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Day four of the Ausangate trek started with another sublime morning. The sky was clear, and just starting to fill with wispy clouds. The sub freezing temperatures that turned the earth solid and froze the condensation to our tent at night, was starting to give way to a surging citrine sun. Julia and I made our way to the main tent for a delicious breakfast of crepes and toast with jam. Jose once again laid out the overview of the day’s hiking, and informed us we would be going over our final high pass, at 16,600ft. The day would begin much like day 3, with a steep climb, followed by a descent through mountain peaks and alpine glaciers.
Starting at 15,200ft, we began our climb to the pass. We were all dressed in layers, and began to shed them quickly as we slowly soared upward. There is nothing quite like the feeling of ascendancy. With each and every step you climb higher, leaving your starting point not just further behind, but also below. It could just be the altitude taking hold of the brain, but the whole world beneath me took on a diorama effect. No need for tilt-shift photography here. Luckily, there are no rules about looking back while trekking, otherwise the entirety of my group would have been left standing like Lot’s wife.
The climb to the pass was steep, but also short, and after 3.5 miles, we were standing at the top. It was a phenomenal site with cairns placed everywhere like an army of stone soldiers. The wind started to howl in a constant flow of air, like it was forced from a broken main. The cold wind couldn’t dampen our spirits though, we stood there for quite some time enjoying what would be our final high pass. I walked around to explore a bit, when I noticed a bit of movement about 1000ft above the pass. “Could it be?”, I asked myself. “Have I finally witnessed the storied vicuna?” I pointed them out to Jose, and he confirmed with excitement, that they were in fact vicuna. It was a moment of pure delight, and the perfect way to cap the final pass of the trek.
We began hiking downhill from the pass to reach our camping spot for the night after spending nearly an hour at the windy pass. I had lost all feeling in my fingers and face, but it had been well worth it. The area we began to hike though next was probably my favorite from the entire trek. The landscape turned gold with grass, snow capped mountain peaks shot up in every direction, and bright blue glacial lakes came to life with cloud reflections from the sky. The initial section of trail was single track, but quickly turned back into a series of trails, cut from the feet of the alpacas that graze here. I was once again left speechless by the unthinkable beauty of the Willkanuta mountain range of the Andes. Standing in place, I would turn and take in all 360 degrees of its majesty. There are simply no bad views here, and I wanted to remember it all.
As we descended further, the glacial lakes grew in size and color variation. The ones closest to the mountains and glaciers were chock full of rock flow, and seemingly made opaque by the amount of picturesque sediment. Further away, they came is shades of yellow and brown, their placid surfaces delicately painted by the clouds and sky.
We took a break half of the way into a descent, and sat right next to a small lake with grazing alpacas. The trails ran right along the sides of the hills here, and I almost started to feel bad for Jose here with how slowly we were moving. There are moments and places in life that make you fully aware of the delicate and precious nature of our existence. You can never go back in time to change or redo things. On this trek, I wanted to make sure to slow down, and open my eyes to truly see where I was, and not just allow my body to move through it.
Our campsite for the night would be in the small town of Pacchanta. With only a few miles left for day 4, the trail flowed into a dirt road, and we started to walk by small structures and houses. I was astonished that people live out here, and at the same time, green with envy. As hard as life at 15,000ft must be, you can’t ask for a better backdrop to animate the story of your life.
As we entered our 11th and final mile of the day, I could see the series of stone structures that made up the town of Pacchanta. We made our way to the front of an adobe house, where Jose had arranged for us to pitch our tent out in front. Our cook and porters went inside, and used the kitchen to began preparing our final lunch of the trek. Julia and I retreated to our tent to lie down for a quick nap.
As I unrolled my sleeping bag and inflated my pillow, I turned around to zip up the fly on the tent. To my surprise, we weren’t alone. A couple of kids from the village stopped by our tent to say hello. Their animated sunkissed faces were full of expression and curiosity. Julia and I had brought a small bag full of school supplies and candies that we gave the kids to share. It may seem small, but practical gifts like pens and paper go a long way in the beautiful little communities. After some time, on of the mothers stopped by to grab the children, as she thought they were bother us. It wasn’t so, but they scurried off anyway. She returned with a few handmade wares to sell, so we bought a few as souvenirs to take home.
