Huayna Picchu2701 meters (8,860 feet) mas y minos
You can climb it, insisted our guide you have spent a lot of money and made a long journey to see this place and now; you must climb to the top of Huayna Picchu!
How tall is it, we inquired and how many people have fallen?
Just over 2,700 meters, he smiled, and you will always remember the view!
Are you going to lead us, we quizzed if weshould decideto go tomorrow morning.and by the way, how many people did you say have fallen?
Not possible for me to join you, he said quietly, more visitors to escort around the ruinstomorrow!
How many people have fallen?
Be at the trailhead hut by 07:00," insisted our guide, "start your climb before the crowds arrive from Aguas Calienteand beforethe sun gets too high. You will make the summit and be rewarded for your efforts!
Has anyone fallen.recently.anyone?
* * * *So the challenge was issued and my question remained unanswered.
We sat in comfortable lounge chairs on the shaded grounds of the Orient-Express Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge and gazed at the mountain in front of us. All of my life, at least the portion which has included thinking about traveling in Peru, I had thought Machu Picchu was the famous peak in the background of these post card viewsbut now we learned this peak is actuallyHuayna Picchu.....and we're thinking about trying to climb to the top!
Ourguide has challenged us.actually me (as my wife is somewhat younger) to climb it. Hiking and trekking is mostlypleasurable, even at altitudes upwards of 10,000 12,000 - 15,000 feet.but "climbing" is another story. We had continued to fortify ourselves with Diamox daily, so altitude sickness has not taken a toll on our activities.
The average climbing time is 45 60 minutes, said the manager of the Sanctuary Lodge, depending on your level of fitness and the number of rest stops you take. Then most people spend a half hour or so at the top depending on the weather, visibility and whether they enjoy a picnic.......and thentake another hour and a halffor descending.
Decision made: We Climb!
I handed the manager the partially filled water bladder from my Camelbak day pack and asked her to keep it in their restaurant freezer overnight. I would fill the balance with fresh bottled water in the morning, since I already knew I would be huffing and puffing and thirsty for a cool drink, if I made the summit.
And so, at 06:45 the following morning, we stood with our hands resting on the ceremonial prayer rock just before the entrance of the trailhead hut, muttering please help us to any and all spirits lingering and listening.
After signing the climbers log at the gate, we started down the trail (which actually descends several hundred feet and zigzags along a narrow ridge before reaching the first gradual assent point. Other than the steep drops offs on both sides of the trail, the initial trek seems quite easy.
The morning air is cool, there is a thin mist shrouding the peak and the first sun rays have not yet begun to creep over out backs. This is the best time to begin the climb, we were assured by the manager of the Sanctuary Lodge.
We have been told the actual change in elevation is only about 1,000 feet between the starting point and the summitnot a great distance to hike or trek, but climbing would be different. The path to the top is a combination of original Inca trails and stone steps (with irregular rises ranging from 8 to 16). Attention to footing at this hour is important, since moisture is present and creates slippery conditions along the muddy path and especially on the stone steps.
The trail begins to assert its character and shortly becomes a continuous series of elevated switchbacks, with only a few terraced sections affording comfortable resting areas. At the steepest points along the trail, some crude handrails, sturdy rope handholds and a few steel cables have been installed (obviously a convenience added for the safety and security of the thousands of visitors who attempt the assault annually).
At no time during the assent were technical climbing or true "mountaineering"skills needed. The outing was mostly an exercise in balance, tenacity and attentiveness. It became a process of taking one step at a time and securing the next handhold before moving forward and upward.
Only four climbers passed us on the way to the top, but we did glace down once or twice and could see the stream of climbers beginning to enter the trail several hundred feet below.
Only a few feet short of the summit, a last bit of hand over hand effort is required to heft your hind side over a ledge (there is a handrail which makes the task less difficult) and then relief and reward. Almost 1,000 feet below and in the distance the morning sun is just beginning to cast long shadows across the terraces of Machu Picchu. The steady streams of buses are slowly making their way up the winding road from Aguas Caliente to deliver the daily tourists. Further in the distance we can make out the winding UrubambaRiver and the rail tracks leading back to Cusco.
We traded cameras with our fellow conquering climbers and took the requisite top of the rock photos. We drank our water, caught our breath, gobbled down our power bars and trail mix and bathed in our conquest of Huayna Picchu!
The decent takes just over one and one half hours and is filled with different challenges, mostly involving frequent stops and making roomto allow other climbers to pass. Of course, the most frequently asked questions from those coming up is, "how much further to the top and does it get any easier?"
"Oh, just catch your breath; it gets much easierahead and thesummit is just around the next bend and a few more steps up!"
In most casesyou are being untruthful, but isn't it true justice to encourage and subject the uninformed to the pain, abject fear and possibly once-in-a-lifetime experience you have just experienced?
Message Edited by omegaet on 11-25-2008 06:25 AMMessage Edited by omegaet on 02-21-2009 06:07 PM