Choquequirao: Trek to the Cradle of Gold

Discover a Remote Inca Mountain Sanctuary

Repertory Trip: No Future Dates Set

Trip Level

This trek is Level 6, Very Strenuous. Most hiking is between 10,000 and 14,500 feet. For the most part, you can hike at your own speed. The group will spread out along the trail during our 6-8 hours of hiking each trekking day. Trail conditions can be primitive, and there is much up-and-down hiking (sometimes 4,000- to 5,000-foot gain or loss in elevation per day). Our particular route follows some of the best and most established trails which should make our journey easier to an extent, but even for experienced hikers, the elevation gain/loss and altitude are likely to be a serious challenge. For what it's worth, the views and the historical significance of this region make it more than worth the effort! The days can also be brilliantly sunny but nights are always cold at these altitudes. We recommend you make a special effort to get in top physical condition for the trip. The most important factor in deriving the maximum enjoyment from your trip is a spirit of adventure.

Getting in Shape
You must make a concerted effort to get in top physical condition for the trip by engaging in regular exercise well beyond your normal routine. We recommend you do aerobic exercise for 90 minutes at least three times a week, over the course of a couple of months prior to the trip.

To accelerate your conditioning, try walking faster than 1.5 miles per hour, walking on steeper inclines, and using your gym’s stair-climbing machines. As you progress, practice these walks with your loaded daypack (full water bottle, camera gear, jacket). Walks are also a great way to break in your hiking boots. The object is to improve your overall level of fitness and aerobic capacity and get your legs and lungs in shape for the Andes.

A Typical Trekking Day
Hiking distances on trek are normally measured in hours, not miles, since maps aren’t really accurate enough to assess how far we walk up and down winding mountain trails. An average day’s walk is six to eight hours. With rest stops and photo stops, few people walk faster than one mile an hour in a mountainous region. Some hiking days are shorter than others, and some days are more difficult than others due to altitude gain and loss.

We generally have very early starts so we can take advantage of the cooler temperatures in the morning and avoid the hot sun in the late afternoon. On a typical trek day, wake-up is around 7:00 am, when a cup of hot tea or coffee and a basin of warm washing water are brought to your tent by one of the camp crew. After packing up our duffels and having breakfast (often pancakes, oatmeal, eggs, or something similar), we set off on the trail while the crew strikes camp and the porters shoulder their loads. The crew passes us by midmorning to get ahead and prepare our lunch.

There is always a guide in the lead, usually the Trip Leader or the camp manager, who supervises the crew, and a “sweeper” who trails behind the slowest hiker to ensure that no one becomes lost on the trail. Most groups tend to spread out over the trail, taking photos, stopping to rest, and enjoying the scenery. We ask you not to hike ahead of the leader because trails are often not well-marked. If you feel breathless during a long ascent or wobbly during a long descent, by all means stop until you feel restored.

We typically walk for three or four hours in the morning, then stop for a leisurely lunch of an hour or more at a scenic spot on the trail. Lunch is a picnic, perhaps chicken salad, potato salad, guacamole salad, or macaroni salad, along with fruit, cheese, bread, and chocolate bars for extra energy. After lunch, we walk for another three hours or so until we reach our next night’s camp. The porters and crew pass us in mid-afternoon and usually have camp set up by the time we arrive. At camp, we have late afternoon tea (or coffee or cocoa) and a snack such as popcorn, cookies, or crackers, which hit the spot after a long day on the trail. Before dinner, there’s free time to read or relax. Temperatures drop quickly as the sun drops behind the peaks, and it’s easy to get chilled after exerting yourself for several hours, so have a few extra layers of clothing ready. It gets dark fairly early (around 6:30 pm). Dinner, served to us in a dining tent with table and chairs, is delicious hot soup followed by a substantial main course and a dessert. After dinner, we can chat away the evening in the dining tent or read by flashlight until bedtime.

Note: We carry portable chemical toilets, the most environmentally sensitive way to deal with waste in these remote alpine environments.

Weather

Being so close to the equator, Peru has only two climate seasons: a dry season from April to November, and a wet season from December to March. Altitude is the main factor controlling the climate. In the mountains, you'll encounter warm, sunny days with daytime temperatures ranging between 65 and 75 degrees. The sun is very strong at high altitudes and it can often be warm enough to hike in shorts and a T-shirt. However, it can also get extremely cold; if you're familiar with mountain weather, you know how suddenly it can get cold even in the daytime if the sun slips behind a cloud. Nighttime temperatures can drop to below freezing. Rain should not be a problem on our treks, but always keep in mind that mountain weather is unpredictable and sudden storms can occur, especially on high mountain passes. The best preparation for the climate of the high Andes is to dress in layers. Lima lies in a coastal desert where rainfall is rare and temperatures are always warm (70s and 80s). Days are overcast most of the year due to the Humboldt current that brings the garúa, or mist, from the south.

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.

References

We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.