Laguna Churup was our second day hike in Huaraz and although many consider it an “easy” acclimatization hike, it is known as a more challenging hike than the hike to Wilcacocha that we tackled a few days before (read about this hike here!) Wilcacocha was far from easy so I had my doubts about the day. Just want the logistics for this hike? Scroll to the Nitty Gritty section at the end of this post.
More doubts came when we climbed into the colectivo that would take us to the hike’s entrance. We looked around and felt completely under dressed for the occasion. Not that we felt ashamed or anything for the lack of expensive hiking gear we wore, but we wore significantly less clothing. For the hike to Wilcacocha I wore pants with shorts underneath and a t-shirt, but the pants were off within minutes and I never put on the scarf or sweatshirt that I brought. I assured myself that I get warm easily when I hike, but I couldn’t help but wonder if we made a terrible choice in our attire when we saw our fellow hikers in the colectivo. They all wore pants, sweatshirts with rain jackets or puffy north face jackets, warm hats and gloves, scarves accompanied by trekking poles. What did I just get myself into wearing shorts, a flannel and light scarf? Jesse was just as under dressed, but this was the only colectivo of the day so we had no choice but to wait and face the day and any weather we might encounter.
We were spoiled when we hiked to Wilcacocha because we had the trail completely to ourselves. So when we shared the beginning of the trail to Laguna Churup it wasn’t nearly as enjoyable at first. The crowd thinned out pretty quickly though and by the time we got to the ticket office after the initial ascent we were practically on our own. No one was in the National Park’s ticket office which was a strange, yet welcome surprise since the cost of entering the national park in Huaraz recently climbed from 10 soles, or $3.15 per person to 30 soles, or $9.45 per person. See the pictures of the first half of the hike below.
I kept waiting for the hike to get difficult, but for the most part it seemed like a breeze compared to the day before. Maybe I just wasn’t use to the altitude yet during Wilcacocha, but Laguna Churup seemed much easier. Jesse felt the opposite though and felt like he had to stop much more frequently than I needed to in order to catch his breath.
The hike splits at one point and you can choose to go right where cables wait you to assist the climb up the mountainside. To the right, you arrive at the lake from the bottom, or you could go to the left at the fork where you have an incredibly steep finish before approaching the lake from the mirador, or viewing point at the top. We chose the right path and even found a smaller path to the right of the right where we went off-roading a bit and took what looked like a little donkey’s path on the side of the mountain. It wasn’t completely safe and if we took one misstep we might have been goners, but hey - we made it!
Previously in the hike everyone had to use cables to get up one small stretch on the mountain but the cables weren’t completely necessary and if they weren’t there it would have been difficult but manageable after a few tries to get up. Once we forked right though we came upon a much more difficult section that would have been close to impossible without the cables to assist you. Even with the cables there was one section were I wasn’t entirely sure if I was going to be able to make it. Jesse offered to help pull me up, but of course I declined and had to give it a few more tries... I eventually got it. This part of the mountain was shaded and definitely cold though which made it more difficult. There was frost over the grass and frozen sections of small water trickling down the rocks of the mountain. I’m not sure if all the clothing I saw on the colectivo would have been necessary but some gloves would have been perfect for the cables on this part of the climb.
The first set of cables:
The second set of cables:
Once we reached the top of this section we were greeted by a distant sun that hit the trees and made the leaves shimmer, we were accompanied by the sound of a waterfall with ice crystals spread throughout, glittering and melting in the sun. The waterfall flowed into a tiny river we hiked alongside that was perfectly clear and made us excited to reach the lake.
We pushed a decently pretty clip to beat the other tourists to the lake, but there were definitely multiple people in front of us who took both the left and right paths. To our surprise though we reached the top and were the first people there. I let out a small shriek when we arrived at the lake when I saw its beauty and realized we had it to ourselves.
