Two hours before the trekkers woke at dawn this morning, the guide company that will take them up the mountain was busy preparing breakfast. The entire group consists of 14 trekkers, 20 porters, 3 cooks and 2 guides.

The hard-working porters are from the countryside. They are simple farmers who supplement their income by working on the Inca Trail during the busy months. Their first language is Quechua, the official language of the Andes. Their work simply put, is back breaking.

After breakfast, the porters will break the tented-camp down, load and tie-on to their backs camping equipment, bedding, clothing, toiletries and a four-day supply of food and water for 32 people. As the trekkers set out on the trail, the porters will race by them to get to the second stop of the day where camp will be set-up and a warm lunch will be prepared from scratch over fires the porters have built. After everyone has been fed, they will break camp down one more time and run to the next campsite, erect tents, build fires and prepare dinner. It is physically strenuous exhausting work.

Today will be the toughest day of the climb. Depending on the fitness level of each trekker they will walk between 4 and 7 hours to reach Warmihuanusca, loosely translated “Dead Woman’s Pass,” which at 13,800 feet above sea level, this the highest elevation on the Classic Inca Trail.

The first to arrive at Dead Woman’s Pass will undoubtedly be the teenagers of the group and those most physically fit. Early arrivers will huddle to stay warm in the windy pass while they wait for the rear of the trek to join them. They will assemble for a group photo and then head down to Pacaymayu, at 12,000 feet in altitude where they will dine and sleep amongst the clouds tonight.