So long and thanks for all the ceviche!

It seems like forever ago that I wrote the first post of this blog. It was January and I was stuck in a traffic jam from Palm Springs to Phoenix, just days before setting off for South America. I had no idea how much the next several months would change me. I was incredibly nervous and questioning if I was even ready for the crazy endeavor I was about to take on.

Today, as I sit on the couch slowly adjusting back to the real world, I’m so thankful for the people who pushed me to start this blog. I was certain that these posts would only be read by a few close family members and friends but I’ve been overwhelmed by the feedback and support from the many people (friends and strangers) who have said that it inspired them in some way or another. It was tough at times to write these entries…often late into the night after an exhausting day or on long and brutal bus rides when I just wanted to take a nap or read a book. But now, as I look back on some of my earliest posts, I’m SO happy that I took the time to do this.

So much has happened in a relatively short amount of time and when I look back I’m reminded of the incredible people I met on my journey that helped make this experience truly life-changing. I’m reminded of the small details that would likely have been forgotten. I shiver as I’m brought back to the bitterly cold wee morning hours of some of my climbs. My heart starts racing as I relive the anxiety in some of my first few solo hikes after discovering I had lost my way. I’m taken back to the mountain-top ruins of Chachapoyas and the vibrant greens of the rolling mountains and valleys that surround the massive stone walls of the ancient city.

When I look back on this wild chapter of my life, I feel incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to visit some of the world’s most beautiful places. As I move into my next chapter, whatever that may be, I’ll treasure the memories of days spent hiking up and down the lush Andean mountainsides in Ecuador, walking along the mountain trails of the Cordillera Blanca with local village children, and wandering the old cobblestone streets of Arequipa. I’ll hold onto the unforgettable moments of summiting my first major Andean peak, catching sight of a giant Manta Ray in the Galápagos, and entering the gates of Machu Picchu after hiking for seven days. I laugh when people ask me to share the “highlight” or “best moment” of my trip…how could I possibly pick just one moment??

And while the places I visited were truly remarkable, this trip was about so much more than just those landscapes that literally took my breath away. I’ve mentioned in various blog posts certain individuals that made an impact on me in one way or another. The people I’ve met along this journey have opened my eyes to a myriad of new ideas and alternative lifestyles. I’ve been exposed to the purest forms of happiness displayed by villagers with little more than the shirts on their backs. I’ve learned that there are so many versions of a fulfilling life outside of the typical path that the majority of us as Americans strive for.

Thank you to Cristian and Verena, the paragliders from Colombia and Germany who I met early on while working at Sommerwind in Ecuador. They continue to inspire me by living out their passions, exemplifying an unwavering amount of generosity and kindness, and being total badasses. I’ve never felt as free as I did the day that we ran off the side of a mountain and flew over Laguna Yahuarcocha!

Thank you to Gerardo and his family, who graciously welcomed me into their hacienda when I arrived in tears after being lost for two days in the foothills of Cotopaxi. I don’t think they will ever know how grateful I was to have found them and for their hospitality. Gerardo and America’s little daughter is one of the happiest kids I’ve ever met. She spends her days chasing the chickens, playing with the puppies, and running around the family farm. She giggled at my broken spanish as she proudly marched me around the land, introducing me to the pigs and llamas. Their lives are the definition of simple. They have no electricity and they live hours from any sort of civilization. And yet, they seem perfectly happy and content with what they do have.

Thank you to Roberto, my Chimborazo guide, who pushed me harder (both mentally and physically) than I’ve ever been pushed before in order to reach the 20,743 ft summit. I had every card stacked against me: a fresh wound on my heel which required me to climb in just one crampon, an endless snowstorm with whiteout conditions and knee-high snow, and pretty severe altitude sickness that left me barely conscious at the top of the mountain. Yet somehow he got me to that summit and I’ll forever be thankful. He continues to inspire with me with his incredible climbing expeditions around the world.

Thank you to Mario, my superhero cook and horseman on my Ausangate trek. Mario was one of many amazing villagers that I had the pleasure of spending time with on this journey. Mario is a true Andean mountain man. He’s spent his entire life walking the mountain trails (always in sandals). He’s incredibly hard working, going above and beyond to ensure that we were comfortable and safe on our hike. His wife is an adorable traditional village lady who wears a big puffy skirt and a brightly colored floppy hat. She sells hand-woven alpaca garments to the trekkers passing through their village. Their son, who came to help out his father on the last day of our trek, mimics Mario’s every move. The pride and respect that he holds for his father is a beautiful thing. Mario and his family don’t have much but their undeniable work ethic and warm-heartedness is so moving.

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Life is short and the world is evolving is so many ways. I have so much to think about and consider as I transition back to the “real world,” but more than anything, I hope that I never lose sight of what’s important to me. While I surely may go back to some form of a typical “9-5” office job, my adventurous soul will always be a part of me. And while this walkabout indeed was a “trip of a lifetime,” I have no doubt that there will be other grand adventures in my life.

Last but not least, a huge thank you to all of my readers for keeping me accountable. Without you, I’m certain I would have given up writing these posts at some point along the way. The “where have you been?” and “when will you post the next one?” texts and Facebook messages I would receive made me want to pull my hair out at times. But it was heartwarming to know that I had a little fan group supporting me and following along on my adventure, especially during the tough times when I was just about ready to quit and come home.

And for those of you that were in some way or another inspired by my story, I truly hope you find the courage to take your own leap of faith. Challenge yourself, try new things, and get out and explore this beautiful world. Live you’re own adventure, you won’t regret it.

Although the time has come for this blog to end, my adventures never will. You can continue to follow me on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/annie.dube.7) and Instagram @mountaingoatgirl. Look out for photos from my most recent adventure, summiting Mont Blanc!

Adios amigos,

MGG

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An American, a Peruvian, and a Norwegian walk up to a mountain…

My South American journey was finally coming to an end. I planned to take it easy for a few days after returning to a rainy Cusco following my exhausting Machu Picchu trek. Unsurprisingly, after just one day off in the city I found myself on a bus with two strangers headed for Tinki, a small village in the foothills of massive 20,945 ft Ausangate. I couldn’t bear boarding a flight back to the states without one last grand adventure in the Andes! I would spend the next five days hiking around the base of Ausangate, the highest mountain in the Cusco region, in addition to tackling one of the surrounding peaks. And I was lucky enough to do it with my newfound dream team: Christian (a crazy Norwegian surfer who I got set up with in Cusco), Irma (an all-around badass Peruvian adventurer), and (Super) Mario (our amazing cook/horseman).

