Waking up in our tent to snow covered mountains, after putting it up in the pouring rain the afternoon before, it seemed like we had been transported to a different world.
My husband Lorcan and I had barely been able to make out the mountains with all of the rain the previous day and had given up trying to find the ‘official’ campsite when we spotted a lonely tent just off the beaten path and set up camp next to two French hikers.
We packed up our things and set off for what was to be one of our toughest, but greatest, days hiking on our year-long trip through Latin America. We were to cross over the pass on the Santa Cruz trail in the Cordillera Blanca. At 4750m above sea level, it was not an easy hike by any means.
There were times when we wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. The closer we got to the pass, the slower my steps became. I would count ten steps and then have to stop for a few seconds to catch my breath. Besides our French camping neighbours and some local guides with mules, we only met one other couple on the hike up to the pass, they were going in the opposite direction and assured us that the end was in sight. Lorcan got to the top before me and with a big smile on his face told me that I really was nearly there. What met me as I reached the pass was one of the most spectacular sights I have ever seen. There were yet more snow covered peaks and aqua blue lakes. It was awesome.
After a short break at the top we quickly began our descent to the next campsite, which would be our lunch stop for the day. We left the rain behind on the other side of the mountain and relaxed in the midday sun talking about our feat. What had taken hours to walk up, took less than an hour to descend. We were reenergised and decided to keep hiking to the next campsite to set up for the night.
When we had rented our camping gear in the nearby city of Huaraz, we had been advised that if we had the energy and time, we should keep going and divert off the main path to sleep at Arhuaycocha camp. We were promised that we wouldn’t be disappointed with our view for the evening if we did. As we made our way there, our energy levels started to dip. An American hiker came in the opposite direction and told us we didn’t have long to go and we made it to camp and got our tent up before a rain shower hit us. When the rain eased we were able to take in and fully appreciate our surroundings. In front of us we had a view of Artesonraju (supposedly the mountain used by Paramount Pictures for their logo). Behind us, more beautiful landscape. We easily fell asleep that night, our bodies tired from the day’s effort.
The following morning, our tent was covered in ice, but our -20 degree sleeping bags had kept us warm. As we set out for our final day of hiking the landscape changed. There was less ice and snow and more vegetation, the path became dustier, the sun hotter. We remarked on what had been an amazing few days…just the two of us, our tent and nature.