Before we sat down at the perfect spot I dropped our water bottle. It went down pretty quickly and I almost ran after it, but Jesse held me back. It fell into the lake though so Jesse went to get it and the water was COLD. I most certainly would not want to swim in the lake this time of year. Such a shame though because the color of the water was absolutely breathtaking and I imagine a swim would be a delight in the sun. You would think people alter the color when they post pictures of Laguna Churup, but the color of the water was even prettier in person than in the photos I’d seen. It was chilly at the top though and some pants and a sweatshirt would have done me well.
We had the lake to ourselves for about 30 minutes and enjoyed it for two hours total before we headed back down the mountain to catch a colectivo back to town. It was the perfect amount of time to explore, have snacks, and devour a packed lunch that we earned.
For some reason the people working the ticket office were late that morning so they had to hike to the top and go around to everyone and sell tickets to everyone. We definitely thought we got away without paying the entrance fee, but once we saw them we gladly paid our fees to enjoy the park. They did the best they could but surely a few people would still slip through the cracks without paying. When we were in the colectivo before leaving, a park official came and asked everyone to see their tickets. There were three Israeli guys in our van but they only bought one ticket at the top (two of them dove into the lake at one point and this must have been when the other bought his ticket.) The guy with the ticket was arguing and arguing with the park official about how he wasn’t going to buy tickets for the other two people because it wasn’t his fault that they weren’t there to take tickets earlier in the day and at the top they only had him buy one (I wanted to say obviously – your friends were in the water so of course they couldn’t buy tickets). He continued to flat out refuse to pay, so the official collected money from the other tourists in the colectivo who thought they got away without paying. They sunk low in their seats and pretended to hide, but it was all in good fun and they gladly paid as well for their time at the lake.
When the officer returned to the Israeli men, he went on a soap box about how it wasn’t just or fair and again, he wasn’t paying. 30 minutes later and he was STILL arguing. At this point everyone on the colectivo, including me was frustrated and we all gave a simultaneous “it is fair – we all paid,”, urging him to pay. 10 more minutes, a the threat of the police, the park official videotaping him and telling him they would be banned from any other parks in Peru, more urging from the other riders and he finally forked over the money. Was he not at the same lake I was? It was gorgeous and although the officials weren’t there at the beginning, we did use the park all day and paying was only fair.
I thought the hike ended up as overall easier than the hike to Wilcacocha and was much more beautiful. If you have one day in Huaraz for a day hike, I would definitely suggest Laguna Churup over Wilcacocha, but only if you have had a few days to acclimatize to the altitude first. It’s no joke.
The Nitty Gritty:
Altitude: 4,450 meters
Total Time: 6 -7 Hours
45 – 60 minute colectivo ride each way. It leaves at 7 AM on the corner of Av. Augustin Gamarra y Av. Las Americas and you should get off at Pitec. Tip: Ask the driver what time he is leaving. You aren’t guaranteed a spot, but you need to time your hike well to make sure you can get back down the mountain in enough time to have a ride back to town. For example, there were some ice climbers who were in the mountain for a few days and took the colectivo on the way back with us. I’m assuming the people in their seats on the way there hopped in another colectivo, but it’s better to be back early just in case something like this happens to you.
2 – 2:45 hours on the way up (It took us 2, but we went quickly)
1 -2 hours at the lake (depending on how long the hike takes you)
1:30 – 2 hours on the way down
Total Cost: 50 soles, or $15.75 per person
10 soles, or $3.15 – each way for the colectivo
30 soles, or $9.45 – National Park entrance fee
Gloves, pants with shorts under or zip offs, t-shirt with sweatshirt or rain jacket in case it rains, water, coca leaves, snacks and lunch for the top (buy in local market the day before), sunblock, chap stick
Make sure you eat a good breakfast before you go. If your hostel or hotel does not include breakfast, make sure you buy food to make breakfast the day before. There isn’t much open before the colectivo leaves (except a handful of bars from the night before) and you definitely don’t want to hike this on an empty stomach.