Ausangate is one of several 6,000m peaks within the impressive Cordillera Vilcanota of the Peruvian Andes. The sacred mountain holds great significance in Incan mythology. The mountain is considered to be holy to local Peruvians and has been a place of worship and offerings since pre-Inca times. Every year the Quyllur Rit’i (Quechua for “star snow”) festival attracts 10,000+ pilgrims to the mountain. Hiking around the base of Ausangate takes five days on a quiet trail known as “the road of the Apu Ausangate” and is the highest trek in Peru. The entirety of the trail never dips below 15,000 ft and requires climbing multiple passes above 17,000 ft through wild backcountry. The spectacular alpine lakes, herds of alpacas and vicuña, rainbow-colored sandstone mountains, and outstanding glacier vistas make the frigid cold nights and mornings well worth it.

Christian, Irma, and I began our hike in the small village of Pacchanta, just up the road from Tinki. Colorful village ladies were sprawled out in a golden field amongst the adobe houses with rows of hand-woven hats, sweaters, belts, and bracelets. Pacchanta is one of many llama and alpaca herding communities in the region around Ausangate and the herders use the high mountain trails to trade with agricultural communities at lower elevations. After purchasing some bracelets from the villagers, we had some lunch and began our journey up to our first campsite at the Nevado Jampa base camp.

On the way, we passed herds of grazing alpacas and beautiful blue-green glacial lagoons around the base of Ausangate. A storm was rolling in as we neared camp, making for a dramatic sunset behind the mountains. Light hail fell and the temperature dropped as I made my way into camp just after dusk. We quickly pitched our tents and changed into warm clothes while Mario prepared dinner. We sipped some Té Macho after dinner, a traditional cusqueño hot drink made of cinnamon, cloves, black tea, and cañazo (distilled cane alcohol).

Still bundled in all my layers and puffy jacket, I climbed into my sleeping bag and zipped it up all the way over my face. I rolled my Nalgene bottle filled with boiling water between my feet to try and warm up before drifting to sleep. A few hours later my alarm went off. We would be climbing Nevado Jampa that morning and needed to get going well before dawn (I lied in that last post about #13 being my last summit! 😉) I stayed in my sleeping bag as long as possible while getting ready and then had a quick breakfast before setting out.

After the previous stormy night, I wasn’t feeling too confident that the weather would hold out for our climb that morning. To my surprise we completely lucked out with perfectly clear skies and a beautiful sunrise on our climb up to the entrance of the glacier. We put on our crampons, roped up, and hiked up the glacier until we reached a rocky pass that required a bit of scrambling. Not long after, we made it to the summit at 18,040 ft which offered us an incredible panoramic view of Ausangate, the surrounding snow-capped peaks, and the turquoise lakes we had passed the previous day. We could even make out Salkantay over 200 km to the northwest.

After descending back down to camp for some lunch and a quick rest, we returned to the trail for the remainder of our Day 2 journey. We still had another four hour hike to Sura Pata, where we’d be camping that night. We crossed over Jampa pass and then hiked down into the green Pampa Jutunpata valley through herds of grazing alpacas, sheep, and llamas. We arrived at our second campsite just before dusk, where we pitched our tents outside a small hut with horses and alpacas on the backside of Ausangate. The mountains were painted gold by the setting sun. We ate dinner in the hut to try and shield ourselves from the cold before crawling into our tents after a very long day.

We packed up camp early on Day 3 to get an early start for the steep climb up to Palomani, the highest pass of the trek at 5,200m. I couldn’t feel my face, hands, or feet as we left the campsite but my spirits were lifted as I came upon a massive herd of white fluffy alpacas, each with a streak of blue on top of their head. I approached slowly trying not to frighten them and they sized me up curiously. I snapped some photos and then tried to catch up with Irma and Christian, who were now way up the trail. A villager stopped me to ask where I was going and then informed me that I was headed in the wrong direction. I didn’t want to backtrack so I scrambled up the steep slippery slope, struggling to breathe until I made it back to the dirt trail.

I passed by a small pack of mesmerizing vicuña further up the slope as the dusty trail began to flatten out with looming Ausangate close to my right. Irma and Christian were waiting for me at the pass where we were awarded with breathtaking views across the southeast mountain range. We descended down to Laguna Ausangate where we stopped for a quick break before continuing on to our next campsite, passing more herds of llamas and alpacas as well as some glimmering blue and green lakes. We arrived at camp mid-afternoon and took some time to relax, sipping tea and chatting before an early dinner.

The morning of Day 4 was even colder than the previous day, my body aching as all my extremities went numb while climbing up the switchbacks. I hustled once I could see the sun reaching parts of the trail ahead of me, finally regaining feeling as I soaked in the warmth of the rays. I reached the final pass of the trek, Arapa (4,850m) and enjoyed the final close-up view of stunning Ausangate. The rest of the day was a breeze with a gradual descent down to the village of Upis. Christian and I said our goodbyes to Irma who had to continue on to Cusco that day. We set up camp and then spent a few hours in the scorching hot thermal baths with a picture-perfect view of Ausangate in front of us.

The next morning, we packed up camp for the final time and continued down to our exit point, a village just a few kilometers away. Christian and I said our goodbyes to Mario and his son who had come to hike the final stretch with us before hopping on our private bus back to Cusco. And just like that I completed my final trek (#7) and summit (#14) of the trip!

Time to say ta ta for now to the Andes! 👋🏻🗻😢

MGG

Climbing to the top of Earth’s Ladder: Machu Picchu (Part 2)

“In the variety of its charms and the power of its spell, I know of no other place in the world which can compare with it.” -Hiram Bingham

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My alarm went off at 3 AM. I rolled out of bed, got dressed, finished packing my backpack, and rushed out the door. I speed walked for 15 minutes down the dirt road to the “control gate” just before the Machu Picchu trailhead. There were about 75 people already lined up at the gate. I snagged a spot in line behind a French couple who I had met at my hostel. We had about an hour to wait before the gate would open for us to climb the hundreds of steps up the mountain to the entrance to the park.

