30th September 2007 aka Huayna Picchu
The "rock" that dwarfs Machu Picchu ruins is Wayna Picchu. It means "Young Peak" in Quechua and stands 2720m above sea level, about 360m above the Lost city.
The climb up the ancient Inca trail is most certainly amongst my best of my hikes. Steep, dangerous and extremely rewarding. The peak has a unique view of Machu Picchu. We left Aguas Caliente early in the morning and were at the foot of Wayna Picchu by 7:00 AM. They allow only the first 400 hikers every day and nobody is allowed to start after 1:00 PM. Clearly we were taking no chances.
The climb requires you to be both fit and brave. The grade is extreme despite the use of the Inca steps. The drop is precarious -very few handrails - with Urubamba always visible about 8000 feet below you. Don't let that worry you. My 5 year old did it and did it with elan.
As we neared the peak, we began crossing people who had started a couple of hours before us. As they got within hearing distance, Rhea would chirp, "Papa, this climb is so easy". We would invariably hear the groans mixed with the grunts. We played this game for a while. It as much helped the final few minutes as did the water and coca leaves.
We spent a couple of hours at the top and would have spent more had Machu Picchu not been beckoning. We downed our high protein lunch and started back.
If the climb is treacherous, the descent is petrifying! The unbridled depth of the mountain instills the un-pragmatic fear of tumbling straight to the bottom. Egos forgotten, we quietly took to our fours - shoving the dizzying depths out of sight and hence out of mind.
Near the very bottom, less than 100 feet away from the foothills, the by-now exhausted Rhea asked me to let her ride on my back. As soon as she did, I said sotto voce, "You know Rhea, people will think I carried you down all the way".
In a flash, she had shrugged herself off me. She then victoriously stomped the final few yards.