I hiked up with my friend Monica to Lake Wilcacocha (Laguna Wilcacocha) on the outskirts of Huaraz, Peru.

One of the workers at Akilpo Hostel, where we were staying, recommended going to Wilcacocha in the morning before the afternoon cloud cover. This was a half-day, self-guided hike.

Around 8:30 a.m., we took a fifteen-minute chicken-bus ride to the base of the trail for 4 soles.

We started our ascent around 3160 metres. Within 10 minutes, I had to stop. My heart was pumping faster than an oil rig. My lungs were breathing in more air to adjust to the lower density of oxygen.

I was still trying to acclimatize my body while trying to get up to Laguna Wilcacocha.

Trail to Lake Wilcacocha

Trail to Lake Wilcacocha

And for Monica, she waited for me every time I stopped. She could have done the Wilcacocha trek without rest. She’s more use to the higher altitudes after doing hikes in Colombia and Ecuador, plus she’s Swiss.

I was busy adjusting to life under water in the prior months in the Galapagos. Adjusting to higher altitudes is similar, but not very similar.

On our way up, we went through a village and farmland. I saw a Quechuan woman walking down with her donkey and two kids. “What a cool video this could be,” I thought. I recorded the party coming down with my iPhone 6s.

“Buenos días,” the older child said. I replied the same. Then I started to hike up again towards Laguna Wilcacocha while Monica waited for me a few metres higher.

“You should ask the Quechuans permission before taking a photo,” Monica said.

“Why?”

“They believe you’ll take their souls when you photograph them.”

Of course I Googled this when I arrived home. And this fact appears to be true (that the Quechuans believe this, the souls aren’t actually taken). But I don’t take people’s souls, I just mess them up.

Then we went on our way up.

The rep at the hostel was right about the clouds. The sun was shining in the morning but we could see the cloud cover coming in from the mountains.

It took us between 90 and 120 minutes to reach the top to Lake Wilcacocha at an altitude of 3750 metres. The lake was small and looked more like a swampy pond.

But the real picture was the view of the terrain and snow-covered mountains. We could see Huaraz in the distance.

landscape view of Peru from Lake Wilcacocha

View from Lake Wilcacocha. The actual lake is behind me.

I whipped out my Canon 6D and made some photos. I also took a few photos with my iPhone to be Instagram ready.

We took our time to enjoy the picturesque scene from Laguna Wilcacocha while listening to a cover song of Bach’s Cello.

The return bus ride to Huaraz only costed 1 sol.

The next morning, I was more prepared for the Jatun Cocha hike.

Machu Picchu on a Budget