I ate a banana and chatted with the French couple while waiting for the time to pass. Eventually a security guard came by to check our tickets and passports and, shortly after, they opened the gate. What followed was nothing short of mad chaos. After crossing the bridge over the river, the crowd rushed toward the narrow entrance to the trail. We began climbing the steep stone Inca steps and, within a minute or so, it became apparent that this was not going to be a pleasant and cordial hike where I would make small talk with the other hikers. This was a race. Shirtless guys in short shorts began pushing past me and I tried to quicken my pace, my breathing becoming heavy and my quads on fire.

I made it to the top in about 45 minutes, completely drenched in sweat. I got in line for the entrance to the park, chugged some water, and waited 15 minutes for the guards to let us in. It began to drizzle and the brisk air quickly cooled me down. I passed through the gates seconds after the park opened at 6 AM, just as the darkness began to fade. A thick white fog engulfed the Inca citadel and I could barely make out the outline of the stone buildings in front of me. It was slightly spooky and splendidly mystical. I was wet and cold but nothing could wipe the grin off my face. I was finally walking through the magical lost city of Machu Picchu.

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I had an hour before the entrance to the Huayna Picchu trail opened. As I made my way through the first set of ruins, I spotted a pack of llamas grazing on the tiered terraces below. I stopped to say hello to the friendly bunch and an adorable baby alpaca before continuing through the park toward Huayna Picchu. The Inca city sits on a saddle-ridge between two peaks, Machu Picchu (Ancient Peak) and its sister mountain Huayna Picchu (Young Peak). Towering over the city to the north, the granite spike of Huayna Picchu is the original Inca path. Only 400 hundred people per day are allowed access to the steep and exposed path leading to the summit, which offers a birds-eye view of Machu Picchu. I had secured my spot more than three months in advance in order to be one of the lucky few to climb that morning.

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The rain picked up just before the guard opened the gate to the trail. I zipped up my rain jacket, signed my name on the trail roster, and up I went. After climbing many switchbacks through the wet jungle, the Inca steps began to narrow and steepen. Before long I was on all fours, climbing like a monkey through the clouds up the totally exposed staircase. It was quickly becoming apparent as to why people refer to this trail as the “Hike of Death.” I passed by ancient narrow terraces before reaching the temples at the peak.

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When I reached the summit, the clouds below were blocking any sort of view I was supposed to have of Machu Picchu. I was actually so disoriented that I couldn’t even make out which direction Machu Picchu should be. But it had finally stopped raining at least and I was confident that it would eventually clear up and turn into a beautiful morning. I found a ledge and sat down to rest, perfectly content to just relax and enjoy the moment after a hectic morning. It didn’t take long before the clouds began to lift and, little by little, the citadel came into view directly below me.

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Chills ran up my spine as I caught my first glimpse of the fabled city. It was magical moment, the culmination of my long and strenuous journey. Machu Picchu is a spectacular jewel, truly one of the greatest wonders on this planet. I must have sat there completely awestruck for nearly an hour. I watched as the park quickly began to fill up, crowds of tourists snaking through the stone paths and green grassy terraces.

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When Hiram Bingham discovered Machu Picchu in 1911, he was actually searching for the ruins of Vilcabamba, the remote stronghold of the last Incas. After further explorations over the following years, Bingham and archaeologists came to the conclusion that the Incas and Amerindians at the time of the Spanish Conquest did not know of Machu Picchu’s existence. Somehow the city had been abandoned (for reasons that remain unknown) and the memory of it was lost even to the Incas themselves. The only thing that is certain is that the whole settlement was built, occupied, and abandoned in the span of less than 100 years. It is estimated that the city had a permanent population of about 1,000 people and is believed to have been a site of spiritual and ceremonial significance, with important agricultural functions as well.

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An excerpt from Pablo Neruda’s “Alturas de Machu Picchu” after visiting the ruins in 1942 (translated by John Felstiner):

VI

Then on the ladder of the earth I climbed
through the lost jungle’s tortured thicket
up to you, Macchu Picchu.
High city of laddered stones,
at last the dwelling of what earth
never covered in vestments of sleep.
In you like two lines parallel,
the cradles of lightning and man
rocked in a wind of thorns.

Mother of stone, spume of condors.

High reef of the human dawn.

Spade lost in the primal sand.

This was the dwelling, this is the place:
here the broad grains of maize rose up
and fell again like red hail.

Here gold thread came off the vicuña
to clothe lovers, tombs, and mothers,
king and prayers and warriors.

Here men’s feet rested at night
next to the eagles’ feet, in the ravenous
high nests, and at dawn
they stepped with the thunder’s feet onto the thinning mists
and touched the soil and the stones
till they knew them come night or death.

I look at clothes and hands,
the trace of water in an echoing tub,
the wall brushed smooth by the touch of a face
that looked with my eyes at the lights of earth,
that oiled with my hands the vanished
beams: because everything, clothing, skin, jars,
words, wine, bread,
is gone, fallen to earth.

And the air came in with the touch
of lemon blossom over everyone sleeping:
a thousand years of air, months, weeks of air,
of blue wind and iron cordillera,
that were like gentle hurricane footsteps
polishing the lonely boundary of stone.

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MGG

5 Days to Starbucks: Machu Picchu Trek (Part 1)

I’ve dreamed about visiting the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu for as long as I can remember. I envisioned myself arriving at the Sun Gate (Inti Punko) in the wee hours of the morning, legs beat after five days of hiking the traditional “Inca Trail,” and overcome with joy as I looked upon the lost city of the Incas for the first time. This vision was crushed a few months back when I was informed that there were no more permits available to hike the Inca Trail until October 2017. Unfortunately, the Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu that became popular over the past 30 years has now been completely commercialized by the tourism industry in Cusco. Not only do you have to reserve a permit nearly a year in advance but the only way to hike the trail these days is with a guided group trek that costs ~$1,000+ per person.

After doing some research, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there are many other hiking trails throughout the region that lead to Machu Picchu. Some of these trails are now very popular alternatives to the Inca Trail while others offer more solitude. I also learned that there are many many Inca trails and some of them even cross paths with these other routes. I wasn’t so keen on taking one of the densely populated routes where I’d likely be hiking behind packs of mules. I opted to take a longer, more challenging route where I knew I’d be alone on the trail much of the time. This would be my longest solo hike to date and, while still a bit shaken up from my last solo backpacking trip in Ecuador, I was ready for the challenge.

