In the sleepy farming town of Canutillo, Durango, Mexico.
Where are Kevin and Ruth right now? Canutillo, Durango, Mexico.

Where are they going next? Durango City, Durango, Mexico.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Well, we did pretty good at 15,000 feet...

...for a couple of almost 58 year olds!

We had booked a day tour hike to Laguna 69. It's a fairly popular hike, but the trailhead is located in Huascarán National Park and it's a 3 hour ride to get there from the city of Huaraz. Normally, we would try to arrange our own transportation and do the hike on our own, but it makes more sense in these mountains to go with an experienced guide. Plus, the cost isn't much more than you would pay for transportation alone. In this case, we chose Peruvian Mountain Tours as our operator.

The destination was Laguna 69. Odd name for a lake, huh? The story is that when the National Park took over the area, they numbered all the 400 or so lakes and this one was number 69. The name stuck.

I had read a few other reports about the difficulty of this hike. But what is difficult for one, is not so difficult for another, so it's hard to get perspective. And, all of the reports I read were written by people in their 20's and 30's.

The main concern was the altitude. The hike begins at 13,000', and the destination is at 15,000'. And, it's 7 kms (4.5 miles) each way.

The bus was scheduled to pick us up at "around 4:45am". We were downstairs waiting at that time when I got a phone call saying they were running a little late. We were not surprised because we were the last ones being picked up. A small bus arrived at about 5:15am, with two empty seats.

We had to put our names, passport numbers, and ages on a register, and I got to see who the other 24 people on the bus were. There was a group of about 8 people from France. And 2 guys from Costa Rica. 1 other Canadian. 1 lady from China. A few from Peru itself.

Most people were in their 20's. A few in their 30's. Two in their 40's.

And us... late 50's!

About an hour and a half into the bus ride, we stopped at a restaurant for breakfast and supplies in case anybody needed snacks or water or lunch.

The kitchen.

The restaurant.
Photo taken at 7:25am.

We had a big fruit salad and some eggs and mate de coca tea that is supposed to be good for altitude symptoms. Not bad prices considering the only reason this restaurant is here is the tourists that come for the trails. Our bill was 25 soles ($10 CAD, $7.50 USD).

Back on the bus for a very twisty curvy ride on a narrow gravel mountain road. We stopped at the entrance to the National Park and each of us had to pay the 30 soles ($11.75 CAD, $8.95 USD) daily entrance fee for international visitors.

We stopped at a lake along the way just to take some photos...





You can tell it's going to be a great hike when the scenery is like this and we're not even at the trailhead yet!

We arrived at the trailhead at 8:52am.

We were told that most people take 3 hours to do the 7 km (4.5 mile) trail to the destination. We should have one hour to have lunch and relax at the top, and then 2 hours to hike back down to return to the bus at 3:00pm.

The trailhead is located at exactly 13,000 feet.

Wow.
This is looking back at where the bus had come up from.

The trail starts with a gradual incline beside a stream.

Heading up towards that mountain.

Looking back.
Notice that we are not last!

5 kms (3 miles) to go.

There are some cows grazing way up here!

A waterfall off in the distance.

A glacier off in the distance.

Perfect weather for a hike like this.

We're guessing that the temperature was about 12C (54F) but it was quite variable. When the sun was out, it felt really nice, but we had a few cloudy periods and when that happened it cooled off really quickly.

Another waterfall.

We are headed up there!

3 kms (1.8 miles) to go!

Made it to 14,000 feet!

It was around this time that I noticed Ruth was starting to slow down. She's normally pretty good at pacing herself... slow small steps without having to take a rest. But now she was pacing herself, and having to stop to rest. I was getting concerned she wouldn't make it because I knew that the worst part was to come.

Most of the young people were way ahead of us, but there were still a few stragglers.

We had to make some time to enjoy the scenery along the way!

We are headed up there!

We are headed up to the base of this glacier.
The peak of the mountain is at 22,000 feet!

Looking back at Ruth.

And looking ahead. Our trail will climb that gully from right to left.

Spring flowers.

Stopping for a snack.

1 km (just over a half mile) to go.

Unfortunately, the last 1 km is the toughest part of the trail. 

And it looks like there is some precipitation coming.

