15,771 ft. [August 25, 2012 – Thursday]

The morning we woke up at Singrenacocha, somebody came up with the excellent idea of adding our chocolate powder mix to the oatmeal/quinoa/granola breakfast, which was AMAZING.  Genius.  Too bad we basically ran out of the chocolate that morning.  The “hot chocolate” mix we got at La Canasta ended up as more of a chocolate liquor when water was added, and actually not very tasty to drink on its own.  We usually had to add a ton of sugar and powdered milk to make it good, but since we also used powdered milk for our breakfast, we ended up just drinking the chocolate as a bitter-sweet liquor instead.

The climb out of Singrenacocha was… difficult.  One of those dream-like situations where the summit is far away and all you can do is move at a constant snail’s pace.  Climbing almost a 1,000 ft in limited space required a great deal of steep switchbacking and frequent rests.  It became a beautiful sort of monotony where there was nothing but the ground against your feet and nature surrounding you for miles on end.  I would do it again.  I also feel it’s worth noting that the horses passed us at a narrow path on the steepest part of the slope, and I definitely almost got pushed off by one of them.  Haha I love those guys, they don’t stop for anyone.

We made it out!

The horses taking a break after climbing up the valley. Of course, they made it to the top before us (and after Sang).

Victor and Hacinto rest and eat coca leaves.

We ended up resting for quite some time at the top, so Megan and I did some stretches while we were waiting, which Victor and Hacinto thought was hilarious.  We decided to have lunch at Laguna Armacocha so we set off northwest to go though a pass that led to the lake.  We encountered a steep hill on our right, so we decided to leave our packs on the pass and go to the top to look for vicuñas (camelids that share a common ancestor with the domesticated alpacas) in the rocky surroundings.  Victor and Hacinto went ahead to Armacocha.  We were hopeful that we would see vicuñas, but realistically, they are very uncommon in the area due to the increase of alpaca farming in the area, which means that alpacas graze in a wider territory. Vicuñas are shy and prefer not to mingle with alpacas, so many of them are now found on the eastern side of Ausangate, where alpacas and people are even less in number.  I also learned that all vicuñas are “property” of the Peruvian government and it is illegal to take their fur or kill them.  Every three years or so, the government rounds them up and shears them — selling for triple the amount of alpaca wool as it is even softer, finer, and warmer.  That’s probably why vicuñas hate people.

An offering for the Apus, in front of Cayangate.

Group photo in front of Cayangate — Photo by Sang C.

View of Cayangate from the pass. It’s amazing up close.

Photo by Sang C.

Other mountains in the Vilcanota region (names unknown). The view before we headed up to higher elevation.

When we got to the top, we had reached an elevation of 15,771 ft.!  Unfortunately, though somewhat expected, we didn’t see any vicuñas, but the gorgeous view reconciled it.  Cayangate and Ausangate felt closer than ever, and aside from those two mountains behind us, we were at the highest point as far as the eye could see.

At 15,771 ft! Hand/watch/altimeter courtsey of Tim — Photo by Sang C.

Group photo at our highest elevation of the trip. — Photo by Sang C.

Mr. Photographer Sang standing at the edge to take a photo of Ausangate.


On our way to Armacocha, we ran into a very large treking group (egads, people!) on their way to Ausangate, from Germany I think.  It was huge shock to see more than 10 people in one place.

Armacocha wasn’t nearly as blue as Singrenacocha, in fact, it was basically gray — a direct result of glacial silt runoff.  There was large delta of glacial silt that fed into the lake, and was in and of itself pretty amazing.  Today we switched up lunch… tortillas with avocado and cheese (or peanut butter if you preferred), instead of the usual bread rolls.  I kid you not, this has been our lunch for the past four days.  I’m not complaining though, I lah lah love avocados.

Ausangate and an unknown lake.

Tim taking photos of Cayangate.

Breaking for lunch in front of Cayangate.  Best lunch view I’ve ever had. — Photo by Tim B.

We hiked mostly through alpaca and sheep farmland, which consisted of squishy moss underfoot and little streams crossing back and forth.  We came upon a large stream we had to cross, so we went along its length, looking for somewhere we could feasibly jump across.  As soon as we crossed, a large white-ish dog with black ears and markings around his eyes leapt across the river like it was nothing and began following us.  Granted, I did use my ‘dog voice’ to say “Here, boy!” when I saw him watching us from across the stream.  He was probably the sweetest dog we had met up on the mountains (most of them are herd dogs or guard animals and basically just bark at you until you leave), and I couldn’t help but pet and scratch him like crazy (which he loved anyway, so no one’s complaining).

On the road again… till we find a place to pitch our tents. — Photo by Sang C.

Alpacas running away from us.

Taking a break with the horses.

Meet Malachi.

The dog stayed with us as were setting up camp next to an empty house.  I definitely didn’t have any dog-like food with me, so I fed him my stash of craisins, which he seemed to enjoy.  We got settled quite early in the day, so I ended up just trying to read Tropical Nature (supposedly to prepare us for the Amazon) while scratching/petting Malachi (which was the name given to him by Marshall and we all agreed it was fitting).  Malachi did this thing where he put his paw on your leg if he was content, which meant his muddy pawprints were all over my pants.  Tim said that Malachi probably had never gotten so much love in his entire life.

We tried telling Malachi to “sit” and “stay” in Spanish (one entirely unreasonable command from Mekdes was to “jump” haha), but it didn’t seem to work with him.  We asked Victor how to say those commands in Quechua, and to our surprise, it worked instantly.  Even though it’s completely common sense, I forgot that animals can be multi-lingual too.

Yup, I pretty much fell in love with Malachi. — Photo by Sang C.

Tim was feeling a bit under the weather, so he camped super far away — Photo by Sang C.

Photo by Sang C.

For dinner, we had the usual veggie-quinoa soup (carrots, onion, potatoes, quinoa, the occasional rice or water chestnut) plus some beets and pepper, which made it delicious (might’ve had two or three servings).  I gave a couple scoops to Malachi.

Star trails in the Southern Hemisphere — Photo by Sang C.

2 Responses to “15,771 ft. [August 25, 2012 – Thursday]”
  1. Elena says:

    wow! This is incredible! Last shot is unreal!



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