“A starkly beautiful climb over Salkantay Pass.”
— Ken Roberts
Birding · River/Creek · Views · Wildlife
This is a beautiful but physically demanding section of the trail, due to both elevation gain and altitude. This segment includes climbing over Salkantay Pass at about 15,000 feet, and I think most people will feel the thin air. The guides we traveled with were watchful for signs of altitude sickness and administered oxygen in a couple of instances.
The early parts of this leg were relatively easy. We hikeed steadily toward Salkantay Mountain itself, so the views were marvelous. The trail was easy to follow and a bit rocky at times. We crossed streams and small rivers, and passed through verdant green areas. About an hour and a half into the hike, we improbably came across a gift shop run by the Quechua people, where you can buy some locally made products. The Inca were the rulers, and the Quechua were (and are) the indigenous people of the area. While the gift shop made me smile given its unexpected appearance in this remote area, I suppose this might be the early stages of commercialization of what seems currently to be a pretty unspoiled area.
Past the gift shop the sense of remoteness increased. There are really not a lot of signs of human presence up here, and the scenery is both vast and dramatic. As we progressed toward the summit, the trail remained easy to follow, and fairly wide if rocky. We passed a number of trains of pack animals carrying supplies. We could see propane cylinders and firewood on some, and covered loads on others. The horses aren't roped together and can be unpredictable so we got off the path and stayed away from them as they passed.
The weather worsened as we approached the path, getting colder, wetter and finally we had a bit of sleet/snow. At this point, we were wearing everything we had brought to stay warm and dry. The last couple of hundred yards were pretty hard, and we stopped often to rest. By the time we got to the top, we took enough time to snap a few pictures and then fairly quickly started down the other side.
Its a long descent to the next lodge through a changed ecosystem. On this side and up this high, it's cloud forest, and there is lots of moss on the rocks. We saw a couple of chinchillas on the way down. The beautiful views of the stark mountains continued most of the way down to the next lodge.
Flora & Fauna
Condors, chinchillas, and pack animals.