One of the top destinations in the area is the Llanganuco lakes. These are three high altitude lakes on a pass across the mountains. The road to the lakes leaves from Yungay which is between Caraz and Huaraz. The road itself is not challenging as it is a wide gravel road with plenty of room for passing but it is in bad shape and a pretty rough surface. There is also a surprisingly large amount of traffic on the road.
It was fairly late in the day when we reached the edge of the park and we decided to camp for the night at a restaurant just 1km before the park entrance gates. We had discovered that camping by the lakes was 65 Sols (around USD 25) but it was only 5 Sols each for day use – therefore camping for free just outside the park seemed a good idea.
After a nice trout dinner at the very friendly Restaurant Campestre Llanganuco we had a very peaceful night and then in the morning we set off for the park. As soon as you go through the park entrance gate the road deteriorates from bad to worse and it was a pretty bumpy ride to reach the first of the lakes where it then improves dramatically.
We drove right past until we reached the parking area at the back end of the third lake. From here there weren’t any obvious hiking trails but we decided to follow the river up the valley for an hour or so and return to the truck for lunch. As a result we didn’t take any food or much water with us.
As we hiked along the river we came across a staging area for multi-day hikes and discovered that there was a trail to a high altitude lake called Laguna 69. The valley that we were walking up was very pretty and we could see a number of snow capped mountain peaks as we walked – including the mighty Huascaran mountain, the tallest in the Cordillera Blanca at 6768m).
As we walked we met an Arriero (mule driver) who was looking for his donkeys which had strayed overnight. We kept on bumping into him and he wasn’t having much luck finding them !
As we reached the head of the valley there was an imposing rock wall, with waterfalls covering the face, so we debated whether we should turnaround or keep going. Well my argument that we needed to acclimatise so should head on up won the day – maybe a pyrrhic victory given how hard it was climbing up the wall.
At the top we reached a small lake and could see the route to Laguna 69 – another 200m or 300m of climbing. Well given we by now had no water and no food and were breathing in short gasps at around 4400m we decided that heading back to the truck was the best option.
Our 1 hour stroll had turned into a 5 hour hike which we just didn’t expect and hadn’t prepared for. The views were magnificent though ! On the hike we met a number of people who had turned back before reaching the Laguna – altitude sickness had broken them. For this sort of hiking you need to acclimatise for a few days first !
Once back at the truck we drove back to our restaurant campsite for a very good nights sleep !