Have I told you how I got into hiking? It started at a time in my life when
I felt pretty numb, and I needed to do something that help me feel...well something. I figured hanging out in nature would at the least, help me
get fitter and because I lived in New Zealand at the time I was spoilt for choice. So that’s it really. Being in nature allowed me to embrace solitude and recharge my introverted batteries.
Something about a recent hike to Laguna Churup brought back some feelings I didn’t really want to feel. Even though you see me smiling in my photos (because I was genuinely happy to be out in the mountains), I was distracted. A hike of about 10km and elevation of approximately 4,800m a.s.l. should have been pretty achievable, but on that day, it was sheer stubbornness that got me back to the last collectivo of the day.
A forgotten trail into Churup
Laguna Churup is in the Huascaran National Park and starts in the village of Pitec. It costs S.10 each way, and normally the last collectivo leaves around 4.30pm. You can also get a private taxi from Huaraz, and arrange pick up at a certain time. If you miss the last taxi, it’s an hour’s walk to Llupa where you may be able to catch a collectivo.
I was joined on this adventure by Guido, a mountain guide from Casa de Guias. He was tracking a trail that would have been mostly used by locals, possibly collecting plants used for medicinal purposes. The trail isn’t well used anymore, in fact we saw more animal prints than signs that people had been there recently. Guido taught me that if animals used a path, especially larger animals, it meant that the earth is stable.
Another reason that we went out on this hike was that he was testing radio communication with Casa de Guias in Huaraz. It had recently been installed, which they hoped would make rescue communication in the high season more reliable.
Unfortunately my hayfever kicked in early on, and even though I took an antihistamine, it wouldn’t let up. That combined with the altitude made it hard to get my breathing in a natural rhythm. After about 3 hours, we reached a set of tall boulders that would be our lunch spot for the day
Cheese and avocado sandwiches
We decided to have lunch on some boulders, which required a bit of rock climbing. Guido said it was good training for me, and I have to admit that I enjoyed the challenge.
Before we sat down for lunch, I wanted to get some photos from a taller set of boulders nearby. That meant, you guessed it, a bit more climbing. How does that work with my fear of heights? I’ve discovered that I can switch it off as long as I focus on the climbing. It’s like I know what awaits me at the top and I just need to think about one move at a time. Going up is easier for me than going down, so Guido lead the way and showed me the foot holes on the rocks.
Lush tussock and scatterings of pools of water was the view that awaited us over the hill. I stopped briefly to take it all in. I just wanted to sit there and never leave. We were still about 30 mins from the top of Laguna Churup, and the flatter terrain helped me to catch my breath for awhile
As we got closer to Laguna Churup, Guido stopped and said, “I want you to go first, then tell me how you feel.” Through the trees I could see the familiar blue of the lake. Then I ducked under a few more branches and found myself on top of a rock that gave me a panoramic view of the lake and Mt. Churup. Wow. No matter how exhausted I felt at that moment, this, this made it all worthwhile. I closed my eyes, inhaled, and when
I opened them I knew I wasn’t dreaming. Peru really is this beautiful.
To make our way down to the lake, Guido had to improvise our path.
That meant more rock climbing, but for the most part it was just my fatigue that made the descent take longer than I would have liked.
As it was late in the afternoon, Guido said that if there wasn’t a collectivo waiting at the bottom, I had to prepare myself to walk another hour to Llupa. I figured I would deal with that if I had to, but I was quietly optimistic that we would miraculously see one even though it was
You wouldn’t believe it, we managed to catch up to two people making their way down from the lake! That meant there was a collectivo waiting for them (usually the collectivos keep an eye on who have returned) and as long as we stayed with them, we had a ride back to Huaraz.
We got back to Huaraz around 6.30pm, and I sat on my bed quickly flicking through my photos, I smiled. It wasn’t the easiest hike, and it reminded me that my love of mountains isn’t from the beautiful photos
I get to take. In the mountains, I’m free, and there’s no photo that can ever replace the feeling of being there.
fivefootronna is Ronna Grace Funtelar - a thirtyish storyteller, creative, writer and poet currently working and traveling in Peru. A woman with
a curious mind who lives for hiking mountains, outdoor adventures and eating pizza. She has a unique brand of optimism that is a combination
of her great enthusiasm for life and cups of coffee during the day.