In May 2019 we hiked the 4 Day Ausangate & Rainbow Mountain Trek, an amazing and less-known route in the shadow of Ausangate Mountain that finishes with a visit of Rainbow Mountain. Our day by day journal will tell you how typically each day on this trail is spent and what to expect when joining a trekking adventure in Peru.
CUSCO – TINKI VILLAGE – UPIS
Early in the morning we were picked up in our hotel and introduced to our trekking guide Justin and the support team that would travel with us and take care of our comfort during the next 4 days.
After a 3 hour transfer from Cusco we arrived at the small mountain village Tinki, the starting point of our adventure. Our first trek in altitude! We hiked only around 6 km / 4 miles as the main objective of the day was to acclimatize and get a feeling on how it is to walk in altitude. Hiking in altitude is all about slowing down and taking your time as usually you will walk in a much slower rhythm than you would normally be walking. We saw the first Alpacas on the trail and had the first views of the magnificent snow-capped Ausangate mountain – a glimpse of what was expecting us the next couple of days.
Once we arrived at our first campsite, located next to some hot springs at 4,100 meters / 13,500 feet, the support staff had already set up our camp and prepared a delicious meal. While we sat down for dinner in our dining tent we had an introduction round in order to get to know our twelve others trekking companions better. Our group consisted of 13 people of different ages from around 25 to 65, a mixture of couples, solo travelers and a brother and sister traveling together.
Then it was time to rest and return to the tents to sleep under the clear and starry night sky. Our tents were comfortable and spacey and the night less cold than expected as a hot water bottle and a thick blanket provided us with a little extra comfort.
UPIS – ARAPA PASS – PUCACCOCHA
We woke up with a crisp blue sky and the sun shining and were served pancakes with fresh fruit salad for breakfast. The perfect way to start the day and get ready for our first uphill hike and mountain pass! We got a 12 km / 7.5 miles hike ahead of us.
Throughout the trek we were surprised over and over again by the incredibly pretty landscape and panoramic mountain views. We even spotted some wild vicuñas that day.
Everyone’s tolerance to altitude differs and two people in our group had more difficulties then the rest of the group heading up the mountain pass but there were horses available for them that took them up and enabled them to catch up and arrive at the campsite about the same time as everybody else. Upon arrival part of the group decided to take a rest while the more energetic ones went on a extra hike to a viewpoint.
That day’s campsite was the most beautiful one of the whole trek, located on a lovely spot, right next to two lagoons on the foot of Ausangate mountain and we could continuously hear the sound of ice calving off the glaciar into the lagoon.
PUCACCOCHA – PUCA PASS – CHILLCA VALLEY – ANANTAPATA
We all knew this was going to be the most challenging day of our trek. Two high mountain passes were expecting us and while the length of the trek would be similar to the previous day, we would reach an altitude of nearly 5,000 meters / 16,400 feet for the first time.
During the first part of the trek we enjoyed the amazing views and participated in an ancient Andean ritual presenting an offering to the Apu Ausangate. Just before we started to hike up to the second high pass weather conditions changed completely and it started to hail. Step by step we continued, struggling with the temperature, the hail and the effects of the altitude. When we reached the high point, in the white snow covered valley below us we could already see our next camp where a cup of hot tea was waiting for us – we had nearly made it! Day 3 was tough but it was also an extremely rewarding day. Pushing physical and mental boundaries and finalizing the day with a strong sense of accomplishment was an experience on its own.
This would be our last evening camping together and it was time to celebrate what we had achieved and experienced during the last days. Our chef made some magic and surprised us with a cake. It truly is a mystery how these people manage to prepare such wonderful food and even a cake with frosting in such basic conditions!
ANANTAPATA – YANACCOCHA – RAINBOW MOUNTAINS – CHILLCA VILLAGE – CUSCO
The final challenge. We got up very early, enjoyed a quick cup of tea that the nice staff brought to our tents and with our head lamps on we then started hiking in the dark.
At around 6am we arrived at Rainbow Mountain. The early wake up had been worth while as we were the first ones to arrive and had plenty of time to take great photos. The sun started to shine in the right moment as well. A magical moment!
Once we headed down the mountain towards the van that would take us back to Cusco, we saw the first day visitors hiking up and realized we had chosen the best and only way to visit Rainbow Mountain. We both avoided the crowds as well as the suffering from altitude that most people experience when heading to over 5,000 meters in a day without proper acclimatization.
We finished our journey feeling so happy and grateful for the incredible 4 days we spent around the Ausangate mountain, a trip none of us would forget!