Heading up to Dead Womans Pass
We woke up early as we had a long day of walking ahead of us. The porters brought a bowl of hot water and some face cloths to our tent so we could freshen up. They also brought us a lovely cup of tea. After breakfast we had a group photo with the porters and we realised that there were actually two of them per guest! No wonder they were able to carry so much gear.
Today’s walk would begin with a long climb to Dead Woman’s pass (called Warmiwanusca) and was meant to be the most difficult day on the trail. The walk was steep from the outset and many of us were puffing very early on. We ascended through a lower forest via some steep steps before breaking through to the grassy hillsides once more. The climb got steeper and steeper and I kept trying the coca leaves but they were just getting sickly tasting.
Being a loving partner I decided at this point to leave my fiance of one week in the dust. I had a pace to keep! I knew I wouldn’t make it up if I didn’t keep moving. An orange from my snack bag helped to give me an energy boost. I walked with Sam for a bit and we made it to the top around the same time. The sense of relief and achievement was amazing! I looked back down the mountain to see if I could see Vikki and she was leaning against a wall throwing up. Oops! Celso was there though and helped her by pulling some metho out, pouring it into his hands, then slapped them together to create a kind of metho face spritzer that Vikki said seemed to help. I think the other girls were struggling too. The altitude was getting to all of us.
Dead Woman’s Pass
I wasn’t waiting too long for everyone to join us – it was only ten minutes or so. Vikki hugged the height marker when she reached it! 4215 meters up! There was such a wide range of ages doing the climb, from a twelve year old boy to some grey haired adventurers and everything in between. It was shear will that pulled everyone up that mountainside, the desire to go.
Heading down to Camp
Exhausted after the hell climb that was Dead Woman’s pass, Celso proceeded to tell us that each year folks run an Inca trail marathon and the record was around 3 and a half hours achieved by a porter. I don’t think any of us believed him at the time – it seemed impossible after what we had just been through. I have since learned all about trail running and ultra marathons and a web search shows that the record is real and still stands! Crazy!
It was around here that I internally started calling Celso by the new name “Cellphone” (yeah I’m childish) as he seemed to know all the spots on the mountain from which he could obtain reception and made a call every single time. After his call he told us to extend our walking poles for the climb down. We had all started appreciating our poles at this point and frankly I don’t think we could have done it without them.
The descent from Dead Womans Pass started with a very steep staircase with unevenly spaced steps. Celso pointed out the damage that was being done to the trail from the hiking poles and said that all poles now had to be rubber tipped to minimise the issue. We also passed by some ruins on the way to camp that functioned as a watchtower and fort.In a small cruelness we passed by and looked longingly at a campsite owned by another tour company. We just had to carry on walking!
We descended into the Pacaymayo Valley and camped at a most spectacular spot. We had passed a trout farm on the way and the porters had collected some fish for our evening meal. We watched the sunset over the mountains once more until the cold once again drove us into our tents. The photo’s below don’t even begin to grasp the beauty of the view. It was one of those” pinch me it can’t be real” moments. It was definitely worth the struggle to get there.