The Feat of the Climb of Huayna Picchu

Machu Picchu means “Big Mountain” and nearby is Huayna Picchu or “Little Mountain”. There are only 400 people a day -200 at 8am and 200 at 10am, allowed to climb Huayna Picchu, as opposed to an unlimited amount who can presently access Machu Picchu. In the booking of the trip, our travel agent must have gotten some erroneous information about her clients, since we were given the opportunity to climb it. Now, the day before when we were looking at it from M.P. we mentioned to Terry that we would be climbing it – “Are you crazy?” was her response – and a legitimate response it was. As you view it from a distance, it does appear to be quite vertical and easy to fall off.

Nevertheless, a spectacularly clear and warm Thursday morning found us at the 2nd control centre signing in for our opportunity of a lifetime. In the line of eager participants in this folly were us, and 196 people between the ages of 20 and 40. As we looked around, I am confident that we were all quietly echoing Terry’s sentiments from the day before.

When we were in Portugal, it always seemed that we had to go down in order to go up, to go right in order to go left. Climbing Huayna was the same. Now when you are looking up and see how high you have to go in the next hour and a half, it is disconcerting that the first 5 to 10 minutes you go down. This is problematic for two reasons. 1. You have to climb that distance again just to get back to the elevation you started from and 2. in the back of your mind as you climb up and up and up is the realization that when you come back down from the peak, you still have to go up in order to finish.

Some information about Huayna Picchu:

1. The elevation is 8835 feet which is approximately half the elevation of Machu Picchu mountain itself

2. It takes roughly 2100 steps to cover the 850 feet to the top from the “village” of Machu Picchu where most people go.

3. No two steps seem to be the same height. They range from perhaps 6″ to 14″ or 15″.

4. There are many places where cables have been installed to hold onto as you go up.

5. There is no safety netting.

6. In many areas the rocks are quite slippery.

7. One section of the steps are nicknamed “The Death Steps”. Luckily they are in the section that is separated into “one way” only. There would be nowhere to go if someone was coming down while you were going up.

8. It took us 1:30 to get to the top – apparently the Incans used to have races to the top. Now, although the Incans didn’t have stopwatches, we were told one did it in 15 minutes.

9. We couldn’t believe how they could have carried the stones up to build all those steps.

10. The view was absolutely spectacular.

11. It was the most challenging physical endeavour any of us had ever done and man are we proud of ourselves.

The photos which need no words, but I’ll supply some anyway.

From a distance, on a spectacular day, it doesn’t look like much does it.

All full of vim and vinegar – at least before the start.

Yes, that’s where we’re going.

How daunting is it? Look carefully on the left side, about half way up – which really is only about 1/4 of the way. There is someone in a blue shirt on his – or her – way up.

Some of the good steps…

…the not so good steps…(Note the steel cable rail and Terry at the top)…

…and a section of the aforementioned “Death Stairs” and, believe me this doesn’t do them justice.

Two guys with a little less vim – and no vinegar!

This is actually a cruel joke since even though it seems you are at the top, you aren’t.

Looking down from almost the top to where the above sign is.

Okay we have “Reached for the Top” and there’s no vim left either.

Now, it is a little sketchy up there, and although it was quite safe, neither Terry nor Lynne wanted to sit on the rock for the photo op.

Looking back down on the village.

The views were truly spectacular.

A view of the road up with ten of the 13 hairpin turns. The peak is the top of Machu Picchu Mountain. I know that’s redundant, but it differentiates it from the village.

Photographic evidence that we all did reach the top.

(Apparently, climbing 2100 steps does not help one’s waistline)

The path down leads through this very narrow choke point. You can just see a yellow backpack about to enter the passageway.

The Incas built it in order to ensure no army could get through anymore than one at a time.

And at the bottom. Tired? Who’s tired? One of the women in the background came up to Terry to see if everything was all right. She said Terry was looking very worried. We think she was likely a nurse. Very nice of her.

By the time we got back down all we wanted to do was to catch the bus down to Agua Calientes and have a beer which is exactly what we did. Unfortunately we also had to wait for about 2 1/2 hours for the train to take us on a 1 1/2 hour ride back to Ollantaytambo where we got on the bus for the 2 hour ride back to Cusco. On the train they put on a cultural dance for us, followed by a fashion show – I kid you not, of clothing we could purchase. Please forgive the 2 cameo appearances.

And tired? Some of us slept right through the 10 minute dance and 10 minute fashion show despite the loud music, rhythmic clapping and caterwauling- yes caterwauling!

And trust me, despite how it may look, those little peepers were firmly closed.

Who among you believes in fate? Well, sitting across the aisle from us on the train were two couples. And with that I bid you adieu.

10 thoughts on “The Feat of the Climb of Huayna Picchu

  1. Lois & Robert Marsden certified CRAZY or DARING or ADVENTURESOME or CRAZY. Take your pick.
    What an accomplishment, for sure but one most of us would not take, so a pat on the back.
    Fascinating photos. Ta


    What an experience! As I asked earlier, how was the coming down? How are the knees? Who ever had a heart problem!!??

  3. Val

    Amazing and well! Have you had any altitude sickness? My friend is just back from this area and she said they all had some symptoms. Not enjoyable. Apparently they were on a tour and there were oxygen tanks on the bus during some of the trip. It looks like you are having a wonderful time and making more memories. Enjoy!

    1. Val

      Since I can’t edit the above post, the first sentence should read, “Amazing and well done!”

    2. ggwatt

      We have not had too much issue with the altitude, although we were all on medication. Lynne has had some problems but got over them.

  4. Ingrid

    Thank you for sharing your adventure and all the incredible photos. Kudos to all of you for making that difficult climb!


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