After nearly 4 months of being away from South America Andy decided to come back for more. I’m honestly not sure if me being here had anything to do with the return trip…
I flew to Lima to meet up with Andy and we spent one day in Lima before heading north to the mountain town of Huaraz. We stayed in the Miraflores section of Lima which was actually quite pretty and fun to wander about in. There’s a huge park that runs along the coast and it was nice to be so close to the ocean again. I finally got to try Peru’s national food, ceviche! Ceviche is fresh, raw fish marinated and ‘cooked’ in citric juices. I was a bit skeptical of trying any ceviche while in Ollanta since we’re a pretty long ways from the ocean and therefore any truly fresh fish. However, Lima is famous for its ceviche and since we could see the ocean from the restaurant we went to I felt pretty good about giving it a shot. I’m not sure Andy or I would want to eat such a large pile of basically raw fish again but it was a really great experience! And the candied yams & sushi-esque rolls we got with it were delish.
The same day Andy arrived in Lima and a mere 22 hours after landing we took off on a night bus north to Huaraz. Huaraz is home to the Cordillera Blanca aka one of the most concentrated collections of big peaks in the Western Hemisphere. There are 33 summits topping 18,000 feet and 16 over 19,500 feet, including 22,205-foot Huascarán, the highest mountain in Peru, all squeezed into a 13-mile-wide, 112-mile-long corridor. Huascaran, Peru’s highest mountain, is a mere 630ft less than Aconcagua. We got in to Huaraz early in the am and spent the day wandering about the city and prepping for our adventures in the outdoors. First on the list: Laguna 69.
Laguna 69 is a pretty glacial lake reached by a moderate hike. Since Huaraz is pretty high, Andy was coming from sea level and the trek we were planning on doing next topped out at over 15,500ft, we decided this would be a great acclimatization hike. It was unfortunately a bit rainy but pretty nonetheless!
Feeling all acclimitized and stuff we decided to head off on our next big adventure, the Santa Cruz trek. We planned to do the 30+ mile trek in 3 days, carrying all our own stuff. Vamos!
The Santa Cruz circuit is a magical hike that meanders through the giant snow covered peaks of the Cordillera Blanca. You pass Huascaran, the highest mountain in Peru & the site of the most destructive avalanche in history,the mountain the Paramount symbol is based off of, and Alpamayo, the most beautiful mountain in the world. There are forested sections, giant glacial lakes, high passes, and a crazy beach section that stretches for miles. In our case, there was also a whole lot of mud.
SC Day 1: Vaqueria – overhanging rock campsite: Rain. Rainy rain rain. So wet. So much mud. Cute cow. Our campsite for the night was under a nice overhanging rock but unfortunately the cows also loved said rock.
SC Day 2, Overhanging rock camp – Laguna Jatuncocha: Woke up to some sun! Kind of. The sky was lighter! Put our stuff out to dry and had a nummy brekkie after which we headed for the pass. The pass was pretty albeit a bit overcast. Tons of incredible glaciated mountains all around. A lot of the mountains are over 6,000m but the approaches are walk-ups. It’s crazy. No expedition style climbing in Peru, just 3-4 day jaunts up mountains over 18,000ft.
We decided to take a short detour over to Alpamayo base camp on the way down. Alpamayo is supposedly the ‘most beautiful mountain in the world.’ While it really is a spectacular mountain Andy and I didn’t get to see the quintessentially beautiful side of it. The hike up to base camp and the attached glacial lake was a great detour though and it was fun to be so close to Alpamayo.
After the Alpamayo detour we meandered through the beach valley to a lake called Jatuncocha where we called it a night. The campsite was beautiful, we had a view of a giant glaciated mountain (which we thought was Alpamayo until the next morning) and our tent was right on the side of the lake. We did have a small incident with a horse that decided multiple times (after we scared it away it kept coming back) it wanted to eat grass by our tent at 2am rather than sleep but all was forgiven by the number of stars we could see.
SC Day 3: Laguna Jatuncocha – Cashpampa. Short 4 hour hike out through a very pretty valley. We just followed the river all the way down to the little pueblo of Cashpampa where we caught a combi back to Huaraz. We did pass some ridiculous mountaineers who were headed up to climb Alpamayo but were riding horses to get to base camp! Come on now! Do you plan to ride those horses all the way to the top? If you’re going to climb a mountain you can walk there! I swear.
It was a beautiful way to spend 3 days and a fun way to show Andy the wonder that is nature in Peru. It’s not every day you get to walk through a valley flanked on either side by glaciated mountains rising over 6,000m. Welcome back to South America Davisyboy.