El Misti Peru
Down the south of Peru is a little city called Arequipa, standing in the shadow of a volcano rising up to 5 828 metres. There are many great outdoor adventures starting from here, the most popular probably being Colca canyon, best known for its Condors. We decided that we wanted to challenge ourselves by climbing something tough so we picked out El Misti as our mountain.
You don’t need any technical skills to climb El Misti, though for a few months the top is covered in snow and requires crampons. Our guide carried these for us in case it snowed and we needed them to get off the mountain, but we had fine weather.
It’s a two-day summit starting out at 3 300 metres a.s.l. with base camp on the first day at 4 600. It’s a tough day in the heat carrying everything you need especially the five litres of water. Steep, loose rock makes it difficult underfoot and the altitude makes the air thin. There is always the threat of altitude sickness but we were pretty well acclimatised by this point. The view from base camp is amazing; you can see the curvature of the earth itself. Dinner is cooked in the twilight while you start wrapping yourself as the temperature plummets towards zero but it’s into the tent and a warm sleeping bag as soon as possible anyway as the push to the summit starts at 2 am.
Day two starts with a light breakfast and hot tea and then you’re off in the dark heading up. This is where it starts to get tough. My hands were so cold they almost hurt but under my layers my lungs were burning as I strained to get enough oxygen to fuel my legs. As you go higher this gets worse and you never get any warmer. Here lies the challenge. The good bit about this is you’ve left all your kit at base camp and are only carrying some water and your camera.
As the sky lightens you start to see the summit which as usual always seem to get further away as you struggle closer. Ten steps, rest, ten steps, rest…repeat and keep going. Lungs still burning you top out at almost 6 000 metres to the most amazing 360 degree view high above Peru.
It’s now 8 am and you’ve been climbing for six hours straight but the sense of achievement lifts you higher than the mountain. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
Now comes the fun part of this climb though, you climb up the rocks and shale but just next to this is a sand dune down the side of the mountain. Six hours up and it only takes 45 minutes down to base camp, taking giant, sliding steps all the way. It’s like there’s less gravity. Four layers at the top and 30 degrees and burning hot at base camp. A quick rest and you decamp for the four-hour trek back down to where you get picked up.
Back to town and then what? Crepes at Crepismo, savoury llama buckwheat galettes followed by banana and Nutella crepes. The perfect end to such an adventure. http://www.crepisimo.com/eng/creperie.html
If your after a tough but doable challenge then El Misti might be for you, otherwise Arequipa offers plenty of other outdoor adventure from easy to difficult, if you’re ever if Peru you should check it out. Always check the credentials of your tour operator and your guide.