Laguna 69 Hike 'n Bike; Peru

Another post for the Cordillera Blanca hike ‘n bike series, expanded from my original entry on the area’s amazing singletrack

From what I’ve seen, if there’s one hike you should to do in the Cordillera Blanca, this is it: Laguna 69. Although the lake itself is undeniably beautifully, set within a snowy thrownroom of the magical Huascaran National Park, it’s the trail leading there that really seals the deal.

In terms of riding, well… expect some serious portage. Over the 700m climb, two grassy pampas provide welcome respite. But know you’ll be shouldering the bike as soon as the rocky zig zags start – of which there are two sizeable stairwells. My advice: bring the right kind of footware, like a good all purpose mountain biking shoe, or even flat pedals. My stiff-soled, cross country race slippers were completely impractible, so I carried a pair of lightweight Vibram FiveFingers too.

As for the descent… Incredible! It ranks as one of the most thrilling, scenic and technical bouts of downhill riding I’ve had the good fortune to enjoy. Maybe 90 per cent is manageable, even on my rigid 29er – though I’d have welcomed the addition of some bounce up front. As it is, this is definite ‘saddle down’ territory, and finding comfort within a relentless barrage of steps, slabs and babyheads is a prerequisite. Punctuating the plummet, grassy pampas offer a rest for both braking fingers and brain, with slivers of beautifully flowy, smile-inducing singletrack.

Again, my partner in crime was Llanganuco Lodge’s Carlos Good (and his rock-munching Scott Strike), who I must thank for talking me into this crazy day of hike ‘n biking.

The climb begins. Aside from two grassy pampas, don’t expect too much riding on the way up, unless you’re a trials mega-god.

Most of the time you’ll be doing this.

(pampa interlude)

And this…

(pampa interlude)

… and this.

Still, if you have to suffer the indignity of carrying your bike, I can’t imagine a better place to do it. Chacraraju, 6112m.

And the vista that greeted us after a few hours of climbing. Laguna 69, 4600m, ringed by Chacraraju Este (6001m) and Oueste (6112m).

Reason enough, I’d say…

Then began the descent, presided over by Chopicalqui (6354m).

Of course, we took care to make sure we didn’t send startled hikers scattering like bowling pins…

Part way down lies the diminutive Laguna 68, as it’s unofficially called.

Rock garden after rock garden, set to Huascaran North (6655m) and South (6769m), the highest peaks in Peru.

A quick stop to down the Peruvian version of Nuun – a pack of rehydration salts for 30c – to focus the senses.

Then the dash down boulder alley was back on.

Charlie gets into the flow.

Until we finally hit the pampa floor once more… Thrilling!

The need to know bit:

It’s 5 sol to enter the park for the day (no overnighting), or you can pay 65 sol for a month, which covers camping too.

We caught a ride to the beginning of the hike, Cebollapampa (3900m) hiked up to the Laguna 69 (4600m), rode down, then continued on back to Llanganuco Lodge (3500m) – where I was staying with my mum.

From Cebollapampa, you can eek out some more singletrack by turning right after the wooden bridge, before rejoining the main dirt road down the valley. Then, if you still have the energy, you can ride the slabby,  techy, bromeliad-overrun trail down from Quinancocha Laguna, popping out near the park entrance.

If you leave early, you’ll have the lake to yourself before the groups arrive from Huaraz. They tend to start the hike at 9am. You can camp at the base of the hike, at Cebollapampa (nice spot with crystal clear stream), or at Organcocha, the second of the two lakes.


11 thoughts on “Laguna 69 Hike 'n Bike; Peru

  1. Pingback: Singletrack in the Cordillera Blanca; Peru « while out riding

  2. Susie Moberly

    Fabulous images and I love the shadows on the Pampa interlude pic… SUCH hard work so well done! Enjoy those grassy pampas and smile-inducing single… track.It looks magical… (your Mum enjoyed every minute of it) but I expect she’s told you that a hundred times and more. Hug and take care X

    Reply
  3. Robson Dombrosky | viajenaimagem.com

    Great pictures! I´m expecting to do the same trekking now in May. Do you think it´s possible and safe to leave the bike somewhere at Cebollapamba camp site waiting while I´m doing the trekking to laguna 69? Is there any control post or something like that where there´s always someone to keep the bike for me?

    Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      On our way back down from the laguna, I noticed a small stand selling some drinks – but it wasn’t there on the way out. If you’re worried about your bike, you’re probably best stashing it at the main check post a bit further down the valley, and hiking or hitching up from there.

      Reply

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