Inca Trek, June 23rd
We were all up early today to do the very thing that we have planned and trained for over the course of the last six months. We divided into two groups. Those of us that will hike the Inca Trail and those that will climb to the Sky Lodge.
Our trek group totals twelve. We were met early at the trail head by the twenty-one porters, two cooks and three guides that will support our trek up the mountain. Each of us has been limited to twelve pounds of gear that will go up the mountain on the backs of the porters. This includes our toiletries, sleeping bags and change of clothes.
In addition to our personal gear the porters will carry enough tents, sleeping pads, propane tanks for cooking our meals, pots and pans, and a four-day food and water supply. Our meals with be plant and protein based and our first night on the mountain our chef will prepare freshly caught trout from the cold water mountain streams of the area. Tomorrow breakfast will be omelettes and pancakes. We have been told from previous trek groups that the meals are amazing on the mountain.
Rony reminds us that our only job is to get up the mountain. Everything else will be done by the support crew. They will carry our gear, pitch our tents cook our meals.
We were greeted by a gentle breeze and sunny skies as we checked in at the trail head on the east side of the raging Urubamba River. The forecast says that the temperature will rise to 76 degrees Fahrenheit today and the extended four-day forecast calls for no rain, ideal weather conditions for the Inca Trail
The guard post at the trail head is similar to a border crossing. No one gets access to the trail with out their passport in-hand and their official government issued Inca permit. Once we clear the check point, one or two at a time, we cross the suspended bridge above the river that blows side to side due to the winds blowing though the canyon that has been carved out of the rocks by the white water of the Urubamba. Its like something out of an Indiana Jones movie.
We are feeling many different emotions; apprehension, gratefulness, excitement. We had parted ways with Kim and KrissAnn a day earlier and we asked if Rony would call them before we go on. He puts Kim on the speaker phone and she reminds us that as we walk the trail “to turn around and look at where we have come from. She tells us the view will be different then the view going up the mountain and that like in life, the view looking back is different and we will feel the win of our accomplishments.”
We will trek eight miles today parallel to the river. We begin at an altitude of 7000 feet. Today will be the easiest of the four days and tomorrow the most difficult with a climb to Dead Woman’s pass at 14,000 feet. Tomorrow the ascent is steep and the winds that blow through the mountain pass increase the trek’s difficulty, but that is tomorrow.
SkyLodge, June 23rd
Have you ever wanted to sleep in a Condor’s nest? A night in the sky lodge might be the closest you get to this experience. Situated 1200 feet above the floor of the Sacred Valley is a vertically hanging transparent capsule with a 300-degree view of the Andes. The pod is anchored into the side of a cliff and to get there you must first climb a 400 meter vertical mountain face on a via ferret, an Italian term for an iron path made of steel cables fixed to the mountainside, rebar steps and a series of ladders and wire bridges similar to tight ropes are suspended hundreds of feet above canyons below.
None of us had ever climbed before. The only thing securing us to the side of the mountain was the steel cable that we were clipped into as we ascended the mountain face. After being fitted into our gear and a review of safety protocol we began our two- hour ascent just before sunset. Adrenaline and fear propelled us up the mountain. They say going down the via ferrata is impossible so once you begin you are committed to climbing the distance. At the top, our guides also served as our cooks and made us a four-course dinner with wine before we were tucked in for the evening.
Leaving the pod at night is forbidden and in the space of a few hours as we tried to get some sleep we saw the sunset, the moon rise, and the sky above us filled with the constellations of the southern skies. In the morning we watched as the sun climbed into the sky over the mountain peaks and drank coffee and had breakfast before proceeding to a series of nine zip lines that would take us back to the floor of the sacred valley.
We agreed this was a once in a lifetime bucket list item and is not for the faint of hearing. We agreed our personal grit had been tested.