Our climb up Huayna Picchu at Machu Picchu

Our climb up Huayna Picchu at Machu Picchu

 View of Huayna Picchu mountain at Machu Picchu, in Urubamba Province, Peru.

Over a quick breakfast in Agua Calientes, Bob and I debated whether or not to actually tackle climbing up Huayna Picchu Mountain, which sits overlooking Machu Picchu.  The hiking trail up this mountain follows another ancient Inca path with an ascent up steep stony pathways, through tunnels, and along sheer cliff edges that offer no protection for hikers.  We both decided that it would be an exhilarating and challenging trek, but I was unsure if I would have the courage.  I have to tell you that I am very afraid of heights.

Huayna Picchu mountain at Machu Picchu, in Urubamba Province, Peru.

The previous day, it had been evident from far below that climbing Huayna Picchu was going to be a very precipitous and possibly dangerous climb.  In the end, I agreed with Bob that I just couldn’t let this opportunity of a lifetime pass me by.  We would at least try to climb the mountain.

Entrance gate and map at Huayna Picchu mountain at Machu Picchu, in Urubamba Province, Peru.

Arriving early at the Huayna Picchu checkpoint was key.  We had to enter our names on a list and then wait for a ticket to be issued giving us permission to climb the mountain.  Only 400 people are allowed to ascend the mountain each day, and yet over 1,000 people come to Machu Picchu most days.  Consequently, because of the restriction, many people are not able to fulfill their desire to climb the mountain.  After getting our tickets, we took time to study the map at the entrance to gain insight into the route we would be climbing.

Stone steps on the hiking trail at Huayna Picchu, Machu Picchu

By 9:30 a.m., our climb was underway, and Bob and I were grateful that this side of the mountain was presently shaded.

Bob on the hiking trail up Huayna Picchu, at Machu Picchu, Peru

For the most part, the trail wasn’t much different from that traveled the other day except that it was much steeper.  Thankfully, steel cables are provided at the riskier sections of the climb so that we could help pull ourselves up the larger stone steps.  The Inca people would have had no such assistance.

Stone steps on the hiking trail up Huayna Picchu, at Machu Picchu

Sections of the ancient stone walls could be seen where the Inca built them to support the trail and prevent erosion.  It is amazing to me that these steps, that these Inca trails, still exist in good condition after all these centuries.

View of Machu Picchu from the top of Huayna Picchu

As we ascended Huayna Picchu, Bob and I stopped periodically to take in the panoramic view.  Far below us, the ruins of Machu Picchu lay spread before us, and we could also see Huchuy Picchu (in the lower right corner of this picture), the little mountain that we surmounted the day before.

A mountain terrace and buildings on Huayna Picchu mountain, at Machu Picchu

At one point, the trail brought us out onto a terrace constructed by the Inca to provide a view of Machu Picchu far below, but the panoramic mountain landscape was no less impressive.

Bob and Jean standing on the summit of Huayna Picchu, at Machu Picchu

As Bob and I took a break on an upper terrace, I was surprised to hear a number of the climbers admitting that they, too, are afraid of heights.  Both of us were sure to keep well back from the edge, and even at this height, we were still a long ways from the top!

Entrance to a tunnel on hiking trail up Huayna Picchu mountain, Machu Picchu

In order to reach the last section of the trail leading to the peak, it was necessary to climb from the upper terrace through a short tunnel carved into the bottom of and under a monolithic granite boulder.  This tunnel was used by the Inca as a control point to stop invading forces from gaining access to the top of the mountain.

Bob inside the tunnel on hiking trail up Huayna Picchu, at Machu Picchu

Bob soon discovered that the narrow tunnel provided an excellent means of guarding access to the next section of the trail.  Despite the blistering hot day, cool water dripped from the walls as we both crouched low to make our way through the passage.

Jean standing inside the tunnel on hiking trail up Huayna Picchu, at Machu Picchu

Adequate head space existed at one spot in the tunnel so I could stand up, and the chilly air within its confines was a welcome reprieve from the burning rays of the sun on the exposed side of the mountain.

Jean exits the tunnel on the hiking trail up Huayna Picchu, Machu Picchu

I found it a tight fit at certain points, making it necessary to focus on the placement of each footstep as we moved forward.

View of Machu Picchu from the top of Huayna Picchu

Jean sitting at the top of Huayna Picchu, at Machu Picchu

Upon exiting the tunnel, a wooden ladder came into view.  The ladder was an aid to hikers who now had to scale the same huge boulder that topped the tunnel.  Once this obstacle was surmounted, the reward was a lookout from atop a tumble of over-sized granite rocks.

Bob sitting near the top of Huayna Picchu, at Machu Picchu

View of terrace and buildings on the side of Huayna Picchu, at Machu Picchu

Photo opportunities existed everywhere.  I couldn’t believe that here, on top of this narrow mountain, the Inca actually built terraces and temples.  The work that went into this construction is defies belief.

People sitting on rocks at the top of Huayna Picchu, Machu Picchu

Near the top, we joined a small group of people appreciating the amazing scenery and also awaiting turns to climb the final stretch onto the single colossal boulder that rests at the pinnacle of the mountain.

Jean sitting on the pinnacle of Huayna Picchu, at Machu Picchu

After waiting my turn, I finally mustered the courage to climb up to the summit of Huayna Picchu.  What a moving experience to sit at the top of the world.  I was proud of myself for mastering my fear and felt blessed to be looking out over such stunning scenery as the Andes Mountains provided.

Bob standing on the pinnacle of Huayna Picchu, at Machu Picchu

Bob and I achieved the highest point on Huayna Picchu mountain, and it seemed we were level with the nearby snow-capped peaks.

Jean sitting on the pinnacle of Huayna Picchu, Machu Picchu

Only 15 to 20 minutes could be spent at the crest because of other hikers arriving from below.  Space was limited there at the top, and we had a timetable to stick to.  A 1 o’clock train departing Agua Calientes would be our ride back to Cuzco.

View of Huayna Picchu mountain at Machu Picchu, Peru

After descending back to the plateau of Machu Picchu, Bob and I could see colorful specks ascending the narrow paths etched into the side of Huayna Picchu.  The specks were, of course, the hikers making their way up the rustic stone steps of the trail in pursuit of their own goals.

Bob and Jean standing on a ridge above Machu Picchu

It was always my dream to visit Machu Picchu, and both Bob and I were not disappointed.  It was an incredible and, at times, mystical experience.  The Inca Trail hike was unforgettable in that world of cloud forest, warm rain, tropical flowers, and endless narrow footpaths.

Overview of Machu Picchu, in Peru

Machu Picchu should not be missed.  Scaling the mountains at Machu Picchu was certainly demanding, but it was well worth both the time and the energy.  Having a chance to look out over the citadel of Machu Picchu from on high was a view I will not soon forget.

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5 comments

  • Unas fotos preciosas!!!

  • Fantastic photos! My wife and I hiked the Inca trail and visited Machu Picchu back in 2001 and had many of the same feelings about it. We weren’t brave enough to head up Huayna Picchu, though. It looks like we should have given it a try.

    • Hi Rick, Glad to hear you liked our post. It took Jean and I along time to decide to head up Huayna Picchu that day. And there have been many times in our travels when we have said “No” to similar moments. Be it wind, rain, or just a funny feeling we often say NO. So should you guys make it back to Machu Picchu down the line, and the weather is good, and the feeling it right, give it a try. It was a terrific view. Take Care,

    • It took a lot of thought and consideration when making up our minds, but I felt really proud of myself when I mastered my fear of heights and when I actually made it to the top of Huayna Picchu. The trail was very intimidating in some sections.