In preparation for our Huayhuash trek, we were made well aware that we would need to do some acclimatisation hikes to get used to being and hiking at altitude. In Huayhuash we would be over 4000m nearly the whole time and hiking over some 5000m passes so we definitely needed some practice! The most popular hike to start off with is Laguna Wilcacocha. It starts at 3000m and reaches 3700m. We were nervous about doing this hike as we’d been at sea level and low altitudes for a while and were already puffing away just climbing the stairs at the end of our street.
Getting to Laguna Wilcacocha was very easy. You can just take a colectivo (vans that pick up/drop off passengers pretty much anywhere they want along a certain route) which are in my opinion one of the greatest inventions in South America. They are so easy to use and cheap! Plus you get the added bonus of travelling the way the locals do. We found out we needed to get the “10” or “E” colectivo to Wilcacocha. You can just tell the driver “Wilcacocha” and they should tell you when to get off which is at Puente Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz bridge). This cost 1 sole per person and was about a 20 min drive.
Once you get dropped off, cross the bridge and you will see a sign that lets you know you are at the start of the hike. The first part is quite steep and you will think, “shit how am I going to finish this?” It’s up a dirt road which then passes through some houses. Ask which direction to go if you are unsure as we went the wrong way at first and lost 15 mins. Generally, it’s not hard to follow the route, we’re just stupid, we even had a map on our phone. The rest of the hike is not too difficult. You will walk past farmers tending to their fields with the mountains in the distance. It’s amazing the views these people get to have all the time!
It supposed to take around 2 hours to get to the lake, we made it just under an hour and a half, which we were very surprised at! See our Suunto Moves Count below.
The lake was smaller than I expected but it was still beautiful and the view over Huaraz and of the Cordillera Blanca behind it is just stunning! We sat for some lunch, joined by a couple of friendly dogs and just took in the scenery.
The hike down was quite pleasant, nothing too strenuous on the knees and you get to look at the views this time as the views are behind going up. When we got to the bottom we waited all of 2 seconds before a colectivo drove past and stopped for us. It was another 1 sole back each.
The Wilcacocha hike is really just a pleasant experience, it’s nearby to Huaraz and is short so can be done in half a day. It was the perfect first hike to get started with a good ascent and nice scenery but nothing compared to what was to come! See my following posts for more day hikes around Huaraz!