Laguna69 and Santa Cruz 5 day solo hike

We have done the Quilotoa loop 3 day trek in Ecuador and loved it. We made many friends on the way and one of the English dudes said that we absolutely need to go to Huaraz and hike to Laguna69. That the colours are just out of this world and the lake is at 4650m.

I said that’s out of the question. With my altitude sickness and how I couldn’t even see for 2 out of the 3 day hike, I just don’t see myself getting anywhere close to Huaraz.

Fast forward 4 weeks and guess what? We just finished 5 days hike in the second highest mountain range in the world. And not only we climbed to Laguna 69, we topped it up and hiked additional 4 days on Santa Cruz trek and reached a summit of Punta Union at 4750m.

It didn’t go without the usual altitude sickness for 2 days 🙁 It was tough, challenging, required research and preparation, but it was awesome and rewarding and I’m so glad we have pushed ourselves yet again.

What you need to know for Laguna 69 and Santa Cruz trek:

  • Laguna69 return trek - start at 3900m in Yuroccorral and climbs up to 4600m
  • Santa Cruz trek - start at 3300m in Vaqueria and finish at 2900m in Cashapampa, peak is at 4750m at Punto Union
  • Length: 57km (it’s not easy to get lost, but we recommend to use maps.me)
  • Difficulty: medium to tough ( if you don’t feel the effects of altitude then it’s medium)
  • Track itinerary: Laguna 69- Vaqueria - Paria camp - Taullipampa camp - Wherever you can find a camp - Cashapampa
  • Sleep in a tent for free along the track

Budget

  • Budget: 200 soles per person
  • Transport: 60 soles
  • Accomodation: free if you bring your own camping gear, otherwise it can be rented in Huaraz
  • Food : 95 soles ( you need to PLAN and PREPARE and CARRY food for 5 days with you, there are no restaurants or shops on the way except for Vaqueria where you can buy little snacks)
  • Park entry fee: 65 soles for 3 weeks per person
  • Gas bottle: 25 soles
  • Water is accessible everywhere along the hike, just bring purifier
  • No Beers this time 😉

We’ve carried not only our food, tent, sleeping bags, clothes but also the camera gear, extra batteries and of course drone so we could make videos. Check out the vlog here.

If this makes you want to go and get off the internet for a week, enjoy the mountains in it’s purest form and you want to do it without paying agencies or hiring guides, here is how to do it. We have done the research for you:

If you are coming from south (Lima) or north (Trujillo) you need to acclimatize in Huaraz for few days, try some day hikes and please don’t drink 2 litres of red wine before the hike like someone might have done.

Preparation:

We’ve stayed in Huaraz with this cool dude Emilio who organised for us a tour bus to pick up us at 5.30am in front of the accommodation. Rather then going with public transport we paid 10 soles more each and went with a tour but paid for the transport only.

It was great idea as we could leave our pretty heavy backpacks locked in the van while hiking to Laguna69 and back.

iPeru is a great source of information as always, they don’t speak English but we managed somehow. They gave us basic maps, pointed out where to start and finish, where to camp, the lot.

There are official free camp sites on the trek and they are also added as places in maps.me so we were simply using the app for the hike - it doesn’t eat up lot of phone energy.

When to go:

The official high season is May to September.

We hiked at the end of November. We had sun, rain, snow and hail on our trek but during the day it doesn’t matter that much as you are constantly moving.

It was freaking cold at night!!! We definitely could do with extra layer of clothing. There are plenty of ppl doing it all year round, just make sure you have a lot of layers and good sleeping bag.

Santa cruz trek us

What to bring:

Sleeping: tent, sleeping bag (ours is for 5-25 degrees, it was 0 at night and we suffered), inflatable mattress, inflatable pillow

  • I would add underliner for sleeping back

Kitchen: set of cutlery, gas bottle, cooker, frees-bee that we use as plate, bigger pot for cooking tea, soup and porridge, small cup, Swiss knife

Clothes: hiking boots, hiking trousers + running lycra pants, thermo underwear, 2 merino t-shirts, 1 merino long sleeve, fleece jacket, warm jacket, rainstopper, 4 set of socks, 5 pieces of underwear, (1 bra, 1 sports bra), gloves, 2 bandanas, warming kidney belt (best thing ever)

Electronics: phone, power bank, kindle, headphones

Toiletries: wet wipes, toothpaste and toothbrush, sun protection cream, sun cream for lips, pills for headache, pills against swelling of the brain, pills for watering down the blood, coca leaves, FIRST AID KIT

Miscellaneous: head lamp, lamp for tent, sunglasses, hiking poles, water bottles, water purifier

Food: 4 larger tuna cans (1 for 2 ppl), 3 oranges, 3 apples, oats, powder milk, granola (we added granola to oats for sweeter taste every morning), bread rolls for first 2 days, premade sandwiches for lunch and breakfast for 1st day, instant noodles for dinners, onions, chocolate bars, dried fruits and nuts and whatever snacks you might need.

