Cycling The Globe

A Cycle Touring Expedition Around The World

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Day 1439 – 1440: Climbing El Misti

Posted by Thomas Andersen Posted on Sep - 01 - 2014

There are several tours that leave daily for the Misti volcano, but I thought it would be more interesting to do the climb independently. On Couchsurfing I had met Aldo, a local Arequipeño as well as Stasia from Russia and Ricardo from Spain. Over breakfast at the hostel, Bea from Germany was not slow to join the adventure – thus our international climbing team was complete.

On an early Saturday morning we met at the central square and headed for the mountain.

With a 4WD car it is possible to drive to the trail head at 3400 m – thanks for the ride Frank! Then there was only one way to go, up!

In the beginning it was easy going, the weather was warm and comfortable, and we were not yet high enough to really feel the effects of the altitude. The view over Arequipa and the valley below was beautiful, and the spirit on our team was high as we marched on.

Crossing 4000 m the lack of oxygen started to be a challenge, but we took at easy and slowly made progress towards base camp up at 4600 m. After a short break a stupidly forgot to put my camera back in my backpack before moving on (I blame the lack of oxygen… 🙂 Going back down to get it was not a problem, but climbing back up to the team was.

Reunited with my camera we reached base camp before sunset. By now I have camped in many spectacular places, but this site, overlooking Arequipa some 2000 m below, was something truly special!

As the sun was setting it was getting cold quickly. We had a quick and simple dinner (bread with tuna) before returning to the tents. The summit push would start at 2 am!

Opening the tent in the middle of the night we were greeted with this view over Arequipa. The night in the tent had been reasonably comfortable – only a couple of minus degrees, and I had managed to sleep for at least some hours. However, I also knew that the hard part of the climb was yet to come. Above 5000 m nothing is easy anymore.

The main problem by now was the cold. When we had started from the camp it had only been a couple of minus degrees, but after a few hours of climbing to higher altitudes my thermometer now showed -10. Furthermore the wind was picking up, and we would now have to stop every couple of minutes to try to keep fingers and toes warm. It is at times like these that you start asking yourself why you are doing this – being in a warm bed in Arequipa suddenly seemed like the wiser option!

The only one who was not really cold was Stasia from Russia – I guess they have some special DNA over there to deal with the cold 🙂 The rest of us were desperately looking forward to sunrise!

Sunrise came, and were greeted with one of the more amazing sights I remember seeing – the shadow of the Misti volcano reaching the horizon as the sun rose behind it.

Ahhhh, finally a chance to warm up a bit before the final push towards the summit.

With the sun up we could now see the cross above that marked the summit of the volcano – it didn’t seem far away, but even 100 meters of altitude gain takes quite an effort up here!

Yes, we are going to make it!!!

Walking the final meters towards the summit, all the hardship finally seemed worth it. It was an amazing feeling standing there at 5822 meters above sea level – a new record height for most of us – time to celebrate!

Normally walking down from mountains can be almost as demanding as walking up – mostly because you are tired and the adrenaline rush from the summit is gone. On Misti however, there is a sand/ash track that makes the descend as fun as they get – in the soft sand, running downhill was almost like skiing!

Back at the base camp it was time for a quick siesta. By this time we had been going for 12 hours, and we were only half way down the volcano.

After the siesta we continued down. This was where I needed some good music in my ears to keep the motivation up.

A very tired but very happy team after 15 hours of hiking. At sunrise we had been standing up there at the summit – now we were more than ready to catch a ride back to the city for a warm shower and some much needed sleep. Yes we made it!!!

Categories: Mountaineering, Peru
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5 Responses so far.

  1. Marie says:


  2. parinay says:

    kudos !!!

  3. Randy K5ZD says:

    The sunrise volcano shadow picture was amazing.