Damian & Jesse | Trekking Engagement Session in Peru | Huayhuash Mountains

I stole this song from Jesse's playlist on our 6th day - the 3rd day of our official trek. As we all sat by the water with the mountains surrounding us, eating popcorn, drinking beer. This song came on and I knew right away that I needed to use it for their pictures.

I also wanted to use excerpts from Jesse's journal - as you will see in the following photos - she was a vigilant journal-er. So the first half of this blog post was brought to you by Jesse, you will slowly see it go downhill as I take over, just like the hike :

Day 1
Thursday, September 14th, 2017
Traveling from Virginia to Panama to Lima

I'm currently sitting on the floor of a bus station in Lima, Peru. The station is packed and there's an adorable little boy running around in all fleece and a winter toboggan hat. There's a lady in a grey pantsuit yelling out things that I'm sure are bus related, but we can't understand her. We're just waiting for the word "once", the first call for our 11:30 bus which we'll take overnight to the town of Huaraz. 

We set our alarms for 4:30am in Virginia this morning and met up with Chris before being dropped off at the airport for our early flight out. We flew a few hours down to Panama where we had a quick layover - filled with Chai tea - and then a few more hours until we arrived in Lima around 7:30pm. Chris has extended family here who picked us up at the airport. Kathy, Paco, & Aldo loaded us in their cars and drove us through the bustling city where traffic laws seem obsolete, and the buildings are either abandoned or glowing with neon lights. We left the airport in search of some authentic Peruvian cuisine - Kathy took us to "Rustico", one of the buildings that was glowing with neon lights. We enjoyed some Pollo a la Brasa, a quartered chicken dish with french fries that was absolutely amazing. We had a dessert that was sweet potato-like donuts, covered in cornmeal, fried, and smothered in honey. 

So, now we are here, patiently awaiting our bus among the crowd and ferociously journaling. 

Day 2
September 15, 2017
Huaraz & Lake Wilcaccocha

We arrived in Huaraz around 6:30am. Stretching our limbs, we reluctantly rose from what had unexpectedly been one of our fanciest life experiences. The bus we had traveled on was decked out to the nines, complete with large bucket seats that laid out into small beds - complete with pillows, blankets, privacy curtains, a box of snacks, and personal TVs. We found ourselves a taxi and all piled in for a quick ride to our hotel. We got in so early, we weren't able to check into our room, but the receptionist encouraged us to head up to the top floor for breakfast. We wound up the wooden stairs which opened to a small living room and a beautiful terrace. The floors were traditional Peruvian tiles, the walls covered in art, and the balconies adorned with flowers overlooked magestic mountain ranges on every side. Continuing to the top floor the room opened up to a tower sunroom with cafe tables covered in bright textiles. We sat down to a delicious breakfast with coca tea and the tastiest fresh fruit, meats, cheeses, and bread. After I ate, I wandered out to the balcony where we all took a little bit of a breather before starting on our first hike - this was also the perfect spot for hoolahooping.

Still unable to get into our rooms, we got ready for our first hike in the garage and made our way down to our expedition hosts. We met our guide, Jhon, and ran out into the city to find a bus to bring us to the start of our hike.

First acclimatization hike to Lake Wilcaccocha in the Cordillera Negra situated at 12,139 ft. Elevation gain of 2,000 feet over approximately 2 miles. The hike up to the lake passes several small Andean villages, where colorfully dressed local people still follow a traditional way of life. We were blessed with breathtaking panoramic views of the Cordillera Blanca.

After our hike, we then hopped on a bus to take us back into the town of Huaraz, we found a large market of strung-up meat and quickly made our way through so we could finally check into our hotel room. After a nice, long shower, we got all dressed up and ran around the city as the sun set and did a bit of shopping in a warehouse of small shops selling alpaca-goods.

Day 3
September 16th, 2017
Laguna 69

Because of the high elevation, oxygen was rather low, so we had to do some acclimating. Laguna 69 was our second acclimatization hike before starting our official 4-day trek. We started our third morning by meeting with a bus at 5:30am to start our 13 hour day in the Cordillera Blanca at 15,000ft. Elevation gain of 2,330ft over 4.3 miles. Located at the foot of the impressive glacier of Mount Charcaraju (20,052 ft.) This hike was long & tough as our bodies still had not adjusted to the altitude, Damian ended up having to carry 2 bags up the entire mountain. There was a lot of kissing (and gecko) to get through the day.

The craziness and exhaustion of the day has led me to kind of forget what happened when we got back. 

Day 4
September 17th, 2017
First day of our four day trek through the Huayhuash Mountains

We woke up early, yet again, to meet with a bus where we would meet our new hiking and camp-mates for the next four days. We were all happy to discover that we were all feeling a little bit rough. We took a 5-hour bus ride to the start of our trek, with a small stop in the middle there to order coffee and eggs to prepare us for what was ahead. We met our cook and muleteer in the town of Pocpa (complete with sheep who wore pompoms on their ears), loaded up, and began the adventure we really knew very little about. Our trail followed the Llamac River and led us to our tents, which were located at the foot of Mount Rondoy - we made it up to, and were sleeping at, over 13,000 feet. We ran into quite a lot of rain, which followed us all the way to our first camp site, and stuck with us the rest of the evening and night. So we all huddled in one big tent where we drank a lot of tea, laughed a lot of laughs, and shared a lot of stories from Amsterdam, Norway, California, and Virginia - and all the travels in-between.

Day 5
September 18th, 2017
Second day of our four day trek in the Huayhuash Mountains

We woke up to the slightest bit of rain, making its way over from our first day, but it quickly cleared up for us so we could see absolutely incredible blue skies behind snow-capped mountains. We reached 15,600 feet, but were looking at mountains reaching nearly 22,000 feet. As we made our way up and down the passes, we realized suddenly our likeness to the Fellowship of the Ring - we named ourselves the Huayhuash Nine, and took the time to decide who was each character from the Lord of the Rings.

After some singing, and sketchy cliff edges, we reached our camp on the shores of Lake Januacocha - considered one of the most beautiful campsites in all of South America.  We then decided there would be no better time to jump into a small glacier river, before taking in the most spectacular sunset and clearest night sky we had ever seen.

Day 6
September 19th, 2017
Third day of our four day trek in the Huayhuash Mountains

After sleeping at 13,300 feet, we woke up to coca tea, and an incredible sunrise (to rightfully follow the most incredible sunset the night before). We left camp and started a steep hike up to an incredible panorama of the Huayhuash mountains. Damian and Chris made their way up to 5,000 meters (16,400 feet), a height none of us had touched before. After a crazy fast race down the dusty mountain, we finished the day off with popcorn and beer.


Day 7
September 20th, 2017
Fourth day of our four day trek in the Huayhuash Mountains

On our last day of the trek we left the most beautiful camp in the world and made our way across a pass that led us to a steep descent - for 2 hours, with our faces covered from the dust, we ran down from the incredible height we had hiked up over the course of the trek. When we reached the small town of Llamac where we met our bus, we met the nicest woman in the world who sold us litres of beer. It was the greatest welcome back from a 4-day trek we had ever had. After taking the 5 hour bus ride home, we all snuck in quick showers before one last fantastic dinner together, and some sad goodbyes as our friends from Amsterdam, California, and Peru continued on their own journeys.