At the start of the steep section, Ruth was struggling. It was already 11:45am, and we were supposed to make it to the top by noon. We had some leeway though because we didn't have to stay at the top for very long and there was an hour on the schedule for up there.

We decided I would carry on ahead and at least I could take some photos up there in case Ruth didn't make it. I didn't take any photos along the way because I was concentrating on myself being able to get up there. I was feeling pretty good though. No headaches, and no apparent problems. Yes, it was hard work and the breathing was difficult, but I was doing okay.

I did take a couple of videos for you though... turn up your volume...




I made it to the top at 11:58am!

15,000 feet altitude!
(the lower reading is based on barometric pressure and is not accurate)

I quickly took a few pictures of the lake and then turned back down to see how Ruth was doing.

Laguna 69.

Waterfall coming down from the glacier.

Me, at Laguna 69.

I was going back down when I bumped into our guide coming up. He said "she's coming, she's coming".

And there was Ruth coming around the bend, one small step in front of the other. She was done though... I could tell it was difficult for her.

Ruth, at 12:16pm.
She brought the snow with her!

Yes, there was a little snow squall that went through as we were at the top. The weather up here can change in an instant!

We had a little snack at the top, but we knew that it was a long walk back down and we didn't want to be late.

Heading back down.

On top of the world.
Or at least feeling like it!

What a view!

Wow.

Did I say "wow"?

It was worth the effort!

Another waterfall.

Back at the bottom.

It was 2:45pm when we arrived back at the bus. And, we weren't the last ones... in fact we didn't get going until after 3:20pm because of some stragglers.

We did pretty good for being substantially older than the rest of the group. We are proud of ourselves!

We will be using Peruvian Mountain Tours for a few more day hikes in Huascarán National Park over the next few days. 

But, today will be a day of rest!

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36 comments:

  1. Well done, both of you! It seems like the altitude might effect Ruth more than you. You both have the fitness level of a fit 30 year old with so many hikes so that really worked in your favor. Beautiful scenery!

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    1. Yes, the altitude does seem to affect me more, not so much with headaches but I do get short of breath quicker and sometimes a little lightheaded so as long as I move along very slowly but steady I seem to do fine. We like to think we have the fitness level of a fit 30 year old but we know we don't, those guys just flew up the trail, although there were a couple of people that were definitely struggling as well, even though they were fit. The altitude can affect everyone differently no matter how fit you are.

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  2. Wow! Gorgeous scenery and very impressive to conquer a hike at that altitude ��
    I remember many people had trouble in Cusco when we went there and it's only 11,200'.

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    1. The scenery was out of this world, is was so gorgeous. We are so happy to have made it to the lake with these high elevations, we are certainly very proud of ourselves. Yep, even 11,200' can be a big challenge for some people.

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  3. Replies
    1. Thank you! It was definitely hard work but the reward was worth the effort. :-)

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  4. Replies
    1. Thank you, it sure took a lot out of us but seeing the stunning mountain scenery was worth it. :-)

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  5. Wow a beautiful hike indeed! Loved the trail...not too rugged. I was feeling short of breath at 13,000 feet and looked like Mount Whitney was the same height but actually was about 1,000 feet higher. We met quite a few Pacific Crest Trail hikers..some in their last leg of their hike which they started in June and now in Southern California. Like Ruth I could barely take five or six steps and stop to breath. The first couple of days my leg muscles were sore but after that they disappeared. After a week, we were much better. Sister and I are both in our 70's...me being the older. I guess all those miles running, exercise, hiking rim to rim at Grand Canyon in our young years paid off. We still can take on some tough hiking...now we use trekking poles to help LOL. Keep hiking and you'll still have stamina in your 70s. I pulled a ligament down hill skiing in my 30s and reinjured it in my 50s. So had surgery on my left knee twice. I still ski too and love it. In my 50s while running a 10K a 70 year old man (a doctor I learned later) beat to the finish line.

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    1. The scenery along the hike was totally amazing and worth the effort we had to put in to get us up to the lake. It was a great trail.

      Glad that you keep yourself active.

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  6. Wow, Wow, Wow, Wow, Wow! Incredible photos. The lacks look sooooo clear and prestine, were they what they looked like. Great job you two!! Love these photos so much!

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    1. Thank you so much, it really wasn't hard to take such beautiful pictures when the scenery is so gorgeous to start with.

