Getting high the old fashioned way: Peru, Day 4

Thursday, 21 June 2012, Yanacaca, on the Salkantay Trail, Peru

Late afternoon – It’s incredibly peaceful here, sitting in the last remaining vestiges of sunlight, at 4,100 meters. Mt Salkantay looms overhead, casting a great shadow that caused me to go scrambling up a small hill to catch what’s left of the sunlight.  So here I sit, watching the alpenglow fade on the high peaks, camp below me, horses grazing contently on the far hill. This is the way life really should be.

Today we passed the highest point, physically, on the trial – a 4,800 meter (15, 750 ft) pass. That’s over a 1000 feet higher than the highest peak in Colorado. And that’s the pass – the peaks loom several thousand feet higher than that.

Since I’d never been that high outside of an airplane, I was a little curious and a bit nervous as to how I’d do at that altitude. It turned out not to be a big deal – the last 500 feet up were steep, and we went *very* slowly, but without any real difficulty.

There were actually 2 passes – the first, false pass topped out at around 4,600 meters, and for there you could see down into a high saddle covered with snow, through which the trail went, then up and over the second pass.At the top of the second pass the view to the west is completely dominated by Nevado Salkantay, a 20,000 ft behemoth whose presence looms, a hulking giant gleaming in the sun.  We hung out on top of the pass for a while, but the sun was gone from there by the time we reached it, there was a chilly wind blowing, and we still had some walking to do before making camp.

Descending from the pass on a muddy trail, we made camp at the base of Salkantay. It’s only 4 or so by the time we get into camp. and although the sun is low in the sky it’s still relatively early in the day. So Mark took a walk to explore environs and I’ve scrambled up to my perch here to catch the last few rays of the sun.

Sitting here, at peace, the mind wanders. To a few lingering issues at home, things you have no control over, things you’d like to be different but for which you can honestly think of no effective way to make a change. At times like this, you understand why people like to believe in a higher power – it must be comforting to be able to say “its out of my hands,” and let someone else be the responsible party.

For tonight, I’m content just to believe in the mountains.