Laguna Lllaca is in the Huascaran National Park in the Ancash Region. It’s approx. a 28km day-hike at 4,474m above sea level. The trail starts in the village of Cachipampa, about 30 mins from Huaraz. It took us about 7 hours at a steady pace – I don’t recommend walking up or down the road the whole way, it’s much longer and not as scenic.
Cooking fried rice at 4.30am seemed like a good idea before my head hit the pillow the night before, but I soon realised that the smell of garlic wasn’t as appetizing before sunrise. Hiking in the rainy season means early starts, and we were up before many partygoers made it home from the night before. In fact, our small group of four watched in stitches of laughter as a group of young men went from potentially having a fight, to hugging each other and then chanting how much they loved each other. Alcohol does funny things to people.
We managed to catch a combi around 6.30am (Combi #15 for 1.50 soles one way) and made our way to Cachipampa, the start of our hike to Laguna Llaca. Denys and I sat in the front, her nephew found a seat in the back and unfortunately for the tallest in our group, Travis, all the seats were taken. I seriously considered changing places with him, with my five foot frame easily fitting inside. Luckily some passengers got off a few minutes down the road and Travis had a seat the rest of the way. Travis is an American tourist we met at an event a week before and found out that he was a keen hiker. I kept running into him throughout the week, so when we decided to do the hike, I invited him along.
Sunrise in the highlands is often a lazy one, sometimes it can take until mid-morning before the clouds clear and then suddenly there’s sun. That morning was no different, and the Cordillera Negra was a moody face refusing to get out of bed. Hiking early morning does give a vast contrast to our photographs throughout the day – I would have loved to come down the mountain during sunset, however being a Sunday meant less combis running and I didn’t fancy my chances of walking back to Huaraz.
As we walked along the gravel road leading us to the start of the trail, a stunning image came into view – Ranrapalca Glacier peeking through a gap in the mountains. The clouds had cleared to reveal a snapshot of what was ahead. It’ll be one of my most treasured memories from Peru.
Being a smaller group, we had the advantage of being able to move at a similar pace. Not Travis. His long legs raced up the mountain and I decided early on that if I was to make it up in one piece, I would hike only as fast as my lungs allowed. Still, I was proud of my effort, I’ve been able to enjoy the view and keep up with the others in my last two hikes. Slow and steady, that’s my hiking motto.
We didn’t see another soul as we made our way up – that included the ranger who usually takes the 30 soles payment to the Huascaran National Park. That meant more money for pizza when we got back.
When I first started out, my friend Jem (psst, that’s me!) said that when you hike, every now and then, make sure to look behind you. It gives you a different perspective of the landscape, and in truth, some of my best shots have come from doing this. This shot is about an hour from the lake, looking back towards Huaraz. Beautiful, isn’t it?
Seeing the Casa de Guĺas refuge hut was certaily a welcomed sight, and I perked up even more when Denys told us that the lake was only five minutes away…albeit up a steep trail! It was definitely worth it. As you round the last bend and Laguna Llaca comes into view, you’ll look up and the full glory of the Ranrapalca Glacier becomes apparent. Just wow. We had lunch lakeside and even had enough time for a nap. Once we felt a few raindrops fall though, we knew it was time to make our back.
On the way down, we met a few late hikers who had far less gear than we did. It always amazes me how people can do day hikes with such little gear. One couple didn’t even have water with them!
We made it down to Cachipampa just as a combi pulled up, I even managed to nap before we got back to Huaraz around 4pm. Let me tell you something, hot pizza after a day-hike tastes amazing. I wish I had some of Jorge’s Valentina sauce though, melted cheese just doesn’t taste as good without it. Which reminds me, he still owes me a bottle!
Ronna is a woman with a curious mind looking for her WHY. Currently eating pizzas and hiking mountains while she figures it out. Storyteller, traveller and foodie. She is a thirtyish storyteller and writer. A hobby hiker, photography and sunrise enthusiast – who has a passion for mindfully helping others live beyond their comfort zone. Made in the Philippines and raised in New Zealand, she’s a cultural ninja. You can find her over at Five Foot Ronna.