My former colleague Beth told us that when she did this walk, it was a case of taking a few steps and then taking a breather, not because of exhaustion, but just because the air is so thin that you struggle to breathe.
After roughly a two and a half hour drive, not rough only because of the time estimation, but because half of it is on a dirt track and you’re in a 30 seater bus that is bouncing around like a fairground ride, we arrived at a mountain cafe where we had breakfast, to fortify us for the path ahead. After breakfast, we drove past two lakes before arriving at the start of the Laguna 69 trek. We were told: three hours to the top; 40 minutes for lunch; and two and a half hours back down. We were also told that the walk begins on a plateau before ascending about 600m. The plateau made for both good pictures and a gentle warm up, lulling on into a sense of security about the rest of the walk.
Then the climb began. As Beth suggested, we walked a bit, and stopped a bit, then walked a bit more, and stopped a bit more. It was one of those walks where you think you’re reaching the top then turn a corner and see that there is yet another climb. However, we did reach the top, and were rewarded with the view of the lake. With the altitude, the sky is exceedingly blue, as is the water of the lake. It’s stunning.
After a lunch stop, we had the joyous task of walking back down, which wasn’t so bad at first, but became harder and harder as time went on. All-in-all, the walk is about 14km long, starting just shy of 4,000m and reaching a peak of around 4,600m. We took travel-sickness pills for the way home, which thankfully meant that as we were jolted around, we mostly slept until arriving back some 12 hours after leaving.
How we did it
The general advice about going to Laguna 69 is to do it with a guided tour as the costs of arranging independent transport are pretty much the same. It was also suggested to us that we pay between PEN 25 and 35. We decided to go with Andean Summit, which cost a bit more at PEN 40. Although we asked lots of questions about group size, and whether we’d get Andean Summit’s guide, we found that we ended up on a bus of about 25-30 people, and from what we could tell, the guide wasn’t employed by Andean Summit. I think the lesson learned here was basically that you may as well pay for the cheapest option possible because as per most of the reviews on Trip Advisor, you’re just going to end up in a large group anyway!