Day 6 – Day hike to Laguna Churup

We had another 6am wakeup this morning. Our hotel person told us how to get to Pitec. Pretty soon we were on a collectivo destined for a settlement of farms called Lluna. The collectivo sat waiting for a while and we quickly jumped off to grab some fresh chicken empanadas for S1 ($0.33) each when a man walked by with a basket-full. When the collectivo seemed at capacity (about 12 people) we were off. Little did we know that many more people would be squeezing in.

Along the journey to Lluna we picked up 10 more passengers, bringing the total up to 22! It was unbelievable that so many people could fit. At one point a larger Ketchua lady sat on Alex’s lap. We had to squish with our legs not even close to straight in front of us until the lady was able to sit down on our bench beside us. To make matters even more interesting, we were on a gnarled dirt road the whole time and when we hit a rut Alex’s head would go hurling into the ceiling. We both lost circulation in our feet miles before we arrived at Lluna.

When we arrived, the driver said Pitec, and pointed up a a large trail/gnarled road too gnarly for a car. We understood that this was as far as we would get by collectivo and happily got out. We paid the driver S3 each ($1) and started up the trail. It was 1.5 hours walking up to the sign marking the entrance to Huascaran National Park. We passed traditionally dressed Ketchua ladies and a caballero walking a couple donkeys up the trail.

When we arrived at the park entrance, we knew that we would likely need to pay a park entrance fee. We heard from many sources that it would be S65 ($22) for 1 month, but the official wanted S5 for the day or S65 for 15 days. I was pretty outraged and spent a while complaining – showing him my Varsity Outdoor Club membership, since alpine club members are supposed to get a better deal. We later found out that without an alpine club membership, individuals are not allowed to go without a guide into some areas (most of the areas that we’ll be going).

It was 1.5 hours up to Llaguna Churup, with an elevation of 4450m. We were both feeling the altitude as we ascended – Alex’s breathing/heart rate and I had a small headache. We saw other tourists along the trail heading to the lake. We arrived at the lake at noon and took an hour siesta – laying out on a grassy patch beside the alpine lake, with a perfect sunny day. That’s what I call acclimatizing!

We headed back down all the way to Lluna and I talked with a Ketchua lady for 45 minutes or so from Pitec to Lluna. We then took off our boots to wait for a collectivo back to Huaraz. Soon a taxi came by with a couple British people and they got the taxi to stop and beckoned us in. They were from Redding and were in Huaraz for a couple weeks on vacation to do the Huayhuash circuit.

The driving in Peru really is crazy. Just walk into the street and you see cars passing each other with only centimeters to spare. Or in this case on this country road, passing big cows and other animals with hardly any margin for error. At one point when a flock of sheep was in the middle of the road, the taxi actually had to nudge a sheep with its front bumper before the sheep trotted off the road to let us by.

Back in Huaraz, we had a huge list of things to do. We have decided to not do the Santa Cruz Trek (we later found out that even alpine club members may not do the trek without a guide). This was in large part due to meeting a friendly guide a few times since our time in Huaraz (he was also on our Cruz Del Sur bus) and he said he was going into Llanganuco valley to do Pisco, Yanapacca, and Chopicalqui with his clients. He said that he would be flagging the routes and leaving the wands in. We figure that this could help with routefinding.

So we first went to the office of the Parque Nacional De Huascaran to see about permits. We were hoping to show our club memberships here and get the 1 month for S65 price. It turns out that the price got even worse. The women said that for climbers it would be S65 for 7 days. I was really frustrated and spent a lot of time arguing. I ended up talking to another more senior person downstairs. I explained that we were planning to be here for 3 months and that we were without a guide because we couldn’t afford it. How can we afford S65 every 7 days? I told him I wanted S65 for a month. He repeated what the woman told us that that was last year’s rate and it was different now. He had sympathy for us though and told us that he would give us last year’s price of S65/month. He gave us his name in case anyone gave us a hard time.

Then to dinner – something roja, which was really good. I asked for the menu and the man at the front said solo pollo. We sat down and I asked the waiter for 2 dinners. We soon each had a plate of a quarter chicken with fries and salad for 6S each ($2). What a deal! And this place was popular, so I had more faith in the food since there was high turnover.

While Alex headed to the supermarket to buy food, I began the arduous task of individually bagging 10 days worth of food. It’s 10:50pm at the moment and I still have to go finish packing. We have food for ten days and are hoping to climb Pisco, Yanapacca, and Chopicalqui. We have topo maps of the whole area, route descriptions, and gps tracks for Pisco and Chopicalqui.

Ps – I finally heard back from UBC law this evening and was accepted. I’m pretty happy. Though it doesn’t change my plan to do my master’s of economics at Queen’s.

Adios! Back in 10 days!

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