We spent the evening walking around the village of Pacchanta, playing with a playful group of puppies who continued to beg for food, and standing in amazement of the last four days. The only downside to travel, is the moment of realization that you have to go home. This would be our final night on the Ausangate trek, and I just was not ready for things to end.
We woke up early on our fifth and final day for a brisk walk under dark clouds, back towards the town of Tinqui. The entirety of the walk was on a dirt road that took us by countless houses and farms. It was early on a Saturday, so there wasn’t much activity, save for a few kids running around. It was a quick two hours, but made time for the perfect post trek reflection. As we stepped off of the road and made our way towards the van that dropped us off just five days before, it took everything in me to not just continue on for another lap. This was truly the adventure of a lifetime, and I didn’t want to let go.
41 thoughts on “Ausangate Trek Day 4 and 5”
Such amazing photos!! I would love to do ausangate, and many more of Peru’s trails. Love your blog!
Thank you! I’m hoping to go back to Peru and explore more of it’s beauty in the future!
Great series of posts – I had never heard of this trek and now I want to try it…
Thanks! I’m glad these posts were able to provide a little inspiration!
Wow i love your pictures! So stunning 🙂
These pictures are stunning!! Love your blog here, hope to be such a seasoned trekker as you one day!!
Thank you, and thanks for checking out my blog!
Just…wow. This trek looks and sounds phenomenal! Question for you – when you were doing your night shots on this and the other trek, were you using a tripod? beanbag?
Thanks! Ausangate was incredible! I used a mini tripod for all of my night shots.
Great posts. Thanks. I was undecided what trek to pick for my october visit to Peru. Your pictures and description made it a no-brainer!
Thanks, Bassem! Good call on Ausangate! It’s an incredible trek, and one I hope to do again someday.
Thanks for your sharing of this trip and the photos are stunning, I love it so much!!
I’m also planning to visit Peru in August, and planning to do the Ausangate trek + Rainbow Mountain. I would like to ask if you guys were joining the tour after you arrive Peru/Cusco, or you book online “at home” before the trip? I would really appreciate if you can share the information about the tour package, since I’m going alone, so I wanna plan well.
Thanks in advance,
Hello, Jo! Thanks! Great to hear that you’ll be planning to visit Peru in August. That’s a great time of year to go. We booked our trips about 8 weeks before we arrived in Peru to make sure everything was scheduled and ready to go. We went with Alpaca Expeditions. They are the best tour company in Cusco. Great food, great service, and a great experience. You should give them a call and ask about their packages.
Thanks Drew! I’ll check with them 🙂
No problem, Jo!
What a four days of adventure!…. You know Drew your blog and pictures made me make up my mind to go for the Ausangate trek when I visit Peru this July.
Thank you for sharing this amazing experience with us!
Keep been phenomenal
I’m glad you enjoyed my posts. There isn’t a lot of info on this trek online, so I’m hoping to shine a light on it. Enjoy!
Wow. Just, WOW! I read through your entire journey and I LOVED IT! I felt like I was there and could experience so much with you. I can’t travel anymore due to a disability and I never got the chance to see Peru in person but with your help, I felt like I was there. I just wanted to thank you for the experience and I hope you continue to do other places. Do you have any other trips planned?
We are leaving on this trek in 45 days. What camera did you take?
Have fun, George! I had a Canon T3i on this trip I believe. It was a few years ago. I know use a Sony a6000 or my full frame Sony a7ii.
Hey Drew and Julia
Thanks for the posts, the video, the packing list…..I devoured them all!
We’re thinking of hitting it in August after the little known Choquequirao trek.
Did I read right that you were there in July?
Did I also read right that rain really wasn’t an issue? Sure looks like cool temps were, though.
I notice you didn’t use poles, though they are on your list ((JMT). Also what kind of footwear?
