Mountains have always left me in awe. The way they tower before me, filled with unknown secrets that are waiting to be discovered. Once I experience their beauty, I feel inspired. Their magnificence is forever embedded in my mind. I thirst for the ability to explore more mountains.
This is why the Andes were always a place I wanted to visit. Stretching for over 7,000 kilometers, the Andes is one of the largest mountain ranges in the world. This made the mountain range inticing to me already, but what really sold me was the magic. I always heard stories from travelers about the mystic and magical energies the Andes breathe out. With the ruling force of Pacha Mamma, (mother earth), the Andes are a sacred place for the Quechua people along with many others. I had to see it for myself. And I did. I took a path less traveled by and found a place where my soul felt the tremble of the mountains persuading me once again to come and explore.
Located in the Ancash Region, the city of Huaraz lays at the elevation of 3050 meters (10,000 feet). Not only is Huaraz the second largest city in the Andes, it is the adventure capital of Peru. While the city is inhabited by 120,000 people, I experienced a certain feeling of community while I was visiting. Everyone living in the town was happy to help whenever I had a question, but that was not what made their friendliness stand out. What made Huaraz different from any other town I visited in Peru was that regardless of how they ended up in Huaraz, the people who live there just wanted to share their adventures and let me see their beautiful country.
The city’s prime location in the Cordillera Blanca Mountains of the Andes makes it possible for people to partake in many outdoor sports such as hiking, mountain biking, climbing, and also visiting glaciers. Huascarán National Park is a UNESCO natural heritage site that provides more than just cultural and natural protection to the land. It provides a majestic landscape that can fill an adventurous heart. All of my tours were booked through my hostel Andescamp Hostel, I highly recommend staying here. It is a quiet little place outside of downtown that is filled with other adventurous souls and an owner who is more than willing to help with whatever you need.
Leaving for the hike at 5 in the morning seemed rough, but I knew it would all be worth it once I got to the top. It is possible to do the hike without a tour company, but after a lot of research I found that it would end up costing the same, if not more to go alone, and getting on the right buses could be slightly confusing. So I went the safer route and booked the tour through my hostel, Andescamp Hostel. Afer a two and a half hour drive, our tour company took us to a nice little place for breakfast. Here we were able to eat food and drink cocoa mate to reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness. After this quick stop, we drove for one more hour to Huascarán National Park where we finally made it to the trailhead.
The hike was hard, do not go thinking it will be easy. I am an avid hiker back home, but this hike had me out of breath and walking at a snail-like pace, but it was worth every step. The mountains surround you and you find yourself hiking alongside cows and waterfalls the whole way. Around every corner, my breath was stolen away (whether it was from the views or the altitude, I’m not really sure).
After a couple hours of a beautiful yet steep landscape, there was no greater feeling than reaching the lake. The water was a blue I have never seen before. And the mountains surrounding were like giants inviting me into their home. The lake itself is at 4,600 meters (15,000 feet) leaving me in awe at how tall the mountains around it are. It was all something out of a dream. I still to this day cannot comprehend the beauty I was able to experience that day. Every step that I told myself would be the last one, every negative thought I had while hiking up, slowly left my body as I thanked myself physically and mentally for having the power to make it up there. For letting myself enjoy the beauty this world has to offer. Laguna 69 was breathtaking and if you are in good health I highly recommend completing the climb.
However, I do recommend taking a day or two to acclimatize once you reach Huaraz regardless of where you came from before. I had been at the beach for three weeks before I arrived in Huaraz and I only took a day to get used to the elevation before I hiked Laguna 69. I wish I had waited two days, the hike was harder than I expected and I was not ready for the altitude.
Another unreal adventure I was lucky enough to go on while in Huaraz was to a glacier.
The Pastoruri Glacier was one of my favorite tours I went on during my travels to South America. Just like the hiking tour, I booked this through my hostel, Andescamp Hostel. Unlike the hike to Laguna Lake, we were able to sleep in, we did not leave until 9:30. This tour goes to the other side of Huascarán National Park with many stops on the way to the glacier. We got to see alpacas, very impressive cacti, and some beautiful natural pools.
The glacier itself was a pretty easy hike, but once again the altitude will get you. Pastoruri is located at 5,000 meters (16,400 feet). With air this thin, it is hard to breath making the hike an hour to the glacier. Make sure you bring lots of water and food.
The glacier was very eye-opening. In less than twenty years, the glacier has decreased by half. And in 10 years the glacier will most likely vanish completely. The glacier covers about 3 miles of landmass, but it towers above you. There is just something about seeing a glacier in a tropical region that makes the glacier so much more mesmerizing. It was so beautiful and majestic that I cannot imagine a world without it. While I was lucky enough to enjoy it while it is still here, it makes me sad that someday people will only know what once was. If this is a place you wish to see, I would suggest getting there before it is too late.
There is so much peace and serenity in the Peruvian Andes. It shows how magnificent the world can be. I have been surrounded by mountains my whole life, but the magic of the Andes is like nothing I have ever seen before. Huaraz provided amazing adventures and while many adventure tourists make their way there, the city is free from the common tourist. If I ever make it back to Peru, Huaraz will be my first stop.