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How to Hike the Inca Trail Day 2 – Surviving Dead Woman’s Pass

Hiking the Inca Trail? Here’s a recap of Day 2.

This was the day I cried, and the day Jacob got a nosebleed.

If you plan on hiking the Inca Trail, be sure to check out our packing guide and 4-day overview.

Surviving Dead Woman's Pass + How to Hike the Inca Trail Day 2 //

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Last Updated: March 8, 2024

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.

See More: Your Ultimate Guide to Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Guide to Hiking the Inka Trail Day 2 //
Inca Trail Hike Difficulty - I was dying here //

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.

The Dreaded Climb Up to Dead Woman's Pass - Highest Point Inca Trail //
The Brutal Climb Up to Dead Woman's Pass - Highest Point Machu Picchu Trail //
Dead Woman's Pass (Ultimate Guide to the 4-Day Inca Trail Hike to Machu Picchu) //

We made it!!!!

Dead Womans Pass - The Highest Point Inca Trail Day 2 //
The Brutal Climb Up to Dead Woman's Pass - Inca Trail's Highest Point //
Dead Woman's Pass - Highest Point on the Inca Trail //

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…

Ultimate Guide to the Machu Picchu Trail Day 2 //

After lots of tears and shedding some blood (Jacob’s nosebleed), we saw our campsite.

How to Hike the Inca Trail Day 2 - Peru Adventures //

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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When you’re ready to go, book your trip here. We went to Patagonia with OneSeed as well and love what they are doing.

See More: How to Hike the Torres del Paine W Trek

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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?

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Esther + Jacob

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This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Scott

    Don’t psych yourself out! Most anyone can do this. . . With a little preparation. I did it when I was 50 and only started prepping for it a month in advance. I worked on the 10th floor of an office building and each day upon arrival I would walk up the stairs to my office. The first day it took me about 10 minutes, the next week I had it down to 8 and each week progressively quicker. The focus was not on speed but for constant little steps. When we did our “assault” on DWP there were about 16 in our group, and ages ranged from 18-50. A group of younger physically fit hikers charged off, but I kept to a slow steady pace (tortoise and hare?). I caught up to them within 15 minutes while they were taking a break, they passed me shortly thereafter, I passed them again in 10 minutes, and after that never saw them again. I was the first to the top. Good news was I survived a daunting ordeal, but I realized later that by not taking breaks that I had missed out on soaking in the wonderous beauty of the climb. So, yes you can beat this beast, but learn from my failure . . . Stop along the way whether you need it or not and wonder in the glory of where you are.

    1. Esther JuLee

      That’s such a great way to train! I completely agree. If I could do it in the shape I was in back then, I think most anyone can do it.

  2. Shelby

    It looks like such an amazing journey! I cannot wait to do this for myself one day :D

    1. Esther JuLee

      It was! I hope you get to do the trek. The views were completely worth it!

  3. Elysia

    This part was miserable. Micro-goals are definitely a good one. “When I reach that next point, I’m going to treat myself to a couple of gummy bears.”

    1. Esther JuLee

      I like that idea! But maybe something lighter next time. We brought one of those huge lb bags of gummy bears not really thinking about how heavy they were going to be, so we ate them all the first day. HAHA

  4. Emily

    I think I would just die. I’ve always said I wanted to do this hike one day but the truth is I’m so out of shape I would be the one being carried out by something or someone.

    1. Esther JuLee

      I think you will do just fine! Although there might be some crying haha. I was really out of shape too. There wasn’t much hiking around Atlanta.. so my training would be doing the 1-mile trail to the top. haha You can do it!

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