The 10 1/2 hour trek - Corimarca to Ancascocha

Trip Start Oct 01, 2009
Trip End Oct 27, 2009

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Flag of Peru  , Cusco,
Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Now I wish I could say good morning but I am not sure it can actually be classed as morning yet! It is 3:30am and I have had just 2 hours sleep, my intention to head to bed at 8:30pm last night had not worked out for me, I had suffered all night from restlessness and just could not get to sleep, I was up and down like a yo-yo needing a wee and as much as I knew I would be roughing it, the toilets (buckets) became more and more distressing as the night went on (oh the joys of altitude sickness).  Today was going to be the biggest physical challenge and I could have really done with a good nights sleep but hey, this was all part of the experience so no need to feel negative, time to pull my feelings to a high and get on with the mental preparation for climbing up to 4,440 meters.

The group was up and ready to start trekking 5:30am, unfortunately one of the group had become very ill during the night due to the altitude and needed to be taken down the mountain, this had a huge impact on the majority of the group, we had become so close and supportive of each other, to have one of the gang missing when we were going to reach our highest point left a bitter feeling.

We set off and the air was very cold, Jenny had told us all to wrap up warm with our layers and my word did we need them, I had a rather fetching pair of long johns on, along with trekking trousers, thermal top, t-shirt and a heavy fleece.  As we moved up the steep hillside the air became thinner and thinner, my body was feeling like I was running a marathon but the views became more and more fascinating.  We were rising above the mountains and our visibility was increasing, we could now see for miles across the Andes and below to the valleys that stretched far into the distance.

Given the height we were now at, the physical energy required to make small steps was huge, therefore we made a short stop every 10 minutes or so in order to catch our breaths and as the sun came up we also used this as a chance to shed layers.  It is so difficult to describe just how tiring this part of the trek was but if you can imagine breathing through a straw whilst pulling a bus up a steep hill you will be somewhere close to it.

As the morning moved on we climbed higher and higher, we reached around 4,000 meters and I along with others in the group started to receive mobile phone signals, our first in days....  This is when I felt the true emotional effects of high altitude sickness, I received a text from my partner telling me how proud he was of me and how pleased he was with me doing this trek for charity, I just could not contain myself, the tears began to flow, like the waterfall the day before I just could not stop the streaming water running from my eyes, I felt exhausted and so alive all at the same time.  I decided that I could not talk to anyone at this time and put my earphones in and listened to music for the next hour or so.

After 4 1/2 hours of going up we reached 4,400 meters, we took a quick stop to look around from the peak of a mountain, we could see a village a thousand or so meters below, buzzards flying around and in the distance the Veronica glacier gleaming in the sunshine.  I gave Dee a hug and had a few pictures taken before the relentless walking began again.

We walked for another 30 minutes or so and finally we reached the highest point of the trek, we had made it 4,440 meters, I was on top of the world (literally), the feeling was beyond expectations, I had achieved it, I had made it....  The rest of the group was in high spirit and soaking up the sense of achievement.  From where we had stopped we could see a herd of lama's and alpaca's, our first sight of them on the trip.  Now that we had reached the highest point it was time to head down Ancascocho at 3,958 meters, this should be easy, I thought to myself....  WOW how wrong could I be!

We headed off in high spirit, the sun shining and a few clouds scattered around.  It was still fairly tough as it remained hard to breath but moving down the mountain was far easier than climbing up.  We reached our lunch destination at 1pm, we had a lot more to do today so were told that it was a chance to use the toilet, eat and then head off again.  We stayed there for no longer that 30 minutes, during this time the sky had gone from brilliant blue to dull grey, there were also spits of rain falling, we all prepared ourself by getting our waterproofs ready at the top of our bags and hoped that we would complete the rest of the journey dry.

Lunch over and on to the final stretch, as we walked down the hill the physical impact became less and less, clearly I was feeling tired from the tough morning but I was so pleased to be heading to camp and knowing the worst was over gave me the little push to put one foot in front of another.

As we walked we were passed by an old lady spinning lama wool as she walked, how cool I thought, where in the world would you see such a thing, and more to the point she just seemed completely oblivious to our existence.