…Or at least I thought I was until I finished packing my backpack and then tried to lift it. I’m guessing it weighed 30-35 pounds on the first day. The lightest tent I could find in town was about three kilos and I needed to bring 4-5 days worth of food (there would be a place to restock during the second half of the trek). I only carried two liters of water because I knew every campsite would have water available to filter and I’d be crossing rivers nearly everyday. I eliminated anything that I deemed unnecessary (like my gloves which I’d later regret) and hopped in a colectivo for the three hour drive to Cachora, the rural village where I would start hiking from the following morning. When I arrived in town I met Gabriela, another solo hiker from Peru, and a woman named Julie with her son (from New Mexico).

Cachora is the starting point for hiking to another Inca citadel, Choquequirao, Peru’s lesser known “lost city.” I would spend the first two days of my journey on the trail with the Choquequirao hikers and visit the ruins before continuing on my way to Machu Picchu. I was warned by many people in Cusco that I likely would not encounter any other hikers for the four days between leaving Choquequirao and the last day when I would finish my journey to Machu Picchu via one of the Inca trails. I was also warned that I would be hiking through puma and Andean bear country and I should be prepared with protection (solo hikers are vulnerable targets for pumas). Good thing my dad forced me to buy the ultra strong pepper spray before the trip.

I booked a room at the simple hostel Gabriela was staying in and, after wandering around town a bit and enjoying the views of the distant snow-capped peaks, I had dinner with the three other hikers (at the only restaurant in town). The next morning I caught a ride to the trailhead, 13 km up a dirt road from Cachora. I arrived at the Capuliyoc Mirador around 7 AM, just as the sun rose above the mountains. I began the steep 1,500m descent into Apurímac Canyon, the temperature rising with every step, all the way down to the Apurímac River. The warmer temps also brought out swarms of mosquitoes, leaving my legs completely covered in bites by the end of the day.

That afternoon I eventually met up with Gabriela and her porter, Enrique (a villager from Cachora), who helped me with my load for the ascent up the dusty switchbacks to our first campsite, Santa Rosa Alta. Gabriela and I set up our tents on the picturesque property of the woman who lives there and then cooked our dinners before heading to bed, totally exhausted. The next morning we ate breakfast and continued our steep 13 km climb up to the ruins of Choquequirao, the landscape becoming ever more green. We passed through the remote town of Marampata, where we stopped for a break and drank some mate (coca tea). We continued on a gradual path the rest of the way to Choquequirao, set in the high-altitude jungle at 3,050m.

After setting up camp within the park and having a quick lunch, Gabriela and I spent the remainder of the afternoon wandering the ruins. First we visited the lower section, tumbling agricultural terraces carved into the side of the mountain with sweeping views of the lush green valley and surrounding mountains. Choquequirao (meaning “cradle of gold” in Quechua) is three times the size of Machu Picchu and is sprawled across three hilltops and 12 sectors. The purpose of the hidden city remains unknown and archaeologists believe that they’ve only excavated about 30% of it. Due to the grueling four-day journey required to visit the complex (two days each way), only a dozen visitors enter the park per day on average, and therefore it offers much more solitude than Machu Picchu.

After visiting the terraces, we climbed up to the main plaza, only stopping for a few minutes before descending down the other side of the mountain to catch the sunset at one of the most iconic sectors of the park. A series of white mosaic llamas are decorated onto the hillside grey stone terraces. As the sun sank low in the sky it cast a bright golden glow on the terraces, lighting up the llamas. We hiked back to our campsite in the dark and the temperature dropped dramatically by the time we returned. I cooked dinner and ate in my tent, too cold and tired to go outside.

On day three I woke up before dawn so I would have some time to finish exploring the rest of the ruins before continuing on to my next campsite. I said goodbye to Gabriela and made the climb back up to the main plaza ruins. For about an hour I was completely alone, perched on a wall overlooking the empty citadel of Choquequirao. I watched in complete serenity as the sun rose over the mountain, lighting up the fascinating stone living quarters, administrative buildings, and temples…one of my favorite moments of the trek. I spent another hour exploring the upper ruins and snapping photos before climbing the remainder of the way to

the ridge line through an overgrown jungly path.

The next few hours involved a brutally hot and steep descent down to Río Blanco. When I reached the river I dumped the ice cold water on my head to cool down before another challenging ascent up to Maizal, where I would set up camp for the night. After a few hours of switchbacks and a big leap in altitude I finally arrived at my campsite (an indigenous lady’s farmhouse) just as it was getting dark. I was freezing again so I threw on my warm clothes and plopped down, my back aching, and watched as the sky transformed colors, creating a beautiful silhouette of the surrounding Andes. I pitched my tent in the yard, sipped a refreshing Coca Cola that I had bought, cooked dinner, and watched as the roosters, dogs, and cows meandered past my tent.

I set out on day four just after dawn, completely frozen. I sped up the pace to get my heart pumping and to try to regain feeling in my hands and toes. For the first couple hours of the climb, the trail was a mess of frozen mud. I spent the entire morning climbing up to Abra San Juan pass, hiking through the Victoria Mines on the way. The vegetation changed as I climbed higher and higher, from the wet and dense jungle with blooming wild orchids to the very dry, rocky, and arid landscape of the high altitude páramo.

When I finally reached the pass I was thrilled to find a little rest hut with a woman and her two kids selling cookies and drinks. I stopped for a much needed break, chatting with them and snacking on animal crackers while taking in the epic views all around me. They told me it would only take me another hour or two to descend down to Yanama, the small village where I would spend the night. I perched myself on a rock with perfect panoramic views of the snow-capped peaks and just sat there for a long time, completely content. I took my time descending down to Yanama, my back sore and my knees acting up, and completely distracted by the mountains and bright purple wildflowers all along the trail.

By the time I could see Yanama my back was killing me so I picked up the pace for the remainder of the way. The lady in Maizal had told me where to find her daughter’s house in Yanama, and said I could camp there that night. I eventually found the house and set up my tent on her land with stunning views of the valley. I took an ice cold shower, changed into warm clothes, and laid down on my mattress to rest my back. I made some soup and tea and then drifted to sleep shortly after dark.

Day five started out with a relaxing couple hours of hiking through the Quellqua Machay valley followed by the toughest climb yet up to the highest point of my hike, Abra Mariano Llamocca pass (4,643 meters). From Yanama to Totora (my destination that day) there is a new dirt road that snakes all the way up to the pass and then back down. The trail that I took criss-crossed with the road the entire way but I never saw a single vehicle. I reached the pass around noon, entering a strong wind tunnel that I thought might blow me away if not for my enormous backpack. The view from the pass failed to disappoint, the giant peaks of Salkantay and Humantay commanding the landscape.

