Mt. Ausangate (AWESOME-GOTTA) Trek

The Peruvian Andes are constantly beautiful wherever you choose to hike. However, not all hikes are breathtakingly (figuratively and literally!) challenging. A few Sacred Valley Health volunteers recently packed their backpacks to the brim and headed to trek around the highest peak in this region — Mt. Ausangate at 20,945 ft.

Our five-day adventure began with a 3-hour bus trip from Cusco to the tiny town of Tinqui. We met our guide, happily unloaded the majority of stuff from our packs onto three helpful horses, and headed out!

Our first camping site had an incredible view of Ausangate – and was quite luxurious with bathroom facilities and a sink! We cooked amazing meals with tons of veggies – our first dinner was eggplant curry with a good bit of spice to it to help keep us warm. We woke to shake the frost off our tents and whip up a batch of oatmeal from our stash of 4 kilos. Hiking all day, with a lunch break by a glacial lake and a snowstorm that took us all by surprise, we made it over a pass and dove into shelter from the snow and wind (two very nice and hardcore Swiss trekkers calmly offered us hot chocolate as we huddled and waited for the snow to melt off our jackets).
Volunteers enjoying the rare sunshine on their trek around Mt. Ausangate
Never held down for long, we woke up the next morning after a warm night’s sleep ready and (kind of) eager to summit the highest pass of the trek: 17,200 ft. An amazing experience!
It took a lot of breathing to make this jump at the top of this high pass!
We sped up on the downhill and across the valley to make it (through the second snowstorm) to our third campsite. Cooking, washing dishes, pumping water, and finding the best outdoor bathroom rocks while battling freezing gusts of wind and falling snowflakes was HARDCORE! Impressed with ourselves, we started our last day with summitting the final pass and hiked down to our final campsite in time to jump into some hot springs for a much needed soak! Another amazing dinner of chorizo burritos with guac and salsa quickly sent us into sleepy food comas as we snuggled in for our last night of sleeping on rocky soil.
Waking up to one more morning of “poco subido” we hiked uphill to the ridge with the best final view of the beautiful mountains and wandered our way down to Tinqui to catch our buses back home! Our reward lunch at the end of the hike was twofold – PB&J sandwiches made before hopping on the bus to Cusco followed up by astounding bagel sandwiches near the Plaza de Armas. Great food, great company, great hiking, GREAT TIMES!
Ausangate, the threatening, beautiful holy mountain in southern Peru
Written by Sacred Valley Health Volunteer Michelle Willcox

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