How difficult is this trek?
The Ausangate trek itself is rather demanding, mostly due to the altitude, ranging from 13,200 ft/4,300 m to 16,700 ft/5,100 m at the highest pass. There are also some significant changes of altitude during the course of each trekking day. The lodges are all easily reachable in six to seven hours at a regular hiking pace, with generous allowance made for taking pictures and enjoying the landscape.
Do I have to carry my own gear?
While on the trail, hikers carry only a daypack (camera equipment, water bottle, extra layers, rain gear, and other accessories they might need). Llamas carry a large part of the group luggage; we also bring a few horses. Weary participants can continue the trip on horseback.
What if I get sick?
In our lodges and on the trek we use radio communication and we always take along oxygen and essential first aid equipment.
When is the best time to take this trek and what kind of weather can I expect?
There are only two seasons in this latitude, a dry one (April-October) and a wet one (November-March) with plenty of rain (and snow at high altitude). We normally operate from April-October, when the weather is typically dry and stable. Occasional rain showers can occur at any time of the year. Temperatures vary very little during daytime, but drop drastically at night. While temperatures in the dry season (the Andean winter) often drop below freezing at night, you enjoy a comfortable overnight stay in our warm tambos.
What should I bring?
- Comfortable hiking boots and good socks
- Tennis shoes or sandals to wear around town
- Gore-Tex jacket and pants/Rain gear
- Long underwear
- Layered clothing for varied conditions from warm to cold
- Sunglasses, sunscreen, lip balm,
- Hat for sun protection and a ski hat for the cold
- Water bottle (or alternate personal hydration system)
- Extra batteries for your camera equipment (they might last less in low temperature and there is no possibility to recharge them), memory cards and/or film
- (Small) flashlight/head lamp
- Pocket knife
- Toiletries/small first aid kit/all personal medications
- Energy bars
How should I prepare for this trek, and what is the best way to deal with the high altitude?
To enjoy this Ausangate trek, you need to be in good health. Participating in an active program of physical conditioning in the weeks leading up to your trek will help you make the most of your time in the mountains. We require that you spend at least 4 days at elevation prior to commencing the trek. It’s difficult to predict how altitude will affect individuals. Reactions appear to be independent of age and physical condition. Above 10,000 ft/3,000 m, the most common mild symptoms are: headache, loss of appetite, dizziness, and insomnia. Following simple rules upon arriving in Cuzco, 11,100 ft/3,400 m, help reduce initial disturbances (resting, slower walking, light meals, plenty of water and coca tea and less alcohol etc.). Many of our travelers find that the prescription medication Diamox helps with initial adjustment to the elevation.
What are the altitudes on this trek?
- Lima: 177 ft/54 m above sea level
- Cuzco: 11,100 ft/3392 m above sea level
- Highest lodge: Machuracay Tambo, 15,748 ft/4,800 m above sea level
- Highest point of the trip: Palomachayoc Pass, 16,700 ft/5,100 m above sea level
THE AUSANGATE PEOPLE
Today’s Alpaca herders inherited thousands of years of cultural acquisitions, reaching back to the indiscriminate hunters who first settled in the Andes some 14,000-16,000 years ago. The neolithic arrivals became specialized hunters, who developed a technique that forced the selected prey to run through previously built walls into corrals. At the same time they protected the herds from natural predators, principally pumas. The symbiotic relationship with the animals developed into domestication, herding, and selective breeding. In current times, during the ritual marriages of the Alpacas, they are called in Quechua "Huywa, our offspring -- a gift of the gods. The day that there are no more alpacas in the puna, man will also disappear.” (Guaman Poma de Ayala)
The protector Mountain God, or Apu, is Ausangate. From him is born the water, male energy of the mountain, flowing over mother earth, making her fertile and able to support life. Later those waters flow into the unknown lands of the Amazon, from where they return every night, converted in the Milky Way to replenish the sacred ice of the mountain.