Walked distance : 13 miles
Differences in altitude of the day : 2,578 ft / 6,125 ft (quite a big descent)
Altitudes : 13,031 ft (at wake up) » 15,341 ft (summit) » 9,445 ft (night campsite)
Wake up at dawn. The night was terrible. 15/20ºF outside, and just 40ºF in the tent. So cold that Daniel told us to wait a few minutes outside our sleeping bag before going out, to get used to the temperature, if we had to go out during the night. Back in Montreal, before leaving, I had to make a decision between leaving with my photo equipment or hiking things. I chose to leave with a light and small sleeping bag, with a comfort zone limit at 40ºF. And I was at the comfort limit, for sure. A night to wake up every 20 minutes to try to warm my body up.
In a few words, the coldest night slept in a tent, almost the worst night of the journey (but another one has this title … I’ll tell you about it …).
I’m happy to hear the morning call of Geronimo, assistant chef, who knocks gently on our tents, “wake-up-wake-up-wake-up …” and offers us a hot mint tea as soon as he hears from us. Never been so happy to get a hot beverage just after waking up. It’s 4:30 a.m.
Packing up, emptying the tent, gathering our stuff, and the breakfast is ready on the table.
Everyone looks cold and groggy.
Thankfully, this morning, our chef has prepared us something special: pancakes! And there’s bread, butter, jam, tea, coffee, hot chocolate … too! It’s good for the mood .
We start walking before 6 a.m. Yay. It hurts a bit, but the sky is already clear and bright. It’s cold, but everybody is motivated by the ascension of the day: today, we’re gonna reach the highest point of the trek: 15, 341 ft.
Climbing up is really physical. The slope is steep, even sometime at 126% (~ 50°), steeper than the common stairs .
We arrive at our first break at 7o’c, Salkantaypampa, a small plateau down the glacier that lays at the bottom of the mountain.
3 hours after Salkantapampa, at 10 a.m., we arrive at the top: El Paso, Abra Salkantay, at the bottom of Salkantay mountain, 15,341 ft. high. The walk was quite difficult, but I was willing so much to arrive at the top that I walked fast and almost got there first. And from up there, the view is amazing: in the middle of two high peaks, we can see three valleys, the glacier, the jungle below, and the mountains covered in snow. Wow.
Picture with the group, little time to rest, and Daniel asks us to gather. He explains that this place, also part of the old Inca Trail (the old Inca road system, very large paths linking the cities of the Empire to transport goods and messages, and which goes today Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile … 25,000 miles of trails, it’s reaaaaly big …), is a particular spot on the trail. Whoever climbs up here, goes down as a better person. We’ll see that . Daniel also explains us how to thank the Salkantay for letting us come here. Almost like a war cry, we thank the summit in Quechua.
We then go back on our route, going down to the valley.
Lunch time at noon. Today, spaghetti! And pasta at 12,700 ft … is not “just” pasta .
It’s also time to get some rest. Little digestive nap for some, quick walk around for me. And looking up to the sky, I start to worry. Dark clouds are coming up. Let’s hope we won’t get wet.
No rain for us, it just falls not far from here, and we can start walking again. The path goes down … and down … and down … to the jungle. We remove hats and sweaters … here, tee-shirts and shorts are more comfortable, because the temperature goes up by 20° in a matter of minutes.
We walk down until our campsite, that we reach at 4:30 p.m. The day has been long, more than 10 hours walking.
Tonight, for the first time since we left Cusco, we can shower … with water from the river. In other words: COLD. Again. But we have to go over this, after two days walking, the shower is more than appreciated.
Dinner, little talk, and everyone’s in bed by 10. The night will be nicer than the last one, we’re now at 9,500 ft alt.