Dead Woman's Pass
Ollantaytambo Travel Blog› entry 4 of 12 › view all entries
August 13th, 2009 – by: Linqueen
The mood of our group before departure was quite uneasy because we knew we would be completing the most difficult and exhausting day on the Inca Trail. At our campsite of Wayllabamba, the altitude is 10,137 feet, and after approximately five long hours of walking only up the mountain, we should arrive at the first pass, which has an altitude of 13,776 feet.
As we headed out a bit before seven in the morning, with our tightly packed bags strapped on our backs and our water bottles filled to the brim, we followed the left bank of the Llulluchayoo River until we reached Tres Piedres an hour later. The terrain on this portion of the trek wasn't too difficult, although the dirt path had turned to a muddy concoction after last night's rains, so we were hopeful that the rest of today's journey would prove to be similar in difficulty.
After a quick ten minute rest at Tres Piedres, our guide, Juan, let all of us continue at our own pace for the next section of the hike. We were told that the upcoming portion of the trek to Llulluchapaimpa would take about two hours to complete, we would climb approximately 1,700 feet, and that it would be a very difficult leg. Our guide suggested that we use a zig-zag pattern when climbing and that we take the time to enjoy the beautiful scenery around us as we climb, rather than focus on the pain! After leaving an impressive cloud forest and cascading waterfalls behind, we entered a steepening and shaded wooded area with knotted and twisting trees, babbling brooks, and layers of lush vegetation.
We were quite proud that it had taken us only an hour and fifteen minutes (although it was probably the most exhausting hour and fifteen minutes I had ever experienced) to reach this point, and that we were the first in our group to do so, but we were too physically exhausted to celebrate the milestone. Once the remainder of our group arrived, our porters set up a table, and a snack of popcorn and cheese sandwiches were served.
At about 10:30, we headed for the last uphill portion of today's torturous trek to the first pass, known as Dead Woman's Pass. Again, we were instructed to climb at our own pace and meet the group at the top.
When we finally reached the top of the pass, about an hour and a half after we left, we were absolutely exhausted. We slumped down on some rocks and awaited the arrival of some of our other group members. Unfortunately, while we awaited the additional forty minutes it took for everyone to reach the top of the pass, we were exposed to further painful Andean elements. In this case, we suffered due to the freezing winds and were forced to sit impatiently shivering, even though we had added layers, hats, and gloves. Once our entire group had reached the pass, one lady in tears, we posed for another group photo to celebrate the accomplishment.
One the descent from Dead Woman's Pass to our campsite, Pacamayo, the three of us went down incredibly quickly because we so badly wanted to get today's tiring trek behind us. We got so far ahead of any of our group members that we felt as though we were the only people in this open area of the Andes mountains. Although descending the mountain was significantly easier than ascending it was, our knees and ankles sure took a beating on the way down. Instead of a dirt road, we were carefully navigating our way down a rocky path with stone steps and rocks of various sizes. An hour after our descent began, at 1:40 in the afternoon, we arrived at our camp for lunch.
We spent the remainder of the day relaxing in our tent, in an attempt to give our poor, aching bodies a much-needed moment of rest. Dinner will be served in about an hour, at 6:30, and it will be then that we will learn about tomorrow's hike. However, since we can clearly see a steep trail leading from our campsite to the next pass, we are not expecting to hear any good news.
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