Conquering the Hike of Death

Let me preface this by saying that while this post may make it look like we are some cool Andes-Mountain-hiking tough guys (maybe? does it? I don’t know), from the time we booked our tickets to the moment we summited the 8,920-foot peak, I was very very very very very nervous.

Huayna Picchu is a mountain that stands right next to and about 1,180 feet higher than Machu Picchu. At the time of booking, we were all about this extra challenge. People online raved about how it was “so worth the climb” and how cool it was to take in Machu Picchu from above, a viewpoint not all tourists get to see.


Then I did some more research. When you search for Huayna Picchu in Google, the first things that pop up are “deaths” and “dangerous.” It even has earned itself the nickname “the hike of death.” SWELL. Then I read some reviews on TripAdvisor:

“This is not an easy hike. The ascent and descent are nearly vertical following a path originally used by the Incas. The steps are irregular in spacing and sometimes missing.”

“Best experience of my life. Just be careful, its a long way to fall.”

Others called it the scariest thing they’ve ever done. There were mentions of a tight cave to squeeze through. We learned that there are no guard rails, the path is narrow and jagged, it’s not a climb for the faint of heart… needless to say, it didn’t take long before the experienced travelers of the Internet managed to scare me pretty bad. Would I be able to climb this bad boy?


Thankfully, for every 3 fear-inducing reviews, there had to be about 100 more encouraging others to JUST DO IT! and that it would be the best thing they’d ever do in their lives. And so with a head full of worry/anxiety and a heart full of optimism/gratitude for the opportunity, we embarked on the steep climb to the summit of Huayna Picchu. It was not easy.IMG_337010352733_2474868718555_949854209339836980_n1975023_2474870918610_4212643467954570036_n10995829_2474870678604_1827111220902733835_n

This tiny cave was one of the parts of the climb I was most nervous about — it was so tight at some points we couldn’t fit through with our backpacks on. Heyyyy there, claustrophobia! Nice to see you!11001861_2474870118590_2908471790963553190_n

I don’t even remember how long it actually took us to reach the top — but I know it was longer than the a lot of websites predicted it would take. We stopped often due to a genuine inability to catch out breath (the altitude was really screwing with these lungs!), and we got varying answers when we asked people on their way down how much longer til the top.

When we finally got to the very tip top, the anxiety didn’t exactly fade. We were climbing haphazardly on some big ole rocks trying to find the best view and navigating around lots of other tourists (including a speedy 12-year-old-ish boy who monkeyed around the edge of the mountain without fear. HOW.). I couldn’t seem to stop being such a baby — I was so scared! Eventually, we found a wide, flat ledge where a lot of climbers were resting & taking photos. We may have indulged in some selfie stick action (NO SHAME):

The champs! DCIM100GOPRO

Selfie stick solo selfie with Machu Picchu. Sup, world.

Once we caught our breaths, we could take some time to really SOAK IN THIS VIEW. Are we seeing this???? That winding road on the left of Machu Picchu is where the bus drove on the way & where we got some incredible photos of the surrounding mountains. We spent awhile up there just sitting (waiting, wishing), devouring the sun & views, and feeling pretty proud of what we had just accomplished. ~strong muscly arm emoji~


These are the rocks at the very top that had me just as nervous as the climb. Everyone was selfie-stickin’! Adventures in 2015. IMG_3319IMG_3329After a sufficient amount of time of breath-catching and view-loving, we began our descent. Some reviews said the climb down was more intense and scary, but we found it to be muuuuuuch easier and we zipped down the mountain in no time. For the most part…


Overall, our day was a RAGING success. We made it to Machu Picchu via three separate modes of transportation with relative ease, got a glimpse at the beautiful Peruvian countryside, and hung out with some cool llamas. We made friends with a highly entertaining/highly attractive guy who had spent the entire day getting drunk in nearby hot springs — and who I would have considered saying yes to had he proposed. We explored the ancient ruins of one of the most treasured sites in the whole wide world and ascended what National Geographic calls one of the world’s best hikes/thrilling trails! We were sunburnt and exhausted, but eventually that burn turned to tan and our aching muscles the next few days served as a reminder of one of the best days of our lives.

Would you attempt the hike to Huayna Picchu? 

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  • Reply Laura (PA Pict)

    I’m very happy for you that you accomplished that extra challenge and the views look entirely worthwhile. As someone who is both terribly phobic of heights (I get panic attacks on steep grass verges) and claustrophobic there is unfortunately not a chance I could accomplish this. So thanks for letting me hike it vicariously through your photos.

    April 18, 2015 at 6:25 pm
    • Reply Kristen

      I really didn’t think I would be able to do it! But I’m glad to let you live vicariously through the photos 🙂

      April 18, 2015 at 10:14 pm
  • Reply simpletravelourway

    Thanks for the post as we also plan to do this hike and wondered: how hard is hard? Your photos help answer that! Thanks..

    April 18, 2015 at 6:31 pm
    • Reply Kristen

      It was pretty daaaaang hard!

      April 18, 2015 at 10:14 pm
  • Reply ~Michelle Cook

    Sounds like my kind of adventure! Beautiful photos!

    April 18, 2015 at 9:02 pm
    • Reply Kristen

      It was quite an adventure IIIIINDEED! Thank you!

      April 18, 2015 at 10:15 pm
  • Reply manonplatje

    Awesome adventure and photos!!

    April 19, 2015 at 6:18 am
  • Reply roamingpursuits

    Good photos.

    April 20, 2015 at 2:46 am
    • Reply Kristen

      Why thank you very much!

      April 20, 2015 at 11:04 am
  • Reply shmamyhopf

    i dont think I could go through the cave.

    April 20, 2015 at 9:22 am
    • Reply Kristen

      Amy. Seriously I was so effing nervous. Like more nervous than I’ve been in YEARS

      April 20, 2015 at 11:04 am
  • Reply Isabel

    You are my new super heroe!!!! You did it Kristen! I bet this is going to be one of the memories your friends and you will always remember. So so so cool! I’m so proud that you took the risk and took amazing pictures on the meantime!

    April 21, 2015 at 4:04 pm
    • Reply Kristen

      thank you! It will definitely be a memory I’ll keep for the rest of my life. It’s hard to forget a feeling of fear that strong haha

      April 21, 2015 at 4:36 pm
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  • Reply Stephanie: A Friend Afar

    Great post! I did this hike last year & agree it was quite challenging but so worth it for the views and the sense of accomplishment. Well done you!

    May 6, 2015 at 2:24 pm
    • Reply Kristen

      Well thank you very much pal! It ended up being one of the best days of my life. Belated congrats to you too!

      May 6, 2015 at 4:12 pm
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  • Reply jesh stg

    wow, those views are worth it! And you did it!! Yay! How high is that mountain?

    May 18, 2015 at 3:07 am
  • Reply Andrew Seal

    Brilliant 🙂

    June 17, 2015 at 12:29 pm
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