12 August 2014

Chilling out in the Cordillera Blanca: Hiking and biking lagunas Churup and Llaca

With the Fiestas de la Independencia approaching, and with prices in Huaraz rocketing up for the national tourists, we had to make the happy choice to leave for the mountains. We debated whether to take another multi-day ride in the Cordillera Negra (the lesser known Cordillera in front of the infamous Blanca, but apparently, mountain bike heaven) or to chill out up in the Blanca. Happily, we met Northbound british cyclists Joe and Lizzie who were headed to an eco-hostel in the hills above Huaraz, so it was easy to make the decision to join them. Our plan was to simply chill out there, hike and bike to some of the nearby lagunas, killing time until we had to head to Lima to meet with Alberto´s mom and brother who were flying in from Spain.

After a  liesurely morning, our foursome headed out of Huaraz on the dirt road that leads to Laguna Churup. 
The climb allowed great views of Huaraz and the Cordillera Negra. Hard to believe that the high mountains can be just half a day´s ride from a major city!

We arrived at the Hof hostel (a bit pricey for camping, but otherwise a very nice place to spend some down time) and camped with gorgeous views of the nevados.

On the second day, we hiked to the Laguna Churup (4450 m) in glorious weather.
Despite its popularity as an acclimatisation hike from Huaraz, we had the laguna all to ourselves. The key is to avoid the morning rush hour (we got there at 2 pm).

The downside being that the afternoon clouds partially obscured the view of Nevado Churup (5493 m).

Our route down from the laguna involved some moderately sketchy rock sections.

On our way back down the clouds cleared for a better view of the nevado Churup.
The following day we headed with bikes for the Laguna Llaca, a less visited place a mere 20 km from the hostel...up a very rough trocha (muy muy fea, as the locals assured us many times!)

We departed very late from the hostel, so half way up the climb it became clear that we wouldn´t reach the laguna until the following morning. The afternoon sun was incredible though, and the views equally amazing.

At 4300 m, we found some pampa which we made our home for the (chilly) night. Huaraz is just in the background, 1200 m below.

The following morning we woke up to a frozen tent, so waited for the sun to do its job while having breakfast with a view

The final stretch of riding towards the Laguna and glacier Llaca provided one of the most impressive views of our trip. Nevados Ocshapalca (5888 m) and Ranrapalca (6162 m) overlook the glacier.

We left the bikes at the park entrance, and hiked up the short hill to the laguna.

 From there, we could follow a rocky path all the way to the start of the glacier...

...passing smaller, equally beautiful lagunas as we went.

We were surprised to find so much ice at 4500 m, despite the glacier being in remission.

Finally, we reached the glacier´s edge. 

Watching tiny bits of the glacier´s ice collapse was good entertainment while having a cheese sandwich.

We got used to the sound of the cracks coming from within the glacier. At some point, we heard a chunk of snow collapse and form an small avalanche (the cloud of snow seen in the middle of the picture).

After a bumpy and scenic 2 hour descent, we were back in Huaraz packing our stuff for a relaxed break with the family.

- The Hof Hostel is a relatively new eco-lodge which originally served as a mountain refuge for multi-day hikes. The location is beautiful, 15 km out of town up a steep hill, and the atmosphere very welcoming. However, their prices for food and camping are steep (S/.15 per person to camp), and they did not offer any discounts on long stays or for cyclists. Perhaps this will change in the future, and if so, it would make for a great base for further exploration. Make sure you bring plenty of food, as there´s no shops anywhere nearby.

- The Laguna Churup is around 4-5 hour roundtrip walk from The Hof, and it involves at the very end a steep, rocky section with a steel cable. Most tourists go from 9 am till 1 pm. We had to pay the S/.10 fee per person per day to enter the national park, but this may be because we missed the shortcut that it is possible take when coming from the Hof.

- The Laguna Llaca is a 3-4 hour ride from The Hof with weight to reach the laguna.. The last 8 km to the entrance is in terrible conditions, with plenty of loose rocks, which makes cycling uphill a bit challenging. There´s good camping at 4300 m at the pampa, with access to water, as well as at the park entrance (where there is a bathroom). Be aware that if you overnight, you may be charged the full S/.65 fee for the 21 day pass to the national park. We chatted to the park ranger and got to spend the night by just paying the normal daily S/.10 fee. Bikes can be left at the park entrance, and the hike to the glacier and around the lagunas should take about 45-60 min.


  1. It must be beyond cold when you can hear the "sounds of cracks coming from within the glacier". Stay warm you two!!!!

  2. Only in the morning you do notice, when the tent walls are covered in ice!