      Yes, the lakes were very pristine and and clear, the colour of them was spectacular.

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  7. Wow! What fun and such a great memory. Success, small steps and exhilaration!

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    1. Not sure that I would say fun, at least for the hike up, it was very hard work but when we got to the lake it was such an amazing feeling. It was a gorgeous hike, not one I would want to do too many times though, although if you stayed up in this area long enough you would get used to the altitude and then a hike like that wouldn't seem so hard. Definitely small, slow and steady steps does the trick. :-)

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  8. |Aren't there any hikes you can do closer to where you are staying without having to spend 6 hours on a bus?

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    1. To get to hikes like this no, they are high in the mountains in a national park with very little accessibility. Plus the distance was only 91.5km it is just very slow going, first through small towns and then on very twisty windy roads where you can't go fast. The bus was very comfy and the scenery was fantastic so we didn't mind the ride at all.

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  9. Not a big city person, but this is what I yearn to see when traveling. The glacial milk lakes, and the views that photo's never really quite capture. The crisp air, and the glorious light of altitude with its alpine glow and brilliance. Pretty impressive indeed! But alas my days of climbing at these altitudes are in the past, and now I'm a bench climber living vicariously through you young'uns.

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    1. Us too! We don't mind seeing the cities for a short time normally otherwise we would want to be out in nature like this. We are totally in our element here and we are loving it. :-)

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  10. what wonderful memories and fantastic photos! thank you!

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    1. This will definitely be a hike that we will never forget, that is for sure. We will enjoy looking at the pictures for years to come. :-)

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  11. Several of our friends that have hiked at altitude in Peru swear by coca; tea, or chewing the leaves really helped them.

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    1. I guess it just depends on the person. We have had some coca tea, even for our breakfast stop before hitting the trail and lots of people were buying the leaves to chew on while hiking but one guy that Kevin walked with was having a very difficult time and he had a mouthful of coca leaves so it wasn't helping him a bit. While it might help some, it might not for others but it certainly can't hurt.

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  12. Fantastic hike! It's not about who gets there first, but all about the hike up and back. Your pictures prove that! Wow, we're five years older, I wonder how well we would do? I love cows BTW!

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    1. It was an amazing hike and you are right, it not about who gets there first. We enjoyed the scenery every step of the way, and that was a lot of steps. :-)

      I bet you and Juan would be able to do it, you guys are fit enough to do it, it would just depend on if the altitude would affect you are not and you don't know that until you try.

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  13. Beautiful and amazing. Hiking at that altitude must be really difficult. Enjoy a day of rest!

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    1. The scenery was stunning on this hike, and yes it was very difficult with the altitude but we are happy to say that we did it. :-)

      We had a nice relaxing day yesterday, now it is out to do another hike. :-)

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  14. Superb effort you two!!! The scenery is spectacular and stunning....and I’m sure there aren’t enough adjectives to describe the majesty and awesomeness of what you saw and experienced. Have great respect and admiration for your stamina and drive to conquer heights where eagles soar! Rest well before the next hike.

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    1. Thank you Lynnette! Yes, the scenery was fantastic and our pictures, while beautiful still can't capture the immense beauty of it all.

      We had a good day of rest so now we are about to hit the trail again, this hike will be shorter in length.

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  15. Replies
    1. Yep, that pretty much describes the scenery! :-)

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  16. Fabulous job, Kevin and Ruth! I know that was a difficult hike at that elevation, but you did it. Most of your peers would not be able to even attempt, much less complete, such a hike, so you have much to be proud of. And think the shape you'll be in back at sea level, lol! It is absolutely gorgeous there. Thank you for sharing your beautiful photos.

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    1. Lol, I replied to your comment on "Our first Hike in Peru" thinking it was this one, mind you we did find the other one hard as we were still trying to get acclimatized but this was was definitely the harder one of the two and this is the one with the spectacular scenery. I should have looked more closely at the other post before commenting, lol!

      It is funny but we were hiking at Garner State Park the other day and we found climbing the hills there to be so easy with absolutely no huffing and puffing. :-)

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    2. I am not surprised after you whipped yourself into amazing shape in Peru!

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    3. Yep, you have so much more air when you are down lower. I laughingly said to Kevin "when do we start going uphill", and of course by that time we are already pretty much at the top of the hill. :-)

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