I began my descent, trying my best not to topple over as my feet skidded down the nearly vertical sandy trail. I stopped for lunch once I was low enough to be blocked from the intense winds and then continued all the way down to Río Totora. When I saw the “bridge” at the river crossing my palms began to sweat. A few measly sticks were laid on piles of rocks just above the raging white water. My legs were already shaky from the exhausting climb and descent of that day and the heavy pack didn’t do anything to help with my balance either. I took a deep gulp and inched my way across, one foot on each log, trying not to focus on the concerning amount of bounce in the log under my right foot.

I made it to Totora just before nightfall. That evening I stayed at the house of the Maizal lady’s other daughter. She asked if I wanted to pay to sleep inside in a bed that evening and I agreed without hesitation. I had slept so poorly every night thus far, freezing cold and uncomfortable from the aches in my back, hips, and shoulders. After chasing the giant turkeys around the yard, I went inside and crawled into my sleeping bag on top of the bed to rest before dinner.

Day six was my easiest day, beginning with a gradual two hour descent down the dirt road from Totora to the village of Colpapampa. From Colpapampa I continued down the road until it met back up with the trail. I crossed the river and was now back down in the jungle, the sticky heat and violent mosquitoes making for an uncomfortable situation. The narrow trail made its way up and down rolling hills parallel to the river, crossing through a plethora of fruit plantations. Granadillas, oranges, avocados, and bananas were growing all over the place. I stopped for a break at an amazing tree house overlooking the river before continuing to the village of La Playa.

I was in a bit of shock when I entered La Playa. The small coffee growing village has been completely infiltrated with campsites, a few restaurants, and even a hotel catering to hikers. This was the point on my route where I linked up with the Salkantay trail, probably the most popular alternative trek to Machu Picchu. Many of the campsites were filled with large groups of trekkers. After not encountering a single other hiker in the past four days it felt a bit overwhelming at first to see so many gringos in one place. I did make a few friends at my campsite (two ladies from Oregon and a group of Germans) and it was really nice to have some people to share stories with that evening. And it was even warm enough to be outside my tent after dark!

I was all packed up and on my way before anyone at the campsite had even woken up the next morning, so used to being up before the sun by that point. Day seven was the final stretch of the trek. I hiked down a dirt road for an hour until I arrived at the entrance to the Inca trail, a large group of hikers just ahead of me. I began my ascent up to the ruins of Llacapacta, passing through tons of coffee plantations. It only took a few minutes before the rich aroma of roasting coffee beans drew me into a place just off the trail named Inka Andean Starbucks Coffee.

I sat outside as a very sweet indigenous man in a traditional Peruvian hat served me piping hot fresh brewed coffee and an avocado sandwich and then proceeded to play his Peruvian flute. Peru is one of the largest coffee producers in the world, specializing in Arabica. The area I was hiking through grows certified organic Arabica beans. It had been so long since I had good coffee (the majority of places in Peru and Ecuador only serve instant coffee while the good stuff is mostly exported) and Inka Starbucks might be the best coffee I’ve ever had. As I write this, I’m ironically sitting on an airplane in Fort Lauderdale sipping my first “real” Starbucks iced coffee in seven months…I can’t really believe that I used to live for this expensive watery stuff.

I thanked the indigenous man, bought a bag of his coffee beans, and continued on my way up the mountain. The two ladies from Oregon who I had camped with the night before and their guide Washington eventually caught up to me. We hiked for awhile together, chatting about running, cycling, and hiking. They tried to convince me to move to Portland and I decided that I need to plan a trip there soon to check it out. A storm rolled in through the valley and soon after I could feel raindrops plopping down onto my head…the first rain storm on my hike. As we neared the top of the mountain, the clouds became so dense that I could no longer see anything other than the trail directly in front of me.

As the trail steepened, I fell back behind the two women who were only carrying their day packs. I reached the mirador at the top of the mountain (where I was supposed to have my first view of Machu Picchu) but I was completely engulfed in a cloud. I chatted with three guys who had camped there the night before and were packing up their tents. They raved about the view and I decided to rest their for awhile after an indigenous man urged me to wait until the clouds cleared up. Sure enough, within less than an hour the clouds cleared and the sun came out.

Machu Picchu came into view, set between Huayna Picchu to the left and Machu Picchu Mountain to the right. After seven very challenging days, it was an amazing moment to see my final destination for the first time…even if it still seemed SO far away. I sat there for awhile longer, enjoying the sweeping views of the lush green jungle and endless mountains all around me. I continued on to the ruins of Llacapacta, just a few minutes further down the trail. I made my final descent of the trek that afternoon back down to the river, picking some bananas and oranges off the trees lining the trail.

I originally planned to arrive in Aguas Calientes (the town just below Machu Picchu) on day eight. I made it to Hydroelectrica a day earlier than expected so, rather than continuing the remaining few hours to Aguas Calientes late that afternoon, I decided to hitch a ride to the nearby town of Santa Teresa. Gabriela had told me about the hot springs there and I decided it would be a nice way to rest up before what was sure to be an exhausting day at Machu Picchu. I flagged down the first car that passed by. It was completely full but the driver said I could ride in the trunk if I wanted. I hopped in the trunk of the wagon and he sped off. We were flying along the bumpy road, zipping around each turn and I thought I was going to be sick. I was so relieved when we finally arrived in Santa Teresa.

That evening I hobbled down the dusty road to the hot springs in Cocalmayo with a Mexican guy I had met in town. My legs felt like tight rubber bands, each muscle screaming with every step. The hot springs were disappointing, overcrowded and not nearly as hot as I was hoping they would be. I returned back to town and got a room in a hotel, desperate for a hot shower and bed.

I took a colectivo back to Hydroelectrica the following morning and finished out the remaining three hours of my trek to Aguas Calientes, hiking along the train tracks with hundreds of other tourists. Aguas Calientes is a Disneyworld-type of town, where dozens of hotels, touristy restaurants, and souvenir shops line every street. I checked into a hostel, grabbed some dinner, and set my alarm for 3 AM. I barely slept that night, giddy with excitement. I’d been anticipating this day for so long and couldn’t believe that it was finally here.

