Back on the grid after 41 miles of trekking through the Corillera Blanca Mountains. It was stunning. And it was way outside of my comfort zone. But here we are, alive, happy, and feeling stronger than ever.
After a few days of acclimating in Huaraz and nearly backing out of the trek (such rainy afternoons!) I finally commited, knowing that I would regret not doing it, and signed up with one of the more expesive, but reputable trekking agencies in town, for a Sunday morning departure. At 9:30 pm on Saturday night, as we climbed into bed, bags packed and ready to go, a guide showed up at our hostel with the news that our trek had been delayed a day but that we could tag along on another hike for free on Sunday. (We were honestly blown away by this…that kind of customer service is expected in the States but nearly nonexistent in Peru.) So at 6 am on Sunday morning we were on our way to a place called Laguna 69, a glacier lake that was formed in 1969. It ended up being a 2,600 foot climb up to 13,400 feet elevation. It was a long, tough hike and I was really glad we had spent 3 days acclimating in the base town before attempting it- but the lake was absolutely stunning. We were really lucky with a mostly clear day and only got soaked in the last hour of the hike. It’s amazing how miserable it is to be cold and wet. I admit that arriving back to the hostel at 9 pm with soaking wet leggings and aching feet, the prospect of committing to a 4 day long trek was suddenly a bit less than attractive. I actually sent up a silent prayer that the trek would be canceled again…luckily, my prayer was overlooked.
Sure enough, the trek was on and the next morning at 6 am we found ourselves on a bus with 13 soon-to-be-friends driving along a bumpy dirt road to the national park. The Santa Cruz Trek is one of the most popular in this area because it is one that even beginner trekkers can do- that is one of the big reasons I was attracted to it. Starting at 9,500 feet, the trek takes 4 days, covers about 31 miles and summits at 15,000 feet on day 3. The hike passes through grassy green valleys, past icy blue glaciers, emerald green lakes, following bubbling rivers and amazing mountainsides. Our group consisted of the 13 of us, 2 local guides, 2 donkey drivers, and a cook. Our bags rode atop the 6 donkeys and every day by the time we reached our camp site, our tents would we set up and pitchers of coca tea waiting for us. We hiked between 7 and 10 miles per day climbing about 2300 feet per day. Day 3 was the most intense- not only did it snow/rain on us all day, but we summitted at 15,000 feet and walked for a total of 8.5 hours. Our camp sights were in beautiful green valleys with clear views of glacier peaks. We boiled water from the river, drank lots of coca tea, and sleep deeply snuggled but still cold in our down sleeping bags. By the time we arrived at our pick up point we were out of dry clothes, caked in mud, sore, and so proud of ourselves. I had no idea that I was physically capable of something like this- Cameron stuck by me the whole time cheering me on. I stuck with the back half of the trekkers, found my steady pace, and finished with the group every time. What a wonderful feeling to know that you can do something like this! I still don’t think I consider myself a hiker, but as Cam said, “See Cor? You’re tougher than you think!”
Since Santa Cruz, we have had many more adventures that I post soon, now that we finally have a good Internet connection. So stay tuned!!!