Day 1: Soraypampa - El Passo - Huaracmachay

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Start:         08:30 - Soraypampa (3,850m / 12,600ft)
     POI:       10:30 - Salkantaypampa (4,100m / 13,500ft)
     POI:       13:00 - Soyrococha
     POI:       14:10 - Abra Salkantay / El Passo (4,600-4,800m / 15,100-15,700ft)
End:           16:15 - Huayracmachay*** (3,800m / 12,500ft)
Hike:         Shallow turning steep ascent most of the day until El Passo; then a descent.
                   Cold, windy, humid conditions above 13,000ft.
                   Below freezing temperatures after sunset.
                   High potential for altitude sickness.
                   This is the hardest day of the trek due to steep accent, altitude, weather, and weight.

08:30   Soraypampa (3,850m / 12,600ft)

Start of the hike was very pleasant - sunlit pastures, birds chirping, men and horses passing you on the wide trail. For the first time you feel the 4-day backpack on your shoulders and immediately wish you could stop for a very hearty lunch to get some of that weight off. The trail is mostly flat, although even now we could feel 12,600 ft. The trail begins a slight ascent shortly.

*** At this time we were walking on the right side of the creek/river that runs along the trail. You can see a similar trail on the left, but the two soon merge. Then they split again - keep LEFT to the Alternate Salkantay (trail to the right will eventually lead you to the Inka Trail).

10:30   Salkantaypampa (4,100m / 13,500ft)

Reached a wooden plaque that reads "SALKANTAYPAMPA   ALT. 3,800" with many hikers offering their own estimates of the actual elevation at around 4,100m (13,500ft). Considering that you've been going uphill for a while now this sounds right, this is also the elevation you will google for Salkantaypampa (or
Pampa(s) Salkantay, Salkantaycocha).

11:30   The rural road turns into a narrow trail and begins a seemingly never-ending zig-zag into the mountains. The higher you go the steeper it gets. I soon reached slower-than-snail pace while breathing like an (untrained) marathon runner.

11:55   If you are still observant at this point you may find a heart in the moss on your left.

12:00   We are finally done with the switchbacks. Looking down it's breathtaking (literally) to realize how high you have climbed in the past 1.5 hours. The ascent is far from over, however. The trail curves around the mountain and you are soon surrounded magnificent views of Nevado Salkantay on your right. It's getting colder and windier; the clouds are now just above your head.

13:00   Soyroccocha (4,200m / 13,500ft)

Finally, another wooden plaque reads:

13:05   Yanacocha lagoon (?)
Shortly after the sign you see a beautiful small lake on your right. I can only assume this is the Yanacocha lagoon.

Over the next hour we were getting closer and closer to the Salkantay Mountain. Suddenly, in the serene silence of the mountains we heard a very loud rumble, as if a helicopter was flying over our head. To our right - a powerful avalanche was rolling down the Salkantay glaciers.

14:10   Abra Salkantay / El Passo (4,600-4,800m / 15,100-15,700ft)
One last turn... and amidst the frigid clouds you see a festival of your accomplishment. Trail marker pyramids overwhelm this area surrounding a proud sign "ABRA SALKANTAY ALT. 4,800". You have just completed the toughest part of your journey. It's all downhill from here.

Reaching El Passo is an amazing feeling. At this moment you are the closest to the grand Salkantay mountain, to the clouds, and you are finally at the end of your accent and at the end of the hardest part of the trek. "The Pass" goes by many different names including Apacheta Pass, Salkantay Pass, High Pass, etc; but regardless of what you call it - you certainly will not miss it.

16:15   Huaracmachay*** (3,750-4,000m / 12,300-13,100ft)
On the descent past El Passo you can see the tiny village of Huayracmachay (or Huayrac, Huayra(c)pampa, Huayracpunko) ahead.
Unfortunately, the infamous Peruvian bacteria began a 2-day-long assault on my stomach and we had to stop about 30 minutes ahead of the Huayracmachay campsite for the night.***

Don't count on the dry season - anything can happen in the mountains. Rain started at 4:30PM and lasted for about an hour. Getting wet in these conditions - at 13,000ft with the sun setting - is NOT an option! Thankfully, the rain stopped and we were able to prepare a hot dinner.

The night temperature was about 25-28F. A hot water bottle at the bottom of the sleeping bag can certainly help you fall and stay asleep, but if you are prepared for the weather and have warm food in your stomach - you'll be fine. This was the coldest day - and the coldest night - of the trek.


Unknown said...

Thanks so much for sharing your experience. Will be doing the trek mid October. Was wondering what the temperature rating of your sleeping bag was, and was it warm enough!?

September 21, 2016 at 9:11 AM
Inka Trail Expeditions Peru said...

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December 15, 2016 at 2:48 AM
Equipo Imperios said...

Salkantay Trek is the alternative to the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu was recently named among the 25 best Treks in the World, by National Geographic Adventure Travel Magazine.

June 3, 2017 at 8:38 AM

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