Saturday, September 30, 2017


The fourth and final day on the Inca Trail started with a 3:30am wake up and quick scramble to pack and eat breakfast only to have to wait in line for an hour before the final control checkpoint opened at 5:30 so we could make our way to Inti Punku, The Sun Gate, and entrance to Machu Picchu. The previous two days had been long hiking days with more steps than you can imagine  but the final day was much shorter with our destination finally within reach. Both spirits and the pace are high during this final stretch of trail and after climbing the monkey stairs we enter the Sun Gate and Machu Picchu appears just below us. From this vantage point it is even bigger and more majestic than I had imagined but I had but one thing on my mind - Wanyapicchu, the mountain just behind Machu Picchu in all the classic photographs.


There is a trail to the top from where the Incans were able to  keep watch on Machu Picchu. Now the trail is opened to just a few hundred tourists a day and I had a ticket and a plan to run to the top. We toured Machu Picchu a little and then I left our group just after 9 so I could make my way to the Waynapicchu Control for the 10am opening of the trail. With a couple of hundred people already waiting I knew if I was to run I would need to be one of the first people through the checkpoint otherwise I would be hopelessly stuck in traffic so I waited as close to the front of the line I could and was about a dozen people back. After four days of trekking across the mountains I wasn't really prepared for a trail run and was wearing the same clothes I had been for the entire trek. I did have my running shoes and a bandana and a bottle of water.

They opened the gate right at 10 and after signing in I hit start on my stop watch and took off. The trail started with a short uphill and then a steep down before shooting straight up to the top. I quickly got in front of everyone and gave it everything I had on the climb. Just from looking at the mountain from Machu Picchu I knew it would be almost vertical at times but was fairly short. It was indeed quite steep with several staircases no more than two feet wide at over a seventy five degree angle that found me scrambling on all fours. This trail is known as one of the most dangerous in the world and it was clear why it had that reputation - a misstep could be disastrous. As I made my way up there were still a few stragglers from the 7am group on their way down who were quite amazed to see someone running up the stairs. I had to pause a few times to let others pass and catch my breath but was at the top after just 20 minutes of signing in.



There was a ranger stationed up there who was quite stoked to see a gringo running up the mountain and cheered me on as I scaled the final pitch to the top. I sat there and talked with him for a few minutes as I took in the incredible view. Machu Picchu was the dominate feature but the  mighty Urubamba river was raging down at the bottom, the Sun Gate was sparkling in a pass off in the distance, the switchback road showed the way down to Aguas Calientes and the mighty Andes where everywhere I looked. A perfect vantage point that the Incas made the most of. I was amazed that they were about to build a trail to the top and then live and farm there. I could have sat there for awhile but was short on time so I bid farewell to my friend and started back down.


I knew there would be a hundred people on the stairs and no real reason to try and set any records on the way down and  ran when I could and waited when I had to. There were a couple of tunnels up near the top as well as a few old buildings.



And some terraces. Check out the ladders they built into their walls.


The stairs were steep to say the least.


I was back down at the control in just under an hour after signing in. I'd been wondering how hard it was going to be to find my group amongst the thousands of people touring Machu Picchu after I got back down but they were right there as I walked through the gate. They were amazed I was back already and I joined back into the tour without missing a beat.



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