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Trekking through the Andes Mountains in Peru

Andes Mountain Summit at around 4,800m/15,700ft

It was September 2018 when I received an e-mail from my trekking company regarding my meet up location in Cusco, Peru prior to the four day trek through the Andes Mountains. I was excited, but anxious because I did not know what to expect. From the extensive research I did prior to this trip, I discovered that the hike through the Andes Mountains is very difficult to the high elevation, remoteness, and elevation changes. I spent much of my time hiking mountains at sea level for my job, but never anything as extreme as the Andes Mountains. I had been to the peak of the Swiss Alps before at a little over 10,000 feet, but did not have to hike up there.

Around one month before the trip, I badly sprained my knee while training Jiu Jitsu. Unfortunately I did not get to train well enough for the strenuous mountains in Peru and it definitely showed. Having experienced those tremendous struggles left me with important lessons learned for any trips in the future. In this blog post today I am going to discuss my packing list, details of the trek, tips/advice for trekking or traveling to Peru, and highlighting some of the Sherpas and porters encountered.

My Gear Setup for Peru Trek

This is just an idea of gear that I brought with me for my Peru trek. It obviously can vary depending on time of year, but I went in September which is one of the best times to go to Peru. The

weather for the most part wasn't too cold with snow, but there were portions that got snowy and wet from rain. You have to be prepared for all types of conditions and research the weather. I purchased a KUIU bag and sleeping bag set up because I know it's an awesome company for hunting gear and focuses on lightweight, but good quality equipment. I know I wanted light gear because a heavy bag absolutely makes a difference when trekking. I also bought some lightweight carbon trekking poles that definitely help when going downhill or climbing up. Try to preserve the load on your limbs while hiking long distances. If you have any questions about specific gear here, feel free to send me a message.

First photo from beginning of the trek

The trek started out with a gradual increase in elevation from a dirt road in a nearby town. We walked for a few miles slowly uphill until we got immersed in the mountain ranges away from civilization. The photo I took from above was next to the trail leading into the mountains. Our guides informed us this would be the last time we have any sort of cell signal in the mountains for a few days. I took this photo to symbolize the beginning of this journey I was embarking on as well as showing the layering of rock formations that the Incans were known to make.

First day of the trek

Prior to the trek, I had only spent one day in Cusco at high elevation (11,200 ft) to try to acclimatize. I did not take any Dramamine before getting to Peru. The first day I was sick between vomiting and diarrhea non-stop. Everyone adjusts to altitude differently, but in the future I would probably spend a couple days at high altitude before attempting a challenging trek. The first day was very challenging to say the least mainly because of the altitude. I have done plenty of hiking and mountain climbing before, but not at altitude. If you are going to climb a high mountain, I recommend training at altitude to get used to the lower oxygen levels.

One of the porters at the summit on Day 1. Older man with only sandals on. Legend

On day 1, I hit a wall on the way up to the steepest part of the trek and highest point of the summit. At the beginning of the trek it was warmer so I wore shorts and not as many layers. However, on the way up to the summit it began to much cooler and I was hit with freezing rain/ice. The steep elevation, cold temperatures, and altitude began to affect me to the point where I felt the walls closing in and I was going to pass out. I was afraid that I was at the early stages of Hypothermia, which out in those mountains could be deadly. The location I was at was very remote and steep which would make an extraction very difficult. I began to have thoughts of what my family would think if I died on the mountain that day and saw my life flash before my eyes. I focused very intensely on making it to the summit and continued little by little with controlling my breathing and heart rate. Eventually, I made it to the summit and conquered another moment in my life where I felt death could have been imminent. We took some photos from the top of the summit and slowly climbed down on the north side of the peak to our camp 1 nearby.

Brushing my teeth at Camp 1

I spent the night at Camp 1 and was up early to continue on with the trek to Camp 2. It was a little difficult sleeping at the altitude since the temperatures were cold and your digestion slows down, but I was ready to go the next day. Day 2 was not as intense of a hike as Day 1. We continued on through the Andes Mountains through many hills and mountain side cliffs. Here are some of the shots from Day 2:

As we reached Camp 2, our group went through a small village of Andean people. These people have lived in the mountains for thousands of years. We spoke with an elderly woman who was living there with her husband. She told us that her husband hikes several miles every weekend to go to a nearby town for the items that can't supply on their own through farming and livestock. She was living in a small cottage made of stone, with a fireplace and bed. It was intriguing to see that she did not have a floor in her cottage, just a small rug on dirt ground. When we asked about this, she said her people want to be as close to the earth as possible that is why there is no floor. It was pretty amazing to see how she was living in the mountains. We passed through and spent the night at Camp 2.

Morning view from Camp 2

I woke up the next morning ready to continue onto the trek to Camp 3. The porters throughout the trek were amazing, having provided good quality food to keep us energized. Today's hike stayed at the relatively same elevation so it was not too difficult. We continued on until we reached Camp 3 along a nice river, when some fog and rain came in. However, we were at the safety of our tents for the night.

The final day of the trek was warm and beautiful. We spent several hours descending through the mountain on various cliffs and bridges. The scenery as you can see above was absolutely stunning. Utilizing trekking poles is especially good when going downhill since you can preserve the load on your knees and joints. I was feeling good and excited to see Machu Picchu once we got to the ending point.

The finish line where the bus was waiting with Inca Cola

We reached the end of the four day trek. It was very challenging at times, but overall absolutely incredible scenery. I felt a great sense of accomplishment given the events that unfolded on day 1. I believe that the trek taught me a lot about my limits and how to properly train for the next time. Life is all about experiences and learning from them. I now pass on this information to anyone who wants to trek or go to Peru. I will attach my trekking company's route plan below. This hike is through the Andes Mountains to avoid the overpopulated Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Although we didn't hike directly into Machu Picchu, I preferred the isolation and scenery much more. This hike was also more challenging than the standard Inca Trail. Once we got on the bus, we went to a nearby hotel and saw Machu Picchu the next day. My specific time windows on the days may be a little off, but that is why I'll attach the route:

Of course after the trek was over, we celebrated the right way with food and Pisco. We all got absolutely hammered and I've attached some photos to document that as well!

Thanks for reading and reach out to me if you have any questions about trekking or any trips you may be planning to Peru. Subscribe to the blog for future content!

Train hard. Train often. Train to win.

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