Exploring the Sacred Valley of the Incas

The capital of the Inca Empire sits high in the mountains (11,000 ft) and is a delightful city where the past collides with the present, as displayed in the interesting blend of Inca and colonial architecture. I finally arrived in Cusco in the wee hours of the morning after having to wait an extra day in Puno due to protestors blocking the road into the city. There have been ongoing demonstrations in Cusco for the past few weeks as part of a labor dispute between the government and the city's educators. After hopping around to three different hostels at 4:30 AM, I finally found a nice place with an available room and got some rest. Later that morning I spent some time wandering the splendid city, starting in the main square, Plaza de Armas.


The city of Cusco was built in the shape of a puma, one of the three most sacred animals of the Incas (and the representation of earth) for its patience, strength, and speed. Like the sacred cat, the Incan people themselves were undeniably strong. The Incas had no form of written communication, relying solely on a verbal messaging system where men called Chasquis (trained long-distance relay runners) would run tens of kilometers as fast they could to checkpoints that connected the surrounding villages. Another Chasqui would always be waiting at the next checkpoint to receive the message, ready to run to the following point.

The Spaniards invaded Cusco in the 1500's, impressed by the city's magnificence and plethora of precious metals. They built their own colonial buildings right on top of the strong, indestructible existing Inca walls and intricate stonework. During the Inquisition they forced the "pagan" Inca people to convert to Catholicism, be-heading those that refused. Luckily they never found the precious mountaintop city of Machu Picchu, which wasn't discovered until 1911 by Hiram Bingham.

After checking out the bustling Plaza de Armas with its beautiful architecture, impressive churches, floods of tourists snapping photos, and protestors marching through the streets, I stopped at a street corner to buy a couple of tamales from an indigenous woman. I strolled the steep narrow streets of San Blas, Cusco's artist quarter filled with galleries, studios, workshops, boutiques, raw vegan restaurants, and yoga studios. Aside from the towering stone Inca walls lining the winding cobblestone streets, I felt like I had stepped out of Peru and into some artsy neighborhood of San Francisco. In the afternoon I joined a free city walking tour, visiting more of the architectural highlights and learning more about Cusco's rich history. We stopped in one of the many textile gift shops where they dressed me up in a traditional colorful poncho and hand-made beaded hat. The tour ended with delicious pisco sours in one of the local establishments.

My second day in Cusco started off with a nice hike up to the Incan ruins that sit on a hilltop just above the city. First I visited the military complex of Sacsayhuamán, my first glimpse into the awe-inspiring Sacred Valley. This incredible fortress is made of massive stones weighing up to 17,000 kg. I then hiked up the road to Qenko, an Inca shrine with a giant stone block that was dedicated to the worship of Pacha Mama, Mother Earth. The third stop on my tour was to Tambo Machay, the sacred bathing place for the Inca rulers and the royal women. My last stop was Puca Pucara, a stone complex that is believed to have guarded the road to the Sacred Valley.

Unfortunately what started out as a lovely day quickly turned into a total nightmare due to a series of unfortunate events. A taxi driver stole my iPhone and cash causing me to miss the hiking tour I was supposed to go on. Instead, I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening with the tourism police attempting but failing to track down the thief. I decided I was getting the hell out of Cusco the following day to spend more time exploring the beautiful Sacred Valley and try and lift my spirits. I caught a colectivo the following morning to Urubamba at the heart of the Sacred Valley, which I would use as my base for the next three days.

After about an hour of bouncing up and down the steep, bumpy dirt roads in the back of a tuk-tuk completely lost, we finally found my hostel all the way up against the mountain on the outskirts of Urubamba. After dropping off my backpack, I ventured back down the hill to the bus terminal to catch a colectivo to the nearby town of Ollantaytambo. A military fortress of great importance to the Incas, the ruins of Ollantaytambo contain a steep set of stairs that lead to an intricate walled complex that is one of the best preserved Inca settlements. With the sun sinking below the mountains and the packs of tourists trickling out of the park, I explored the temples, shrines, and houses until nightfall when the park guards whistled me back down the steps.

The next day I made my way back to the bus terminal in Urubamba, this time headed for the village of Pisac. After chatting with a girl from Minnesota on the bus ride, we walked together into town looking for the trail leading up the mountain to the ruins. While walking through town, we stumbled upon groups of kids, men, and women dressed in very elaborate costumes. To our surprise, we found out that there was a big festival being held that day and a parade through town was about to commence. We snagged a spot on the sidewalk and watched as groups of dancers clad in outrageous, colorful costumes and masks performed through the streets. Sweat dripped down my face under the scorching hot sun and I was baffled by the men draped in llama and alpaca furs parading down the street.


After the parade, we began our hike up the mountainside agricultural terraces up to the fortress ruins. The views of the town and valley below were breathtaking. I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering through the massive mountaintop complex and its ritual baths, cemetery, residential buildings, and towers. I made my way back down to the town, grabbed a snack, and hopped on a jam-packed colectivo back to Urubamba.

On my last day in the Sacred Valley I hiked down from the town of Maras to the Salineras de Maras to have a look at the 3,000 salt pans that have been used since Incan times to produce salt. Today the pools are owned by 300 local village families and are an incredible sight. Afterward, I made the grueling hot hike back up to Maras and took a taxi down a beautiful country road to Moray to see the Incan agricultural terraces. Due to the specific design of the circular terraces, there is a huge temperature variation from the top to the bottom of approximately 27 degrees F. After wandering around the beautiful green terraces, I was offered a ride back down to Urubamba by a very friendly Peruvian family. We chatted and enjoyed the beautiful sunset while winding back down the mountain…a perfect ending to my stay in the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

MGG

Lake Titicaca

Perched 12,500 feet above sea level in the middle of the Andes, Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable body of water in the world and the biggest lake in South America. Shared by Peru to the north and Bolivia to the south, the deep blue sacred lake is one of the most culturally rich places I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. Believed to be the origin of numerous pre-Hispanic civilizations and the birthplace of the Incas, Lake Titicaca plays a very important part in history. I began my weeklong Titicaca journey in Puno, the folkloric capital of Peru, situated between the sparkling lake and the surrounding mountain foothills. 

My overnight bus from Arequipa pulled into the terminal in Puno just after 4 AM. I knew it was going to be cold so I put on my jacket and hat but was still shivering while waiting outside for my bags. Luckily my hostel let me check in early and the dorm room I had booked was completely empty so I crawled under the blankets to warm up and slept for a couple of hours. Later that morning I went around exploring the city. I climbed up a rocky trail to Parque Huajsapata for my first look at pristine blue Lake Titicaca. On top of the hill is a large statue of Manco Cápac, founder of the Inca civilization, staring down at the lake from which he sprang. 


