Salkantay that means “Wild Mountain”, it is the highest peck of the Vilcabamba and one of the highest of the Andes and it is located on the north-west of Cusco. The famous Salkantay Trek is considered one of the 25th best treks in the world by National Geographic Adventure Travel Magazine. It’s a trek open for all the people and without space limits at least for now. This famous trek connects Cusco Town with Machu Picchu. It is an ancient and remote path located on the snowy mountains and it’s surrounded by an exuberant tropical rain forest. This trek is beautiful with a lot of variety: from the glaciers to the steam of the tropical forests, as well as the vestiges of the Inca culture. You will see the way people live their lives in the mountains on farms and in small villages. The first 2 days of this challenging hike are the most difficult as you walk around the ice covered skirts of the Salkantay Mountain (6271m / 20568ft), then we go for a high pass to continue on a path inland part of the country, rocky in some places until we join the famous Inca Trail. Our support team initially consists of pack animals and the last three days our team is transported by porters. The road to the mighty Urubamba River is sinuous, through mountain passes and through misty forests. The ancient Inca Trail passes several ruined fortresses before reaching the fabulous lost city of Machu Picchu. As we said before this trek is really challenging so you need to be prepared for it. Here we give you some advices for it:
Yes, we know it, sounds like a joke, “how will I not take my drink by hand?”, but you will be surprised to know the number of people that needs to take a break and remove the backpack to hydrate. During our hikes by the mountain, hydration should be constant so we will never have the sensation of thirst. If this happens, we are not properly hydrated and the consequences of a bad hydration can be terrible for our health. When it comes to hydrate ourselves, choose water or isotonic drinks (never carbonated soft drinks). In case that our trek will be prolonged or requires a physical effort above normal, we must add salts to our water. Never go out on the mountain to hike without a minimum of a liter and a half of water. In order to hydrate constantly, we will have to choose wisely our container of water in order to transport it within reach of the hand at all times to be able to take small drinks from time to time. There are multiple solutions for that, from the most sophisticated camel bag to the simplest canteen in an accessible backpack pocket. We recommend you always carry a half-filter tank on hand, and the rest of the bag inside. When you run out of liquid, take a stop to fill it.
There is always an old proverb (which of course, are attributed to the Chinese as all the old proverbs) that says: “Walk like an old man to come as a young man.” This does not mean that we have to be especially slow, what we must do is to keep a constant rhythm and when we reach an ascending slope area we should maintain the rhythm as much as possible (or slow it down a little). This is something like the operation of a bicycle. Try to avoid accelerating the step on the climbs in order to get to the top before to stop your suffering, because if we do not know exactly how much of ascension is left, it is possible that we get exhaust early and that reaching the top is going to be almost impossible or at least very unpleasant.
The walking sticks are cheap, they are light and they help a lot in the mountain. They help to unload some of the weight of our joints, in addition they offer us extra stability and help us to remove any branch or plant that has grown up cutting our way in some path with lacking maintenance. In the descents you will have to lengthen them, and in the climbs, shorten them. When you walk on a flat, your elbow should form a right angle when holding the cane. Remember that the telescopic batons does not support a lot of weight, so try not to drop all your weight on them or run the risk of suffering an accident.
Yeah… we all know that, but we still insist, it is much safer to walk with a boot by the mountain than to do it with other type of footwear. A comfortable boot with waterproof membrane (for example goretex) will not only prevent kinking and humidity, it will prevent loose stones from hitting our ankles. Of course, the use of the boot will remove some mobility, but that will be solved with a correct lacing of the laces. For the descents we will tie the boot firmly, trying to keep the heel of the foot close to the back of the boot and in that way there will be a free space between the toe of the boot and the toes. With that, we will prevent the foot from slipping toward the front of the boot and as a result our fingers are crushed in the descent. For the ascensions we will release the pressure of the loop in the upper part of the boot and we will make sure to keep the instep tight and firm. If you do this, you will restore mobility in the ankle, and this will allow us to have more movement freedom on the ascent.
