After a brutal first morning in the mountains full of headaches and sore bodies we finished licking our wounds and marched off towards Laguna Grande. This leg of the trek would be the most mellow and our out of practice bodies were thankful for it.
The morning was an easy climb along a side hill as we gained elevation to the alpine lake, and while the weather was cool with light clouds we could see a more threatening system in distance. We had heard that it was typical for bad weather to roll in for the late afternoon and clear in the evening. This would prove true everyday. When we crested the ridge and found Laguna Grande in view a thick fog began to engulf the landscape. The lake was much bigger than I expected, and the towering peaks to the west and waterfall to the east made for a dramatic sight.
We gave a little hustle down to the lake and quickly unpacked our gear and set up camp. Just as we finished the clouds burst and a hailstorm rained down on us. The hail wasn't intimidating and while it faded we suited up in our rain gear and headed out to explore. The views from the eastern edge of the lake were incredible with a low hanging sea of fog hiding the Amazon bellow. By the time we headed back to camp the storm cleared. We made a quick meal of tuna and pasta as we watched the sun drop behind 17,000 foot peaks and felt the temperature drop with it. With the cold firmly settled in for the night we all retreated to our tents and crashed out.
After an awesome sleep in comparison to the night before, we woke at 5:30 to catch the sunrise over the Amazon basin. A sight that neither of us will ever forget, and wished we could have shared with our loved ones back at home.
While cup of instant coffee and a snickers bar got our bodies jumpstarted and stoked for the day ahead the light was transforming our surroundings. From one minute to the next, the colors of the rocks and the landscape jumped all over the place. From cold greys to warm salmons the colors would shift.
The route is very primitive with little to no trail marking the way, and the landscape surrounding Laguna Grande is all rock. We picked our way through the terrain, getting perched on a couple cliffs, but eventually reaching the north end of the lake. There we found a nicely broken in trail that took us up a little bit and then dropped down into the next valley. A little ways down it met up with some water flowing from the glaciers above and shared the course for a bit. The stream was crystal clear and incredibly inviting. Before tackling the next pass we all took a minute to soak our feet and fill our bottles.
What we thought was our final pass for the day turned out to be a false summit. Ahead of us was a drop to a faint line of a trail mid way up a scree slope and another big pass. Bummer. We considered camping, but with no water around we decided to push on to the planned destination at a cluster of lakes in the next valley. It was getting later in the afternoon and like the last two days the fog was starting to come in. If we got stuck in it, we would be fucked since we depended on good visibility to find the cairns that marked the way. Cairns, that proved to be nearly non-existent on the other side of the scree and leading up the pass. With a bit of luck and panic to our steps we raced up just in time to see the lakes bellow and wind our way down through the fog.
Once down, we were especially beat and the cold damp atmosphere wasn't helping. Some warm food and a cup of hot chocolate put the shivers to rest just long enough to enjoy a quick break in the clouds. A break that released some amazing views of our dynamic surroundings. It was awesome to see mountain tops poke through holes in the clouds around us and then come fully into view, only to be gobbled back up by the fog.
The long day and chilly fog ridden resting spot put us all in our sleeping bags before night fall, curled up with hopes of sound sleep and sunny skies come morning.