Inca Trail Day 2: Summitting Dead Woman’s Pass

Stopping for a quick celebration at the peak of Warmi Wanusca
Stopping for a quick celebration at the peak of Warmi Wanusca

As promised, Francisco and the porters knocked on our tent door on cue at 6am with “room service” aka warm water to wash with and hot coca tea.  I surprisingly had a sound night’s sleep, unlike the rest of Team UWS.  Since it was a full moon out last night, the stray dogs went into a crazy howling rampage which I completely missed out on in my deep slumber (this is of slight concern).  Apparently, the other two tents slept horribly in the morning, as they heard heavy rustling right next to their heads outside their tents.  Fearing the worst (bears), they huddled inside their tents, only to find in the morning that it was a donkey that was clobbering around, and had promptly taken a giant dump right in between their two tents.

Good morning indeed...the view outside of our tent
Good morning indeed…the view outside of our tent

We quickly gathered for breakfast inside the communal tent, which consisted of warm cinnamon porridge, toast, an omelette, and tea.  Thankfully, I felt much better rested and for that reason, I didn’t struggle as much through the much-hyped Day 2 as much as I’d feared.  The plan was to go 7 miles today, so while the distance wasn’t great it was the steep up/down hill climbs that would really challenge us and require a lot of energy.  We hit the road by around 7:45am (45 minutes behind schedule, whoops), went through another checkpoint for the “real” beginning to the Inca Trail, and from the start, it was all uphill.  Within a matter of 10 minutes, I’d already shed 3 layers and it wasn’t even 8am yet.  While we started off in dry, dusty terrain again, we soon entered layers of springs, waterfalls, and rainforest as we encountered ferns and thicker vegetation the higher up we went.  They gave us one short break that turned into a bit of a longer break, and from there we continued up up up.  Along the way, Francisco made the executive decision to have us stop for lunch, which wasn’t in the original plan (we were to power through with snacks and get to the campsite by 2pm as its high altitude would lead to much colder temps much earlier).  Though we weren’t happy about having to break momentum to stop and eat, and lost a good amount of time while waiting for the food to be prepared, it was probably in the best of interests to fuel up.  We had vegetable soup, quinoa salad (great for energy), and “meat.”  That was all Francisco said to describe it, despite us asking what kind of meat…as long as it wasn’t cuy, or guinea pig, a Peruvian delicacy, I was willing to try it…

Our morning hike.  These stairs were only the beginning of a long, long climb uphill.
Our morning hike. These stairs were only the beginning of a long, long climb uphill.
Steady as we go
Steady as we go
At least we had gorgeous scenery around us to take our minds off any knee pain
At least we had gorgeous scenery around us to take our minds off any knee pain
Bridge over a little stream
Bridge over a little stream

Photo Aug 20, 9 05 56 PM

This is pretty much what our first 4 hours looked like
This is pretty much what our first 4 hours looked like

Following lunch, we continued uphill some more.  When we asked Francisco if we were fast, medium, or slow, he responded with “um, medium slow…heh heh heh” which promptly gave us a swift kick to finish this leg strong and fast.  We got to the summit surprisingly faster than expected as a result, and boy was the view from atop incredible.  We were literally above the clouds!  All in all, we had climbed up 4000 feet so far to get to Warmi Wanusca (Dead Woman’s Pass), the highest point we’d go on the trail at 4200m/13700ft.

Continuing up to the summit.  If you look carefully, you can see the path we took on our way up the mountain, and even the site where we had lunch.
Continuing up to the summit. If you look carefully, you can see the path we took on our way up the mountain, and even the site where we had lunch.
Photo Aug 20, 12 49 35 AM
Snow-capped mountains in the distance…thankfully we never had to go THAT high up
Looking up towards the summit called Warmi Wanusca, which in Quechua meant "dead woman" because it looked like a reclining woman.
Looking up towards the summit called Warmi Wanusca, which in Quechua meant “dead woman” because it looked like a reclining woman.  Much to my relief it did not mean someone died here trying to reach the summit.
Final stretch up to the summit
Final stretch up to the summit
SUCCESS!
SUCCESS!  At 13,700 feet up, we were at the highest point on our trek.

On the backside of the summit was the long walk down.  The temperature dropped pretty suddenly as we descended 2 hours’ worth of steps downhill.  The other groups were ahead of us either because they were faster or because they skipped a lunch break, so it was quite peaceful having this part of the mountain to ourselves to enjoy.

Around 5:15 and 2300 feet later, we finally stumbled into camp at Paqaymayu (3500m/11480ft). This time, it was a shared campsite so while we had our own little area, we were in close proximity to all the other groups.  We got there just in time for “happy hour” (heh heh heh) which was fried wonton skins, popcorn, and hot chocolate.  Shortly thereafter, we had a dinner of chicken soup, drumsticks, and chocolate pudding, and then promptly passed right out afterwards by 8:30pm.

On the other side of the summit was the 4000 feet we had to walk back down
On the other side of the summit was the 2300 feet we had to walk back down
And, back down we go
And, back down we go
Giving you guys an idea of the endless steps down.  Thank goodness for those walking poles...
Giving you guys an idea of the endless steps down. Thank goodness for those walking poles…
We were treated to some really incredible scenery on our way back down
We were treated to some really incredible scenery on our way back down

Photo Aug 21, 5 54 37 AM

Coming back down below cloud level
Coming back down below cloud level, right around dusk

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