OverviewRapagna Lagoon is located in the Sierra East of Lima, between San Mateo de Huanchor and Casapalca, close to Ticlio. It is a beautiful and quite wild place surrounded by snowy peaks that can be visited fairly fast from Lima. It is a great aclimatization trail if you are staying a couple of days in Lima before going to Huaraz or if you simply are stuck in Lima without much to do during the weekend.
Hikers and climbers from Lima go to Rapagna very often but in small groups so the trail is never too crowded, most often you'll have the place all for yourself crossing paths only with Don Carlos, the owner of the cattle you'll see sometimes (sheeps, cows and llamas).
If you are lucky, you can get to see condors, vizcachas and foxes. The zone has a local population of cougars but chances of seeing one are close to zero.
Getting ThereFairly easy to reach, you can go either driving or using public transportation.
If you go driving it is all paved road from Lima. Only have to take the "Carretera Central" that goes to Huancayo and pass the road towns of Chosica, Matucana and San Mateo. Reach the train station of Río Blanco (km 110) and find the trailhead after the U turn in Río Blanco. You can park your car next to the bus stop close to the trailhead. The drive from Lima takes 3 hours as it is a very steep road.
An alternative if you don't have a car or don't want to rent one is to take a "colectivo" from Lima to Chosica, a bus from Chosica to San Mateo and a secon "colectivo" from San Mateo to Rio Blanco. This takes 4-5 hours and makes it tough to go back to Lima the same day so people taking public transportation usually spend the night in San Mateo (this is good for aclimatization as San Mateo is at 10,500 feet) and leave early for Rio Blanco.
If you stay in San Mateo, a good (and only decent) place to stay is Hostal Las Americas. The place is convenient as it has a mini market across the road where you can buy supplies for the hike.
Route DescriptionFrom Río Blanco (11500 feet elev.) follow the Copa Ravine and take the road that ascends doing switchbacks to the right of the river. Do this until you encounter a sort of small house and the trail becomes flat. Very hard to get lost here. 200 meters after the small house take a left instead of going straight.
Eventually there is going to be a small bridge that crosses a river coming from the Atacra ravine (right from here), a different and longer route to Rapagna with a pass of over 16400 feet.
The normal route here is continuing to the left instead of the right, (the ravine name is Chueco after the bridge) eventually you'll find a small boulder field and a second bridge crossing the Chueco river. You need to go up by the left side of what looks like a rock dam but is only a natural rock formation.
Once you pass that part, you'll fin a thrid bridge and to the left of the "Quebrada" you'll see the final part of the trail, a steeper section that is quite challenging as it is over 13,000 feet.
There is almost no trail but taking the right side is the way to go.
Finally you'll reach a flat section and will see a sort of corridor to the left with steps that lead to Rapagna. First timers are always pleased with this view as the Lagoon remains hidden until the very last moment.
If you go during the Sothern Hemisphere Summer expect rain in the lower sections and hail in the upper parts during the afternoon. Expect also thick fog in the afternoon that makes the return specially interesting.
The rest of the year it is very sunny although if you arrive early it will be windy and around 25°F until the sun appears.
The whole route can be done in five hours 3 up to Rapagna and 2 to go back. More realistic is 5-6 hours to hike up and 3 hours to descend. So 8-9 hours total. Whole trip is 14km and 1000m elevation gain.
Essential GearAs it is not that cold during the day won't need more than:
First polypro/Capilene layer
Softshell (a Rainproof/breathable if going on Nov-Mar)
No need for boots can use hiking shoes.
light windproof gloves
GPS (if it gets foggy you won't see past your nose)
There is water almost everywhere in the route but also cattle. If planning to use stream water bring iodine/filter.