Terrill Looking at mountain.jpg

“This is definitely a once in a lifetime experience.” – Wiley Baskin


This comment is more predictive than it is observational.


The Inca Trail (I am tempted to deem it the Inca Trial) has delivered on its promises of discomfort and challenge.


The excursion company that we hired takes a slightly different approach to the Inca Trail than most excursion groups. Typically, the four days are broken up as follows:

  • Day 1 – Acclimation. Hike 7 miles through rolling mountain areas. You start at 8500 feet and end at roughly 10,000 feet. This is up and down, but no slope is crazy.
  • Day 2 – Mountains. Climb 3500 feet and cover another 8 miles. This is the giver of pain. This hike includes crossing a mountain pass at 13,800 feet.
  • Day 3 – Ruins and descent. Hike 10 miles mostly downhill. There are some steep steps, but this day has several Incan sites to see.
  • Day 4 – Descend 2 miles to Machu Picchu.


Many people struggle mightily on day 2, so our group decided to lengthen our first day by 3 miles. While this doe not seem initially too bad, please realize that every step – and I mean 3500 of our 3550 strides – were uphill. We climbed 2650 feet in that span, or roughly 270 flights of stairs over mud and uneven, steep stones. Over the day, we climbed 3500 feet or 350 flights of stairs.

Rough road.jpg

Steep stairs.jpg 

So our foursome of Wiley, Liam, Terrill and I are totally spent.


If you have been following our travels, you will know we had a similar day in Patagonia. At least, it was similar in distance walked (10+ miles) and elevation conquered (over 3,000 feet). It, however, was not similar in elevation. If you have never experienced thin air, I am at a loss to explain it. You get headaches, slow digestion and short breath. Exhaustion is deep. A hike that would be moderately challenging is deeply so at altitude.


All this led to Wiley’s quote that opens this blog.


It feels like midnight and it is as dark as I have even experienced.


It is not even 8PM.


So we are making some last minute adjustments before going to bed. Our trek to the toilets include some rather large and utterly unflappable Llamas that stare blankly into our flashlights, standing like very wooly statues.  Here there are in daylight.  I must assure you that they are much less intimidating then.

Llama near bathroom.jpg 

Sadly, tomorrow will not be an easy day. Our excursion company likes being ahead of the crowds, so the extra 3 miles we hiked today will be taken out of day 3, not tomorrow.


So the plan (as staggeringly unlikely as it currently seems to us) is to wake at 6AM, eat breakfast at 7 and then hike 9 miles over two mountains. This adventure will include a 13,800 foot pass, sweetly called “Dead Woman’s Pass”.   While I am a history buff, I suspect it will be important for my sanity to NOT know why the woman died or any of the other intimidating tales of this hike.


Frankly, I am slightly skeptical of this plan. I wonder about our ability to make a similar hike – at a higher altitude – while sore and exhausted.


We shall see.


Steve Sir