Saturday, August 4, 2012

8/3/12: Salkantay Trek & Machu Picchu

Whew, it has been a while since my last post!  I'm sure that all of you viewers (well, it's debatable) have been missing BTR.

I'll send over more of a running update soon, but first I am long overdue to post pictures from our trek in Peru.  We took over 1,000 pictures, so it took no small amount of time to whittle this down to something close to reasonable.

We covered about 35-40 miles over 4 days hiking to Machu Picchu.  We opted for an alternate trek called the Salkantay route.  The basic comparison to the Inca trail is that it was more scenic, much less crowded, had some awesome trail instead of stone steps, but had fewer ruins along the way. 

We really could not have had more fun.  There were 9 of us in all, and it was so much fun sharing some great trail with great friends.  Thanks so much to Roz, JT, Mark, Lauren, Alma, Dylan, and Hillary for joining us and making the trip all the more memorable. 

Starting the hike a little under 11,000 feet.  Looking serious and ready to get this thing going.  Excellent sunscreen application, Dylan.

At the start of the hike we had our first "big mountain" view.  This is Humentay and is a bit under 20,000 feet.  It was quite the imposing and awesome sight.

Jen and I all geared up and ready to hit it.

Humentay in the distance with the surrounding mountains and valley in the middle

Making our way closer to Humentay.  Our camp the first night would be right at the base of the mountain.

I promise that you have never seen a happier guy

The sun was strong up at high altitude, and it was really comfortable hiking weather.

At the base of the mountian, you can just make out a few buildings that were close to our campsite.

Close up view of Humentay.  It was insanely awesome.  That night there was a full moon, and I can't describe how beautiful it was to see the moon reflecting off the snow to light up the whole mountain.  Unfortunately that kind of thing doesn't come out in pictures, but I will never forget it.

To the left is the tail end of Humentay, and the middle is our first view of Salkantay.  Salkantay is an even bigger mountain at over 20,000 feet.  I was amazed to find it was even more picturesque than Humentay, and we spent more than a day with great views of this mountain.

This is the beginning of Day 2.  We camped at just under 13,000 feet the night before, which meant it was cold!  This was the start of the climb to the Salkantay pass up at 15,500 feet, which was the highest point of the hike.

Still pretty chiilly at this point, but it was really beautiful on this part of the hike up above the treeline.

Behind us is some high tundra and a crater that was left after a massive avalanche from Salkantay.

We are approaching Salkantay here.  The rubble is one bank of the avalanche crater.

Valley before the final push up to the pass

The trail up to the pass

Salkantay has these huge glaciers, one of which you can see at the middle right of this picture

This is a great view of the avalanche crater.  It was huge!

We were lucky to have a pretty clear day and some blue sky

After we hit the high point at 15,500, our guide took us on a detour over a rockfield and closer to Salkantay.  He told us there was a surprise waiting, and we were greeted with clouds and fog.  Our fearless leader told us to be patient though, and after a little while we were rewarded with a stunning view of this high altitude glacial-runoff lake.

Right at the base of Salkantay with a good view of glaciers.  We were "treated" to seeing a small avalanche while standing here.

Jen and I above "Lake Surprise"

We started a loooong descent from 15,500 (ultimately we made our way back down to 6,000 feet).  One the way down, we had some more beautiful views of high apline tundra with big mountains in the background.

This was right by our lunch spot on day two, which was in a valley at about 13,500 between some big mountains.  It's a tough life, but someone's gotta do it.

As we descended down after lunch, we started to enter the high altitude jungle

This is the very beginning of day 3, which started off hiking across some great waterfalls

Most of day 3 was following a glacial-runoff river down further into the high jungle

You can see everbody snaking down the trail to cross a small, rickety bridge.
It was back to being warm again at the lower altitudes, and we passed a few big waterfalls like this one

Now we are towards the end of day 3, which finished with a flat hike alongside a river that took us around Machu Picchu from about 2,000 below.  We would be hiking those 2,000 feet at 4:30am the next day.

This is a view on the hike up to Machu Picchu right around dawn.

A little sleepy, but we made it to Machu Picchu!  It was all we could have hoped for and more.

The river way down below is where we hiked up from in the morning

They give out a relatively small number of permits each day to climb a mountain right by Machu Picchu (Huaynapicchu).  Of course I could not pass that up.  It was a little over 1,000 feet and was insanely steep.  Basically it was a rock scramble most of the way.  This is a view looking down at Machu Picchu from part way up.


Barb L. said...

How beautiful! I love your pictures.

Salkantay said...

Salkantay Trek is the alternative to the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu was recently named among the 25 best Treks in the World, by National Geographic Adventure Travel Magazine.