It is quite common that after a long time of ascent, our muscles begin to show the effort. We may notice it first in the twins, then we will notice it in the rest of the muscles on which the effort falls at that moment. A very simply and effective trick to give these muscles a breath is to slightly change the position in which we support the foot. If we tilt it a little, we will work a different muscle group. We will distribute the load of the effort and we will notice an immediate relief in the overloaded muscles.
Just like the onions. That is the first thing that the most experienced mountain people will advise you. Along the road, evaluate if you have spare or you lack clothes and put on or remove the layers that are necessary. Always use clothes as thin as possible to avoid looking like the Michelin doll, imagine not fitting on the jacket. Avoid fabrics like cotton, and always try to use technical fabrics. In case they get wet (rain, fall to a river or simply sweat), they dry quickly… and never, ever take your jeans to the mountain. If they get wet you could not even walk with them. Always wear clothes that do not come too loose, it is better to go relatively tight but without losing mobility. Clothes that are too wide have a bad habit of getting caught in all the branches and protrusions we find on the path.
Okay, this is another thing that we all have clear, but if we were given a dollar for every time I have crossed with someone on the mountain with a backpack that only supports the shoulders, I would be millionaire. Correct weight distribution: As much as we love that old backpack, it is time to say goodbye. You have had a great moments with it, you may have use it in your student days but the backpack has suffered enough. Use a backpack that not only has shoulder straps, but also supports your lower back and hips. If you choose your backpack properly and tighten it correctly you may even forget that you wear it. Distribute the load inside the backpack properly and just walk, enjoy.
Have you ever heard of the chimney effect? The human body generates a great amount of heat when it is active, releasing calories, that although we are interested in losing them in summer and times of heat, it does not happen in winter. In this way our body becomes a real stove. As I tell you, in the mountain we lose most of the body head by the feet and by the head. If we wear suitable socks and a correct boot we will have half solved, expect for some case of a minimalist athlete who is going to go barefoot, all the others wear shoes. But instead, there are many people who do not know that the other important part where we lose the body heat is the head, which without a cap or hat is exposed to the elements. The solution is simple, a hat. Do not go without it on your winter journeys, in addition, ad a pair of light gloves and you can endure four or five less degrees of temperature, and you will avoid that the heat escapes by that chimney in which you have become. In hot weather we must also protect our head, and just as you have done with the backpack, you should get rid of that advertising cap that has accompanied you in many good times. Wear a hat or cap with protection at the nape of the neck, in both cases ensure that it has an ultraviolet filter. In that way you will avoid not only burn, but also suffering from heat stroke. In both cases, as with dehydration, the consequences can be very serious. Always use sunscreen, the ultraviolet radiation is more incisive in the mountain, and carrying a hydrated skin will prevent you from cutting and cracking with the wind and the cold winter, you will also delay the aging of it.
“Okay, I have had tried everything, the climb is endless. I carry walking sticks, I have hydrated, I am taking short steps and changing the support in each of them, I wear the top of the loose boot, my hat protect me from the sun, I like a mime with all the white face by the protective creak and my backpack is fastened, balanced and firm, but I cannot keep going…” That had happened to us too, it is time to put an extra dose of energy, always carry nuts, energy bars or ad one of my friends, dried figs (I am particularly not in favor of the gels for the trekking practice, we are not mountain runners). An extra contribution of glucose of fast assimilation will allow you to endure that “little bit more”, which we have been told is missing. Of course, that means by hand, in a pocket or where ever you want, but as with hydration, do not put it somewhere where you need to remove all the backpack to achieve you extra contribution of energy.
If you stop, enjoy the view, the landscape, breathe deeply, but do not stop constantly and when you do it for lunch or to eat, avoid that these stops go beyond 15 or 20 minutes. Try not to overeat, you better taker the right amount, try to bring fruit and not just sandwiches. The fruit will give us a contribution of sugar and hydration that will help a lot. If we eat a lot of food, very heavy food and also stay on a place for a long time, when we are going to resume our trek it will cost a lot of effort and instead of enjoying the mountain we will suffer. We hope all this information helps you with your trip to Salkantay, enjoy!