Salkantay trail, Machu Picchu and Peru Report.
As I left the great surf and awesome culture of Lima I knew that I the next 5 days or so would be challenging, rewarding and overall a great experience. I set forth to Cuzco Peru the jumping off point for the Salkantay trail. Many people know and have heard of the Inca trail to Machu Picchu but doing some research and talking with people locals it was brought to my attention that is trail is many times over crowded and not the best experience. I found that that Salkantay trail was much more challenging and with this far less people take this route to Machu Picchu.
We made camp the first night below a beautiful alpine lake known as Humantay Lake due to the fact the melt off from snow and glacier runs directly into the lake. This is a magical place with everyone in the group feeling the spirituality that was very present.
As I stood by the lake I used my binoculars to scope potential skiable lines and I found at least one maybe two. Additionally some of the routes up the ridge did not seem all that complex either, and with ice axes and crampons it would be very doable with a reasonable amount of time and effort.
The second day was the most challenging and longest day. It evolved summiting the trail to its peak right below the Salkantay Mountain and then making our way into the dense mountain jungle and on our way to Machu Picchu.
Salkantay Mountain is massive and reminds me of Alaska style mountains that are very steep and have lots of spines spread evenly throughout the face. Talking with local guides and experienced mountaineers in the area I found out the following. The top of the peak is 6200 meters above sea level and to the best of their knowledge no one has skied the mountain. Three attempts have been made to climb the face of the peak with no success. The first by a Japanese group in 2002, they turned back about half way up due to extremely high winds and danger. The second try in 2005 by a German group who made it a bit further than the previous attempt, but they did not summit either. The last attempt was done by some mountaineers from Argentina in 2007 and sadly they all died from and Avalanche and their bodies remain on the mountain.
I would think that if one was to ascend the peak via the ridge and not the face as previous attempts have tried, it would be achievable. In which case I scoped one line through a tight couliar that would be skiable given the right conditions. With that being said many local guides have told me that snow is very unpredictable and frequently avalanches. Therefore proper planning and attention to safety would be extremely important before further attempts to climb and ski this peak could take place.
The next day and a half was spending making our way through dense mountain jungles to the city of Aguas Calientes which would be our base point for Machu Picchu. This is a very popular attraction and tickets should be bought about a week in advanced in order to not sell out. They were about $45 USD but without a doubt worth the hype and cost of the whole experience. People start lining up at 4am every day to get into Machu Picchu and to be there at sun rise is truly exhilarating experience.
As you sit at the top of the temple of the sun and look down on the magical city a feeling of tranquility comes over you.