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How hard is the highest pass on the Inca Trail?

A Tale of Untold Struggle and Deepest Reward on the Warmiwanusqa Pass The ancient stone pathway laid by the Incas centuries ago continues, disapp... Read more
How hard is the highest pass on the Inca Trail?

A Tale of Untold Struggle and Deepest Reward on the Warmiwanusqa Pass

The ancient stone pathway laid by the Incas centuries ago continues, disappearing into the misty clouds ahead. With bursting lungs and aching muscles you push on, summoning will and determination from depths within yourself you never knew existed. This challenge loomed large in the days, weeks, and months preceding your 5-day trek on the famous Inca Trail and here you are right in the thick of it, facing your biggest test yet, the Warmiwanusqa Pass, the Inca Trail’s highest point, 4,215 meters (13,828 ft.) of climbing with the greatest of rewards at the end

Step by step, you ascend knowing that you must finish what you started, that you can finish what you started. Your guides told you, “Keep steady.” It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You take a minute resting on the rock that seems to be there for the sole purpose of emphasising just how far out into the remote and wild landscape of Peru you really are. The strong, uninterrupted breezes of this barren and mountainous landscape nudge you forward. The only way out is forward. So you carry on.

The water helps to combat the dry air that keeps leaving you reaching for another sip. Water has never tasted so good or disappeared so fast. One step. Two step. You see your new friend from the group up ahead, far enough but close enough to bring you new motivation to keep going. Not to catch up but to keep up.

The thought crosses your mind that you might have made a mistake signing up for this crazy pursuit of extreme physical exertion. What were you thinking? This is insane. You’re no athlete. But then you glance behind you at the long and winding trail of steps from which you’ve just come. Steps that your aching and aging body has just conquered. You did that. And you can keep doing that. All the way to the top. All the way to the wooden sign post marking Warmiwanusqa Pass. You push on.

The doubts are frequent but powerless in the face of your awe-inspiring determination that ironically keeps growing stronger with each tiring step forward. Eventually, the sound of familiar voices and your name begin to break through the deep mental struggle going on in your head and the physical one in your legs. Voices cheer you onward up the final steps to the summit, slow step by slow step.

You summit. The feeling is indescribable. It’s a rush of emotion and achievement that is both rewarding and unbelievable. The view in every direction is the grandest prize. There hugs and cheers of congratulations from new friends and old. You’re comrades now, all having just shared in something that will stick with each of you forever. The hardest part is behind you and what you weren’t sure you could do, you did.

Warmiwanusqa Pass is the unavoidable challenge before the final reward and for many the highlight of their Inca Trail experience. It is the Warmiwanusca Pass and the soul-shaking perseverance required for its ascent that makes this particular trek to Machu Picchu that much more memorable and life-changing. This mini-summit before the final reward pushes and tests your limits in such a way that moves you to do something you’ve never done before. The sense of accomplishment that awaits you at the summit is a feeling that entirely redefines who you think you are and what you think you’re capable of. It’s an experience you just simply have to take on for yourself.

The Inca Trail  is one of the world's greatest treks. Walking along the famous ancient paved pathway of the Incas, from the Urubamba River to a high point at the Warmiwanusca Pass (4200m), before descending to the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu is adventure you will never forget. Be quick though, Inca Trail permits can sell out months in advance. When they go on sale each year in January and it is not unusual for them to sell out for popular periods by the end of February.

>> Trek the Inca Trail

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