We were intent on going solo but with an escorted mule for our gear. Did you see many trekkers doing it that way?
How was waste disposed?
Water sources plentiful?
many thanks again
Thanks! Yes, we visited in July. We only had a few days of rain and they were all while we were in Cusco. We also got a little rain on our way down from Huayna Picchu.
We didn’t use poles back in 2013, but we’re both converts now and have been using them since 2014. We wore our Salomon Crossmax back then. Here is my recommended list now: https://trailtopeak.com/2018/03/19/top-14-trail-shoes-for-the-john-muir-trail-and-pacific-crest-trail-2018/
We didn’t see many unsupported hikers. Maybe one or two. Water was plentiful, but not a lot of places to dispose of waste. You would probably need to pack it out.
Thanks so much for your reply, Drew—-very helpful. We’re completely stoked. It doesn’t look as demanding as Choquequirao and so we want to go solo but knowing us we’ll get lost, or sick or wreck a knee bf we even get there.
Take care and safe travels always
Safe travels, Wayne! Enjoy Ausangate!
Fantastic blog and pictures. My husband and I are considering this trek for August or September 2019. Which ch lens did you use for your landscape pictures? I noticed you carried a camera bag on your belt (I think). What did you use? I’m still trying to find a comfortable way to hike with a DSLR and a backpack (and using trekking poles) lol!
Hopefully we can make this trip happen. The logistics to get to Cusco from Alaska are a challenge to say the least. We’ll spend as much time to get there as the time we’ll spend hiking.
Thank you. Alaska to Peru sounds like a long trip for sure! I attach my Lowepro camera bag to my backpacks using climbing carabiners. It allows me to attach the bag to my left or right side, or hang it in front with one carabiner on each shoulder strap. I can hike like this with trekking poles without any problems. I’ve used this system on the JMT and other long hikes as well.
Lol! Sometimes the simplest solution is the best. I was looking at complicated systems 🙂
haha! Believe me, I tried a lot of the expensive ones! This is the only solution that works for me when carrying a longer lens on my full frame Sony mirrorless cameras. I sometimes will hike with a my smaller APS-C mirrorless and pancake lens, but only when I don’t need top quality shots.
Thankyou! I’m doing a 6 day trek through Ausengate/Rainbow mountain in September this year. Really can’t wait. Your blog has definitely stirred the excitement juices! One question – (and sorry if it’s already been asked) – what lenses did you use? I’m trying to determine if I need to bring my wide angle (11-16mm) as well as my alrounder.
Hello, Erin. I’m a wide angle shooter 90% of the time. I shot this stuff with my old Canon setup using a 10-22mm. I’m now on a full frame Sony A7rii and use a 16-35mm and 18mm most of the time.
Thanks for your reply, Drew. Unfortunately just seen it! I landed up taking my Nikon 7200d with 18-140mm lens. Days 2-6 it landed up being carried with the horsemen and I used my iPhone! The altitude totally kicked my ass, which was SOOO frustrating, especially when I knew I was fit! I also got really sick, but I still did the trek – albeit very slowly! I still got some great shots though. What a beautiful place in the world. Cusco totally stole my heart.
Thanks for the follow up. Nice range with the 18-140. Sorry to hear the altitude gave you problems, but it’s pretty common when you’re that high up!
Hi Drew! Thanks for the nicebstory and above all, the details and where you slept and the gpx track.
I will do it alone and on my own starting tomorrow.
I will only have your gpx track and an offline maps app to guide me as I couldn’t find any map in Cuzco yet.
I looked quickly at your pics (but really not too muxj as I want to keep the landscapes surprising me!) and it looks like the trail kooks obvious and easy to follow.
Can you confirm?
I will have a water purifier device, how much litters should I carrycin between each water filling point? Are they a lot?
Thanks again i will feedback you once completed!
I hope you’re enjoying your time on the Ausangate Trek. I’m glad you were able to use my GPX track to help plan your trip.
Great post! The images are so crazy beautiful. Thanks for sharing 🙂
Thannk you for writing this