This was the day I cried, and the day Jacob got a nosebleed.
[P.S. We’re hiking Patagonia this July. If you’d like to join us, you can check out all the info here.]
DAY 2 OF THE INCA TRAIL: WAYLLABAMBA – WARMIWAÑUSCA – PACAYMAYO
Distance: 6.83 miles / 11km
Estimated time: 6 – 7 hours
Maximum Altitude: 13,828 / 4215 m (some sources say 13,799 feet)
What you see: Dead Woman’s Pass (highest point on the trail)
Day 2 is the most dreaded day on the Inca Trail. By this point, they’ve done a good job warning you of Dead Woman’s Pass, which is the highest point on the Inca Trail sitting at 13,828 ft (4215 m). For reference, Machu Picchu is only at 7972 ft (2430 m).
We started the day by meeting and then proceeded to eat our breakfast. jk. At least I hope those aren’t the same pigs we’re eating.
Look at all the llamas and alpacas!
Here are porters traveling up Dead Woman’s Pass. It was rough for us and painful just watching them. We needed to save all our energy to survive this part, so we took these photos after we reached the top! Just imagine climbing stairs for three hours straight. It was nice that even from half an hour down, you can hear people cheering others on this portion.
We made it!!!!
Unfortunately, what goes up must come down.
This is just before the part where I broke down. I felt really wobbly, my knees hurt, and my legs started giving out on the downhill portion. I wanted to die than finish the rest of the trail. After beating a bush with my hiking stick and crying it out for half an hour, I got all the crazy out. It was mainly because I realized that there wasn’t going to be a helicopter rescuing me out, and it was an embarrassing thought to be carried out by a porter. So I wiped my tears and we continued on…
After lots of tears and shedding some blood (Jacob’s nosebleed), we saw our campsite.
Looking back, I’m probably in much better shape now. The South doesn’t quite have the same outdoors / hiking culture like it does out on the west coast. If I were to do this over again, I hope all the crying is behind me (though there’s nothing wrong with crying it out). It’s incredible what our bodies are capable of, and sometimes it’s mind over matter. Now that I know my body is stronger than my mind, it’s time to get my mind in shape too!
TIPS TO HELP YOU SURVIVE DEAD WOMAN’S PASS / DAY 2
- Practice! – When getting ready for a long multi-day hike, the best thing to do is to prepare as much as you can. That means hiking as much as you can! Progressively start challenging yourself more with either harder hikes, longer distances, and with weight, or a bit of all three.
- Give Yourself Time to Acclimate – Give yourself time to acclimate to the high elevation. I still remember how short of breath and dizzy I was on the first day in Cusco, and that was just from walking up and down regular streets. Most companies recommend two full days to adjust before hitting the trail.
- Hydrate – Dehydration does cause altitude sickness to be sure to drink plenty of water. Overall it’s a good practice no matter what distances you’re hiking.
- Take Breaks – If you find yourself breathing heavily, take plenty of breaks. Take 50-100 steps, then stop to catch your breath before continuing. Also, take long deep breaths. One big exhale, one big inhale, then repeat.
- Don’t Compete with Others – Since you’re hiking in a group, the tendency is to compare yourself to others. Everyone hikes differently and the altitude will affect some people more than others. Don’t tire yourself out just because you feel like you’re going slower than others. A steady pace that you can handle is what’s most important! You still have a long way to go before you’re at Machu Picchu.
- Local Remedies – Locals will chew on coca leaves to help with elevation. You can also steep them in tea. Either way, it never hurts to have a bag of them handy. You can also buy small oxygen tanks in case you really feel short of breath. We bought one but never used it, but better safe than sorry right?
- Mental Games – Some miles are more brutal than others. During those times, to keep our minds off of the hike, we’ll play mental games. Sometimes we count steps. We haven’t tried this yet, but some people play the Alphabet game where you go through the alphabet and name something (for example a tv character) starting with each letter.
- Give Yourself Micro-Goals – Sometimes you just need a pick me up. I usually pick a landmark in the distance and make it a goal not to stop until we reach that spot. When I get there, I have a mini celebration and make sure I tell myself “good job! you did it!”
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What are some challenging hikes you’ve done and did you play any mental games to get you through the toughest parts?
MORE HELPFUL HIKING GUIDES
“Discovery consists not of seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes” – M. Proust