about to come for them. We on the other hand could only smile at that moment. This alternative hike to Laguna 69 turned out to be the perfect trail for us.
Several tour vans are parked at the turn in the road as we make our way up. A girl who climbed to the peak of mount Pisco and her guide arrive several minutes later, we all group together and arrange with one of the drivers to bring us to Yungay. From Yungay it’s another 1,5 hours until we get back ‘home’ to our lovely hostel, Alojamiento Soledad, in Huaraz.
On one hand this is the perfect finish of a beautiful off the beaten path and alternative hike in the Cordillera Blanca for us and at the same time the end of a very diverse 6 month journey. We left in love with multi-day treks, after the 4 day hike to Choquequirao, an alternative route to Machu Picchu, the 4 day Lost City trek in Colombia and a 4 day Quilotoa Loop hike in Ecuador we’ve been working our way up. There are many places that are still to be discovered, other multi-day and alternative hikes will following during future travels.