Up early, clothes back on (with the plan to do the first load of laundry upon return!), and out the door walking Phillip (Gary’s son) to school. Down to Huaraz and finally into a combi (a passenger van) once I found the right corner for the correct destination: LLupa.
Bumpy bump a bumpy bump up the road to LLupa, a small village at 3600m – 11,811feet. Out of the combi and walking. Goal: Pitec (an even smaller village at 3800m – 12,467feet, just at the base of the Cordillera Blanca, at the entrance to the Quebrada Quilcayhuanca).
This is the tale of Julie goes into the Cordillera Blanca, solo, for the first time, with the goal of hiking deep into one quebrada, up and over a tall pass that doesn’t have a trail, and down and out of another parallel quebrada, and then back down the hill to Gary’s house. See you in three days Gary!
Hiking east and up out of the Huaraz basin, looking west at the clouded over Cordillera Negra.
I hopped off the combi at 9:30am. The driver said it was a straight shot up the road to Pitec. Well, he didn’t tell me to hop off the road and go left at a trail junction. I walked through tiered agricultural land around the right side of the mountain, and at 11:30am handed my park entrance ticket to the guard. He looked at me funny, asked where I came from, and laughed when I pointed. He shook his head and pointed toward the entrance of Quebrada Quilcayhuanca and wished me luck.
At least I have his luck on my side…
Didn’t see a soul, but I did share the variegated green valley with cows and bulls and horses. A river wound its way along through the basin.
See that mountain? That’s Nevada Chopiraju (5518m – 18,104feet). I’ve got to walk to its base, and then hang a left up the side valley. Goal for the night: Laguna Cuchillacocha at 4625m – 15,174feet.
Pretty sweet trail, with rock steps for all the stream crossings. Must have been some heavy lifting…
As I kept hiking, I veered left and up. Incline to raised valley, incline to raised valley…after a while the trail disappeared and I began to route find. The fog was starting to roll down off of the glaciers, and I knew I had a section of steep switchbacks to go before I reached the lake. So, I calculated correctly, pissed off a few cows by walking through their property, and headed up the side of the mountain.
I switched. Back. And forth. And back. And forth. And the fog was in. And it was raining. And I could see 20 feet ahead of me. Hot diggity dog. Who needs to see the trail anyway? I was gaining elevation quickly, and I was slowing down. 30 steps and breathe for 10 seconds. One step at a time.
I was about to call it good and pitch my tent right there on the skinny trail, when I encountered a sign that read:
Lugar para acampamento: 500m.
Fog rolled in, I found a spot clear of cow patties and set up my tent. I could hear the cows. I knew they were close. But due to the fog, I wasn’t quite sure how close or how far away the cows were. Or the lake for that matter. How close was it? How close am I? I guess I’ll see in the morning.
And I drifted to sleep (at 6:30pm), counting cows jumping over the moon.