The Inca Trail through Machu Picchu in Peru leads to the famed Huayna Picchu peak also knows as WaynaPicchu.
Often referred to as the “Hike of Death,” this steep trail also makes it on may lists of one of the twenty most dangerous hikes in the world. When we booked our six day trek to Machu Picchu, my husband insisted that our tour guide add this peak to the itinerary. Our guide purchased tickets way ahead of time as they only allow 400 people onto the trail each day. As we hiked around Machu Picchu, our guide suggested I skip the hike as I had been sick most of the trip. He doubted I would make it to the top.
Big Willy’s expression of non-confidence, the fact that I had already paid for a ticket, and the probability that I would never get a chance to do the hike again, determined my destiny. I was going to hike that mountain even if my family finished it long before I would. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t know the hike was considered so dangerous. The less I knew, the more confident I felt. As I started up the steep mountain, I could tell it would be a leg burner but I was determined that I would make it to the top without stopping and resting. With 1000 feet of altitude change in less than one mile, steep is putting the description mildly. While hiking, I didn’t bother looking over the edge of the trail. No need to worry myself about any drops.
Instead, I focused on staying close to the walls, keeping my hands on the cables and carefully climbing the ancient granite stairs carved by the Incas. In many spots, a fall would mean a tumble down many steps, not just one or two. I was prepared with the trail shoes I had hiked in the entire week. I was surprised to see some tourists tackling the climb in flip flops or sandals with no traction. Not a good idea for this hike.
The stairs and Inca tunnels left me in awe of the work required by the ancient Inca Civilization to construct the empire. In fact, I thought way more about this than worrying about whether or not my life was in danger. I’m pretty sure the trail of tourists I followed or passed along the trail hardly thought they were on the “hike of death” either. Instead, we all assessed the dangers and matched our skill levels appropriately. Those who were more cautious, hiked slower. The confident, made it to the top quickly. I was somewhere in between.
The top offered stunning views of Machu Picchu across the way. It also made us feel like kings and queens of the mountain.
Not only did I make it to the top, life and limb intact, I made it down again without a single fall. While I wouldn’t recommend the hike for anyone not somewhat in shape, it is certainly doable for those not adverse to getting their heart rate up. I would recommend taking water and a good pair of hiking shoes. Also, make sure to take plenty of pictures proving you survived the infamous hike. While Huayna Picchu wasn’t a “hike of death” for me, I’m sure there are plenty of hikers who felt like they would die by the time finish climbing the nearly 2100 steep steps to the top. Also, tickets to climb Huayna Picchu sell out months ahead of time so those visiting Machu Picchu won’t have the option of adding this hike at the last minute.