Lake Churup (Laguna Churup) is a beautiful glacial lake 4,450m above sea level. I’ve been in Huaraz a week, and it just wasn’t long enough for my lungs to adjust to the altitude. A month of relative inactivity has also left me in a less than ideal physical condition – both those factors combined made the hike more challenging to say the least.
The morning began with our landlady, Liliana, helping us catch a taxi and negotiated a price of 10 soles each (NZ$4.50) one way, with the drive taking an hour to Pitek (the start of the track). You can also catch a combi, but you may have to wait until it gets full before they head off. On the drive, we picked up Karina, a German backpacker who just happened to be doing the hike that day too.
It costs 30 soles (NZ$13.50) for entry into the Huascaran National Park, and you can pay that at the start of the track. We paid our driver and he said he would be back at 3pm.
Christina, Isobel, Karina and I set off together, but less than a quarter of the way my lungs started to show the effects of the altitude (and lack of fitness). Karina went ahead and pretty soon I made the decision to let the other girls go at their pace while I slowed down to let my lungs breath at a less alarming rate. After an hour of walking, my body seemed like it was finally adjusting and my feet walking in some sort of rhythm.
As hard as the hike was for me, there were times where the elevation eased off and the landscape was just magical. The first half of the track looked more like a pilgrimage to a sacred place, with shelter huts giving respite for my weary, jelly legs. Cramps had set in by the second hut, and there were plenty of times I wanted to give up. I even cried. Hiking is as much mental toughness as well physical conditioning, and each time I wanted to give in, I would look back and see just how far I had already walked.
There are two sections on the track that requires a bit of rock climbing, with rubber padded steel cables to guide you. The first section is smaller of the two, and is a gradual climb, however there is a small stream that runs down the rocks which made it slippery at times. I have had very limited rock climbing experience, and remembering the advice to try to use my leg muscles as much as I could had served me well. There were many times my weary arms were saved by a well-placed foot hole – and a chance to catch my breath.
I caught up with Karina as I was heading towards the foot of the rope climb of doom. She told me that the lake was only at the top of the waterfall but to be extra careful on the rock climb. As I came to the foot of the rocks, I met up with a group of locals and their dog – not a tiny dog, a fully-grown Pitbull. I guess it was a popular local’s day out? I was in total awe at how they managed to get their dog up there…legends.
Isobel and Christina greeted me at the top of the rope climb. I was about 15 minutes away and the lake felt too close to turn back (it was starting to rain and turning back with them did cross my mind). After a bit more climbing, I finally saw the Lake Churup sign and breathed a sigh of relief. Getting to the lake took a physical toll, and I still had to climb down, down the way I came. I sat at the lake’s edge for a quick drink and reflection at the beauty of this place. Mist began to roll across the water and I heard thunder in the distance. Rain at a glacial lake isn’t something to mess with, and when I felt the temperature drop I knew it was my cue to make my way back.
Ronna Grace Funtelar is a thirtyish storyteller, creative, writer and slam poet currently travelling in Peru. She is a hobby hiker, photography and sunrise enthusiast with a passion for mindfully helping others live beyond their comfort zone.
Basically, a shorty who knows her life purpose.