Last entry we found out what the big deal about Machu Picchu was. We signed up for a package that included a one-hour climb up Huayna Picchu. Wait, what? Two Picchus? Also spelt "Wayna Pikchu", it is Quechua for "young mountain" in contrast to Machu Picchu, which means "old mountain". Huayna Picchu has an elevation of 8,835 ft, 850 ft higher than Machu Picchu.
Huayna Picchu is that mountain that overlooks Machu Picchu in pictures. The Incas built a trail up its side and built temples and terrace on its top. The trek/climb to the top can be dangerous because the steps are exposed and despite steel cables providing support, it's best to attempt this climb during the dry season between May to September.
You can forego many items touring Machu Picchu but climbing Huayna Picchu is another story. You'll not only need the items listed below but have to have a decent level of fitness or it would take you twice longer to complete the climb. You can take more selfies.
- Bug spray - lots and lots of it; you'll meet plenty of fierce insects especially at the peak
- Hiking gear - long-sleeves shirts and pants is recommended again to deal with the bugs; they can bite through yoga pants or similar materials
- Comfy shoes - doesn't have to be hiking shoes; rubber shoes are fine so long as they also have a grip as the trail can be slippery and narrow
- Water - you'll need to stay hydrated; it's a long way to the top
- Coca tea - strongly recommended helping deal with the altitude sickness
- Light jacket with hood (optional) - not necessary during dry season but come October, it can get wet
I'm not exactly the fittest guy around. I am a writer after all. But I've spent a great deal of time improving my fitness with aerobic and anaerobic exercises and I was spent three-quarters in. The climb got steeper on the way up and the steps got smaller. Right close to the summit, the climb becomes vertical and don't be ashamed to start using your hands to maintain your balance. Falling won't probably kill you as the steps cross around the mountain but it's still going to hurt.
The longer the struggle, the bigger the reward and this is true in this case. Getting to the top of Huayna Picchu isn't just an adventure in itself but the reward is a stunning view of Machu Picchu. All those top-searched google images you see were likely taken from Huayna Picchu (or a flying vehicle but let's not be a buzzkill for this article's sake).
Getting to the top, get ready to spray a lot of bug spray as there are swarms of sand flies and other flying critters that will take bites out of you. Stay away from the shrubbery. At the highest point are some perfectly situated rocks for you to take epic selfies in. The park ranger is located here too. Have a chat or give him/her some treats.
From the summit, you take the second trail down where you'll encounter the Gran Caverna and the Temple of the Moon. These natural caves are a bit of a squeeze and if you're a bit on the thick side you may want to walk around it. Finally, the return path from the caves completes a loop and goes back to the main trail.
The descent is much faster and should only take half the time as the ascent. There's plenty more time to take photos. But just physically being there and reaching that summit, with that panoramic view of Machu Picchu is something pixels won't do justice.