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Laguna Llanganuco is one of the gateways to the Parque Nacional Huascarán, which covers 3,400 square km (1,300 square miles) and was created in 1975 to protect and preserve flora and fauna in the Cordillera Blanca. This incredible mountain range has a total of 663 glaciers and includes some of the highest peaks in the Peruvian Andes. Huascarán, which soars to 6,768 meters (22,200 feet), is the highest in Peru. The smaller Alpamayo, 5,947 meters (19,511 feet), is said by many to be the most beautiful mountain in the world. Its majestic flanks inspire awe and wonder in those lucky enough to get a glimpse. The monstrous Chopicalqui and Chacraraju rise above 6,000 meters (19,700 feet).
Within the park's boundaries you'll find more than 750 plant types. There's a tragic scarcity of wildlife in the park—most have been decimated by hunting and the loss of natural habitats. Among the 12 species of birds and 10 species of mammals in the park, you're most likely to see wild ducks and
condors. With a great deal of time and an equal amount of luck you may also see foxes, deer, pumas, and viscachas.
The giant national park attracts campers, hikers, and mountain climbers. Myriad treks weave through the region, varying from fairly easy 1-day hikes to 20-day marathons. Within the park, you can head out on the popular Llanganuco–Santa Cruz Loop, a three- to five-day trek through mountain valleys, past crystalline lakes, and over a 4,750-meter-high (15,584-foot-high) pass. Other popular hikes include the one-day Lake Churup Trek, the two-day Quilcayhuanca–Cayesh trek, and the two-day Ishinca Trek. Check with guide agencies in Huaraz for maps, trail information, and insider advice before heading out.
Although experienced hikers who know how to survive in harsh mountain conditions may want to head out on their own, it's much safer to arrange for a guide in Huaraz. You can opt to have donkeys or llamas carry the heavy stuff, leaving you with just a daypack. The most common ailments on these treks are sore feet and altitude sickness. Wear comfortable hiking shoes that have already been broken in, and take the proper precautions to avoid altitude sickness (drink lots of water, avoid prolonged exposure to the sun, and allow yourself time to acclimatize before you head out). The best time to go trekking is during the dry season, which runs May through September. July and August are the driest months, though dry season doesn't mean a lack of rain or even snow, so dress appropriately.
Some hikers decide to enter the park at night to avoid paying the hefty S/65 for a multiday pass (from 2 to 30 days), but the money from these fees goes to protect the wonders of the Andes; consider this before you slip in during the dead of night (nighttime safety is a concern, too). You can purchase a pass at the Huaraz office of Parque Nacional Huascarán, at the corner of Rosas and Federico Sal, as well as at Llanganuco. Be sure to carry a copy of your passport with you.
Huaraz office of Parque Nacional Huascarán, Rosas 555 and Federico Sal, Peru
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