I wandered down bustling Lima street lined with touristy souvenir shops, art galleries, restaurants, and alpaca wool boutiques. I stopped in the Central Mercado where I ate delicious trout for five soles while squished at a little table between some very friendly locals. I roamed through the potato section for a look at the abundance of unusual types of potatoes that this region is known for…freeze-dried papa seca, purple potatoes, and olluco tubers just to name a few. Over 4,000 varieties of potatoes grow in the Peruvian highlands…a fun fact that I’ve now learned from nearly every tour guide I’ve had in Peru.


That afternoon I went on a tour to Sillustani, a pre-Incan archaeological site and cemetery on the shores of Lake Umayo. The chullpas are incredible towers built above ground that were used as tombs. They were used by the Qulla people who spoke Aymara and were eventually conquered by the Incas in the 15th century. 



I caused a bit of a ruckus when I realized I was missing my phone just as the bus was about to take off to return to Puno. I was almost positive I had left it up at the ruins, on a rock overlooking the lake where I had stopped to take some photos. My tour guide and I ran the kilometer or so back up, my heart pounding out of my chest as we reached the top of the steep steps. Sprinting uphill at nearly 13,000 ft (in jeans) made for quite the workout. I caught my breath and then continued running to the place I hthought I left my phone…not there. The place was quite big and I didn’t want to keep everyone on the bus waiting so I started jogging back down. I passed a security guard and asked him if anyone had found a phone. He shook his head but then radioed to the other guards. He got a quick response…my phone had been found by one of the tour guides and was with the guard at the main entrance (where our bus was waiting of course). My guide and I ran back down and, after paying a ransom of ten soles that the guard was requesting (which seemed ridiculous but I quickly coughed up the money), my phone was safely returned to me. Luckily the rest of the group was very patient and understanding, just happy that my phone had been found.

On the way back to Puno we stopped at a local family’s little farm house. They invited us into their home and proudly showed us their hand-woven alpaca wool garments. They had some llamas and alpacas sitting in front of the house who were shockingly a very friendly bunch. I thoroughly enjoyed befriending the quirky fluffy animals and got some great selfies. 


The next morning I made the long haul up the steep city streets followed by 700 steps to Mirador Kuntur Wasi. I bought some chocolates from the little indigenous woman waiting at the top and enjoyed the beautiful view of the city and Lake Titicaca. That afternoon I took off on my self-guided adventure of Lake Titicaca which began with two colectivo rides to Llachon, a big peninsula that stretches out onto the lake. I had heard from a few travelers I had met about a man named Felix who lives in Llachon and offers quiet, simple homestays at his beautiful property perched on a cliff overlooking the lake. I wasn’t very interested in doing one of the very touristy island homestays that the hundreds of agencies in Puno offer, knowing that I would surely be overcharged and the money would likely never even make it to the villagers who really need it. Felix’s home sounded like a perfect relaxing alternative.


It was only myself and an indigenous lady left in the colectivo by the time we arrived in Llachon a couple hours later. She was wearing a big red skirt and a very festive black hat with two colorful puff balls on top. She asked me where I was going and I asked if she new “Casa de Felix.” She giggled and nodded and then motioned for me to get out of the van. “Vamos,” she said. The driver handed me by backpack off the top of the van and then proceeded to pass the lady her giant bag and two big buckets. She wrapped the bag in a beautiful brightly-colored fabric and then loaded it onto her back, tying it across her shoulders. She grabbed one bucket in each hand and off we went. 

There was another village lady in the little square where we were dropped off who joined us on the walk. I don’t think she spoke any Spanish but I smiled at her and waved, and she smiled back. She was also wearing a big pleaded skirt, hers bright pink, and a bright green sweater…and she was also carrying a big load wrapped in a rainbow-colored fabric on her back. The indigenous women never cease to amaze me, always lugging bags that are nearly as big as they are and they are always dressed so beautifully. Their waist-length black braids, colorful attire, big woven belts, and elaborate hats are just lovely. 

I followed behind the two ladies as they chatted in Quechua for the surprisingly very long and hilly walk along the peninsula. I was awestruck by the views as we made our way up and down the dirt road that led us through farms and little tin roof houses perched atop hills overlooking the bluest lake I think I’ve ever seen. Eventually the lady from the colectivo turned down a path toward her house and the other lady continued on with me. A few minutes later we arrived at a little gathering place where a bunch of men and women were sitting weaving and chatting. The lady waved goodbye to me and joined the others as a man in a woven hat and colorful satchel began guiding me further down the road as he talked on his cellphone. When he hung up, he introduced himself as Felix and then pointed me down a stone walkway toward the lake. He said his house was at the very end, the pink one. His daughter would show me to my room and he’d be home later.

As I approached Felix’s house through the stone archways, I was dumbfounded by the beautiful piece of property that I was looking at. The house was completely covered in lovely pink roses and sat on a cliff overlooking the lake. It was truly a million dollar view. His daughter pointed me to my room, up a steep set of stairs, and I was pleasantly surprised by the adorable little wooden room with two beds and windows looking out onto the lake. It even had electricity. 


I spent the remainder of the afternoon hiking up to the highest point on the peninsula, stopping frequently to enjoy the views and take photos. I finally arrived at the top around 4:30 PM where I had a view of the lake on all three sides of the peninsula as well as the nearby islands. I spent a few minutes before the wind started picking up and the sun dipped lower in the sky. It was getting chilly so I hurried back down, the sun casting a beautiful warm glow on the peninsula before setting behind the mountains in the distance. It was freezing by the time I got back to my room so I changed into my fleece pants and puffy coat and got under the covers until dinner time.


I ate dinner with the other guests, two couples from France. Felix came in to chat with us and I decided that I would catch a ride on Felix’s boat the following morning to Taquile Island with one of the French couples. Felix kindly called one of his friends on the island, Pedro Flores, and arranged for me to spend the following night at his home. I hardly slept at all that night as it got so cold and even the wool blankets on my bed weren’t enough to keep me warm so I spent the majority of the night shivering. 
After a breakfast of fried bread, jam, coffee, and pancakes, the five of us hopped in Felix’s little wooden motor boat for the hour long ride to Taquile Island. It was still freezing at this hour so he gave us warm blankets to wrap ourselves in. As we pulled into the dock, we thanked Felix and said goodbye. We climbed up many steps and began walking down the long and hilly path to the island’s main square. The sun was strong and we were stripping off layers as we quickly warmed up. 