Santa cruz trek laguna69

Day 1 - Laguna 69 - 14km - return hike

Santa cruz trek laguna69

Laguna69 return hike

We had a very early start and were leaving with a tour bus who picked up us at 5.30am. Everyone beside us was on a day tour only. The journey to Yuroccorral where the hike starts takes around 3 hours with 2 main stops: 1 for breakfast at this nice garden place off Yungay and 1 to buy the entrance tickets to national park. Take an ID or copy of your passport with you.

The hike starts by fairly nice and flat walk for good hour near a beautiful creek. There is no way to lose yourself, it is clearly signed and should take you about 3 hours to get up and 2 to go down. Because you are hiking from 3900m above the sea level up to 4600m you need to take it pretty easy. The hike itself is very pleasant and not too tough, but there were 4 ppl from 13 who didn’t finish it, mainly because of the altitude.

We have been chewing coca leaves along the way which made the ascent and especially breathing much easier.

The reward is the magnificent Laguna 69 with shades of blue that are out of this world. Your friends won’t believe you haven’t used filter when posting the pictures. And there are so many waterfalls along the way.

Unfortunately on the way down I could already feel the headache crawling up on me and by the time we got to our backpacks so we could build up a tent for the night at assigned camping site I was absolutely useless. Suffering big time. If I didn’t feel so horrible and didn’t go to sleep at 4pm, we could truly enjoy the magnificent views all around us and the fact that we camped all alone there.

There is basic toilet, no shower and no fire is allowed. No dinner this time, Martin joined me in tent at 6.30pm.

Day 2 - Vaqueria to Paria - 10km

Santa cruz trek map

Whole Santa Cruz hike

In the morning we packed up our stuff and waited on the road for a colectivo to take us to Vaqueria to start the Santa Cruz trek. All colectivos need to pass by the parking lot where Laguna 69 hike start. We’ve waited maybe for 45min and off we went. The road is definitely something, climbing up to 5000m and then descending down to 3300 at Vaqueria in true Peruvian mountain fashion.

You get off the colectivo exactly where the hike starts. Nice descent for the beginning and  gradually you ascend 400m to your camping spot for the day. There are many camping sites along the way and you can decide if you want to take it easy or do the whole hike in 3 instead of 4 days.

It’s pretty high altitude and I personally had to walk slowly even when the surface was flat. So it took us maybe 5 hours the first day to get where we wanted to. It tends to rain in the afternoon so we just build the tent at 4pm and were already asleep by 7pm.

One recommendation, try to sleep further away from the creek as at night there is a real cold coming out of the water and you’ll feel it.

 

Day 3 - Paria via Punto Union to Taullipampa camp - 12 km

Santa cruz trek peakThis is the toughest day in the hike they say as you will make ascend of almost 1000m and then have to descent down by another 600m.

For me personally, my headache magically disappeared in the morning and suddenly it was just all about hiking in the beautiful nature.

Yes, it was tough and it took us 8.5 hours on that day but it was just so much easier then the previous day. We had good amount of hail going up but as we came closer to Punto Union it became sunny and super clear and one couldn’t believe the scenery. Glaciers everywhere, few hikers scattered along the trek, lakes and lagunas, waterfalls, everything you might wish for.

Once you pass the Punto Union it’s a 2 hour descent to your next camp site for the night.

We built a tent right before the sunset and lasted until 9pm before falling asleep. I do need to point out that it was so cold that I kept waking up and couldn’t really sleep that night.
As soon as the sun comes out in the morning everything is perfect again.

 

Day 4 - Taullipampa to campsite without a name - 17km

Santa cruz trek camp

Everything is downhill from Punto Union and therefore much quicker. The scenery is beautiful, track fairly easy and straightforward. You descend by another 400m. There are plenty of options to camp alongside and we’ve decided that we wanted to keep going as close to Cashapampa as possible so we don’t have to rush on the last day. It started to rain pretty heavily around 4pm, so we built the tent, eat the dinner inside and read & talked before going to sleep around 9pm.

We were also much lower then the previous night so it wasn’t as cold and we got a good night sleep.

 

Day 5 - 6km to Cashapampa

On the last day we took it really easy, waited until 10am to start the hike as we wanted to dry the tent and all our clothes on the sun.

As we approach the finish line, the village life and all the people started to appear.

There are few spots where you can get celebratory beers or cooked meals.
Taxi to Caraz was waiting for us and the price is 10soles per person for 1 hour crazy ride down the massive hill, don’t pay more!
In Caraz you need to ask around where the colectivo to Huaraz stop is. The price is 6 soles per person and takes 1.5hour.

Having shower after 5 days of hiking among glaciers sounds like a dream, but make sure that your place has hot water. Ours didn’t and it wasn’t fun.

Santa cruz trek view

I really enjoyed the fact that even tho we were together 24/7, there was nowhere to hide, we always had something to do, to talk about and never had to take out the playing cards to kill time or never felt like running away from each other.

We’ve never been avid hikers who spend every weekend in the mountains. We do love nature and camping and hiking but we considered ourselves very happy in the city and around people.

Recently it is becoming apparent that we start enjoying being away from it all much more than being in the centre of it.
Hikes like these are truly eye opening. 


Slovak newspaper Aktuality.sk has published an article about our 5 day hike and you can read about it here

We have done this hike in November 2017, if you have more up to date info, please do share it in the comments. Thank you.

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