After 20-30 minutes of walking we came across 3 or 4 scattered buildings on an area of flat farmland, it was only about 4 acres in size but it was clearly well kept.  The buildings again were made out of mud bricks and were very open to all the elements, there was no running water and no sign of any mod cons.  The rain was holding off at this point but my energy was rapidly starting to flag, my head had began to pound and I just wanted to get to my tent, I knew there was another 3 hours at least ahead of us so I tried to keep my spirits up but it was a strain.  Thankfully our group had a solution for everything, Matt and Karolina presented me with a 5 hour energy shot, I looked at it and thought oh well, I'll give it a go....  Well done guys is all I can say and thank you so much, within minutes I was dancing, and I mean dancing, I jokingly ran past a few people in the group to demonstrate my new found energy and created a small trickle of laughter.  I was now ready for the rest of the trek.

An hour after leaving the lunch site we arrived at a short stop area, it was here the group were huddled for a quick briefing, we were told that although the remainder of the trek was down hill we would now be heading through some dangerous terrain, Jenny was clear that we needed to listen to instructions carefully as the paths we would now be walking would be on the edge of cliffs with some very steep drops, those in the group who were scared of heights were asked to pair with the guides and medics and the rest were asked to be sensible and to take care, we were all told to keep our distance from each other as one fall could lead to a domino effect.  Now I have never been good with heights but over the last year I had challenged myself in preparation for this trip and I thought should I pair off with a guide or just go for it, I decided on the latter.

We headed off and within minutes the skies opened up, first the rain came down and then the hail followed shortly after, bringing with it thunder and lightening, I love the thunder and lightening but to be at over 4,000 meters, facing my fear of heights and being pelted by small pellets of ice, I'm thinking its just a bit much.  Anyway I can do this I keep telling myself, I put my waterproofs on, as did the rest of group and continued with the walk.  I became very cold as the temperature dropped dramatically and I was shivering, I found a small overhang where I was able to stop and put my fleece on under my waterproofs, Emma and Dee waited for me.  Whilst I was changing another member of the group joined me to sort out her gloves, I asked if she was ok and she responded yes, with that I set off with Dee and Emma down the mountain, we turned around and to our shock the women had turned grey and were sitting down looking very ill, Ben, one of the group medics joined her, things did not look good, we were standing on the side of the mountain being battered by all mother nature could throw at us, half the group had already gone ahead and we were stuck.  After what seemed like forever we were told we could move on, the lady had the support of a medic and Jenny (our leader).  I led our group of three down the mountain path, not having a clue where we were going but aiming for the forward group, just visible in the distance.  We eventually made it to the first half of the group and explained what had happened, everyone was freezing and feeling slightly deflated at this point, a good time for me to play the joker I thought.  In fact we all pulled together, we headed off for the rest of the walk down with me singing, Dee joining in and getting the rest of the group to dance where possible.  As ridiculous as it may sound there was even a point on the mountain where I attempted to get the group to do the conga, oh well at least it kept us warm.  We followed this path for a couple of hours before reaching the bottom of the valley....  Thank god we all thought we must nearly be there, we had now been on our feet for over 10 hours, we had been through all four seasons in one day and we had completely exhausted our energy reserves.  The group asked the leaders how much further and we were told less than 20 minutes....  This was like hearing the winning lottery numbers and realising they are yours, the feeling of joy spread through the group like a fast gust of wind.

Eventually we reached Ancascocha to find a small school building and our beloved yellow tents, it was a quick warm down with the group, a hot cup of coffee and then off to rest before dinner.

We were now at our highest camp site, the air was cold and despite the freezing cold temperature I felt damn good, what an achievement, I had made it! 
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Sarah J on

wow i get prouder and prouder of you the more i read - as if you were up at that height not only being pelted by hailstones but lightening as well ? I can't believe you did that !! No more not looking out of hotel windows for you!!

jamjam on

thank you sj.... im glad i did you proud.... I think my fear of heights may finally be over, i will try looking out of the hotel windows in the future lol

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