When we arrived at the square it was bustling with festively dressed Taquileños, the men in their pointy red caps and colorful satchels and the women in their big bright skirts and simple black shawls draped over their heads. There were also lots of tour groups on day trips from Puno crowded around snapping photos. I began asking around to many of the locals if they knew Pedro Flores, as Felix had instructed me to do. Not many if them spoke much Spanish which made things difficult, but I eventually found a man who offered to walk me to Pedro’s house. Just a few minutes from the square, I was greeted by Pedro and his two sons (one teenager and one very young) at their lovely home overlooking the lake. 


I spent an amazing day just exploring the beautiful island. I hiked up to the highest point where the ruins of an Incan temple remains with sweeping views of the lake in every direction. After a delicious lunch of fresh grilled trout, I played with Pedro’s little boy for awhile before heading off for an afternoon hike to the beach, on the very tip of the island. It was a relaxing day filled with breathtaking views and friendly interactions with the colorful locals. I got back to Pedro’s house after watching the sunset over lake, ate my dinner (omelet with rice) and crawled into bed. 


The next morning I thanked Pedro and his family and walked to the other side of the island to catch a colectivo boat back to Puno. After the long three hour ride, I grabbed a quick lunch near the port and then hopped on another boat for an afternoon visit to the Islas Flotantes de los Uros. The floating islands are a very unique place, a series of artificial totora reed islands close to Puno that are inhabited by the Uros people. They were originally built centuries ago for the Uros people to defend themselves against aggressors. Most of the islands are tiny, home to just two or three families, and the islanders must add a new layer of reeds every month or so as the bottom layers rot away. The islands have become a very touristy destination in recent years, making the excursion feel a bit inauthentic, but they are still a very interesting place to visit. 


After watching yet another amazing sunset from a watchtower on the “capital” of the floating islands, the temperature dropped drastically so I hurried back to the boat, eager to return to my hostel for the night. After a warm meal, I chatted with my roommate for Mexico for awhile and then went to bed. I woke up early the next morning and hopped in a taxi to the bus terminal where I planned to catch a bus to Cusco, my final destination on this wild journey, only to be told that there would be no buses leaving for Cusco until that night due to protestors blocking the road. I headed back to the hostel and spent the day relaxing and booking my flights back home. I couldn’t be more excited to get back to the states. I miss everyone so much. I’m also incredibly sad that this amazing adventure will soon be coming to an end. I’m anxious but ready to see what the next chapter in life has to offer. 

But first, let the adventures in Cusco and the Sacred Valley begin!

MGG

Lucky Summit #13: Chachani (19,872 FT)

We arrived at the trailhead at 3 AM after a three hour drive along a dark rough road through the high dusty desert. Percy was asleep in the seat next to me for the entire ride but I couldn’t fall asleep while being bounced around like a jumping bean. I watched the reading on the thermometer above the rear view mirror drop drastically, from the mid 40’s F down to sub-freezing temps by the time we arrived at the trailhead. I couldn’t believe how cold it was as I zipped up my puffy jacket and wrapped myself in my sleeping bag until we had to get out of the truck.

We had decided to do the climb in one day instead of two as the majority of people do, meaning we had a tough day ahead of us while our driver waited in the truck until we returned. I was actually dreading the climb. I was frozen just sitting in the car and didn’t want to know how much colder I would be once exposed to the strong winds outside.

To my relief, I quickly warmed up once we began moving. The first hour involved traversing a massive rock fall, climbing up and over giant boulders in total darkness. After getting through that section, we passed through base camp and then began climbing the endless sandy switchbacks that snaked all the way up the steep scree. The sun emerged above the snow-capped peaks behind us, casting a warm yellow glow on Chachani. The sunrises I’ve witnessed over these past thirteen summits never cease to take my breath away. Even if my toes have gone numb or I’m utterly fatigued, I seem to always forget about the pain as I watch the horizon light up revealing the dark silhouettes of the surrounding mountains. Those moments are always so calming and peaceful, a big part of the reason I’ve fallen in love with this sport.



We had climbed above 19,000 ft by the time we finally reached snow, making this a very unique climbing experience. Due to the very low precipitation rate in this part of the country, Chachani doesn’t have s permanent ice cap or glacier. I was feeling thoroughly exhausted though, my breathing becoming more difficult to control and my head feeling lighter from the altitude. Once we had reached the top of the scree the wind had really picked up as well so I put my jacket and mitts back on for the remainder of the way. We crossed the plane of jagged rough snow, getting our first clear view of the summit just above us.


We reached the summit around 10 AM after a long seven hour climb and the views did not disappoint. After a high five and a hug, we took a few minutes to enjoy the spectacular panorama of volcanic peaks all around us: Coropuna, Ampato, Hualca Hualca, Sabancaya, Misti, and Ubinas. Many of the distant volcanoes were smoking which was pretty wild. It was amazing to see Misti from above, just a few days after standing atop its perfectly symmetrical peak. 




Chachani marks my third climb above 6000m and my 13th summit of this trip. It also marks my final climb of this trip which is very bittersweet. I’ve come so far along this five month journey. I never thought I would have conquered this many summits (nearly all of them significantly higher than any mountain I had climbed previously). The majestic Andes will forever hold a special place in my heart, along with all of the people that these mountains have led me to. From my incredible Mountain Madness guides and badass climbing team that I spent two weeks with back in Ecuador, to the rest of my supportive guides and new friends that have helped push my limits to reach many of these summits…I will forever be grateful for each and every one of them. I hope to be back here sooner rather than later to tackle some even bigger climbs and make more lifelong memories.

Now for a look back on where I started back in February until now! I can’t help but get choked up looking back through all these pictures…I wish I could go back to Ibarra and do it all over again ❤️🗻❤️


Fuya Fuya (my first summit of the trip)


Imbabura (second summit)


Rucu Pichincha (third summit)


Fuya Fuya round 2 with MM (fourth summit)

Cayambe (fifth summit) – first major peak at 19,100 ft


Illiniza Norte (sixth summit)


Chimborazo (seventh summit)

Tungurahua (eighth summit)


Vallunaraju (ninth summit)


Pisco (tenth summit)

Tocllaraju (eleventh summit)


Misti (twelfth summit)


Chachani (thirteenth summit)

Cheers to the 6000m club, lucky number 13, and another unforgettable summit 🍻

MGG