After their first night on the mountain the trekkers rose to frost on the ground, a few aches and bruises from the previous day’s trek and the smell of steaming coffee. By 7 am they will have had breakfast and repack their gear for the tough ascent that lies ahead.

Today is the most challenging day on the trek, the reason they trained for months on their treadmill with a full pack on their back, the day they lost sleep over in advance of their arrival to Peru. They will climb over 4,500 vertical from their campsite at 9000 feet to 13,500 feet in 5- 6 hours. There won’t be a lot of dialog on the way up. They have a choice. Talk or breath. Their lungs don’t have the capacity for both.

On this day it’s all about you. You talk to yourself. Cuss at yourself. Question your sanity. Bargain with the devil. Occasionally shed a tear. You take a few steps and stop and lean on your walking stick and pretend you are taking in the view when in reality you a trying to stabilize your breath. Ten more steps and again you stop and take in the view. You repeat this over and over until you reach the summit known as Dead Woman’s Pass.

Having done the trail ten years ago I recall my pervasive thought on that day. Climbing to the summit is somehow analogous to childbirth. In the middle of the process you are trying to recall how and why you got to this point and tell God, NEVER AGAIN, but at the conclusion you assess what you have just accomplished and you smile and tell yourself “that wasn’t that bad.”

Over 300 trekkers ranging in age from 9 to 69 have completed the Inca Trail on behalf of the kids served by Smile Network. Each trekker made it to the summit with out assistance and successfully crossed the finish line at the Gate of the Sun.

Tomorrow we will climb up the backside of Machu Pichu to greet and surprise the trekkers. We can’t wait to share the stories. Stay tuned.