Lakes Churup and Churupito

Lakes Churup (4,480 m asl) and Churupito (4,580 m asl) are located in the Churup valley embedded into the west-facing slopes of the central Cordillera Blanca massif. The formation of both these lakes is associated with glacial activity – larger Lake Churup fills the depression carved by repeated cycles of glacier re-advances in the deep past, while smaller Lake Churupito is dammed by moraine material deposited by the glacier during its last advance, so called Little Ice Age (LIA) terminating in the second half of 19th Century.

Fig. 1: Upstream located moraine-dammed Lake Churupito and downstream located bedrock-dammed Lake Churup as seen from SW-facing slopes of Nevado Churup.

This glacier originates on SW-facing slopes of Nevado Churup (5,495 m asl) and underwent evident retreat since its maximum extent during the LIA. While the LIA extent was reconstructed being 1.05 ± 0.1 km2, this number dropped to 0.63 km2 in 1948, 0.49 km2 in 1986 and 0.18 km2 in 1995. Current extent of glacierised area is less than 0.05 km2.

Fig. 2: Lake Churup and the whitish peak of Nevado Churup (5,495 m asl) with remaining glacier (in 2015) as seen from the dam of Lake Churup. Lake Churupito is located behind the moraine visible in the centre of the image.

Being located just 1 hour bus ride + 4 hours walk from regional capital Huaráz, both lakes have attracted increasing attention of tourists and have became a popular visiting spot during the past years. Climate change-induced glacier retreat, however, changes the landscape of the Cordillera Blanca in a way that future generations will likely not enjoy the panoramic view of the whitish peak towering high above the mirroring lake water level.

Further reading: Emmer, A., Juřicová, A., Veettil, B.K. (2019). Glacier retreat, rock weathering and the growth of lichens in the Churup Valley, Peruvian Tropical Andes. Journal of Mountain Science, not yet assigned to an issue.

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