Hiking in Peru: Across the Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu

The Salkantay Trail is a less-traveled alternative to the Inca Trail. The trail leads over the 4,600 m high El Paso pass down into the warm cloud forest regions; the snow-capped Nevado Salkantay (6,271 m) is always in view.

On the often stony, winding Inca paths, which run so numerous through Peru’s Andean high mountains, were already the couriers and warriors of the ancient tribe on the road.

The Salkantay Trail leads in four or five days over the Andes to Machu Picchu and is one of the most beautiful hiking trails in the world.

Nevado Salkantay

The Nevado Salkantay towers majestically above the Cordillera Vilcabamba in southern Peru. “Wild mountain” means the Quechua name. Salcantay or Salkantay, with an altitude of 6264 meters, is the highest mountain in the Cordillera Vilcabamba region, part of the Peruvian Andes.

It is located in the Cusco region, about 60 km northwest of the city of Cusco. Salkantay ranks 38th among the highest mountains in the Andes and is the twelfth highest mountain in Peru. The first ascent was made by a French expedition in 1952, and the standard route today is via the northeast ridge to the summit.

The name is derived from salka, quechua for ‘wild,’ ‘uncivilized,’ and was first recorded in 1583. Even the Incas are said to have believed that the mountain was a kind of god controlling the fertility of vegetation and wildlife and the weather in the region west of Cusco.

Even today, the Apu of the Mountain is worshipped and asked by the local population for good harvests, multiplication of herds, and health and prosperity. It is considered the brother of Ausangate (6384 m), the highest peak east of Cusco.

Due to global warming, week after week, the once mighty Salkantay glacier can be seen to continue to recede as the glacier continues to melt.

On February 23, 2020, a massive chunk of the glacier broke off, causing an ice and mud avalanche with an estimated volume of 400,000 cubic meters. This affected 15 villages and killed at least five people.

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Starting point Mollepata

The district of Mollepata is located on the southern flank of the Cordillera Vilcanota in the far west of Anta province. In the extreme northeast of the district rises the 6264 m high Salcantay.

Further west is the peaks of Tucarhuay (5910 m). The Río Apurímac flows west along the southern district border.

The first day of the adventure usually starts before 4 am in Cusco with a bus ride of over three hours to Mollepata, the starting point of your trek. Already on the way there, there is a ceremonial site to visit in Tarawasi.

Once you arrive in Mollepata, you can have a good breakfast and buy some water and snacks for the hike’s first day.

The first part of the trip starts with a 3-hour hike, which will lead you uphill to Cruzpata.

There you will have a unique panorama over the snow-covered mountains, and you have the possibility to hike to the turquoise blue Laguna Humantay.

We continue in the direction of Soraypampa. You will reach the first campsite at 3,800 meters, the trek’s highest and coldest overnight stop. Here you will be very close to the snow-capped Nevado Salkantay.

Soraypampa Sky Lodges – Salkantay Trek

After the first walk through different climates and vegetation zones, combined with a very biodiverse nature, you have  reached your first overnight camp in Soraypampa Base Camp.

← In Soraypampa, there is the possibility to stay overnight in one of the Sky Lodges. A unique opportunity to observe the clear starry sky over Peru at night.

© Short Salakantay Trek map – embedded from https://www.salkantaytrekking.com/

Laguna Humantay - The Sacred Glacial Lake

From Camp Soraypampa, there is the possibility of making an excursion to Laguna Humantay, located 350 meters higher.

After a steep climb to 4200 meters, you will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the Humantay mountain lake.

The lagoon is known to be visited by tourists from all over the world. So you will most likely not arrive alone at the lagoon.

It is an old custom that you place a stone at the lagoon to say thank you for a successful trip and say a short prayer to Pachamama.

Pachamama is an Incan deity who represents Mother Earth.

Crossing the Salkantay Pass

From Camp Soraypampa, there is the possibility of making an excursion to Laguna Humantay, located 350 meters higher.

After a steep climb to 4200 meters, you will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the Humantay mountain lake.

The producers of merino wool are merino sheep, which are sheared twice a year. Shearing in itself does not hurt the sheep. However, you should pay attention to the origin and husbandry of the animals because not everywhere are the animals treated well.

Ortovox merino wool comes from farms in Tasmania, which are managed according to the ORTOVOX WOOL STANDARDS.

Wool is natural and grows back. Moreover, it is so ecological that you could even compost it. And yet, it is so durable that it could be bent up to 20,000 times without breaking – an indication of the material’s long life. All in all, merino wool is made for outdoor sports.

Because wool is an animal product, the industry has a special responsibility. The Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) is intended to ensure uniform standards here. Ortovox has developed its own wool standard that goes even further.

Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu – Amazing Places

Merino wool is much finer than conventional sheep’s wool and therefore does not scratch! The fine wool fibers are 16.5 – 19.5 microns (one micron = one-thousandth of a millimeter)

They are so thin that they are well below the human scratch limit of 25 microns. In addition, they curl when they come into contact with the skin and the contact is not perceived as unpleasant.

Despite its thin fibers, merino wool is so strong that it does not tear.

← Merino wool under Microscope


Ortovox

Ortovox

Ortovox

Merino wool feels soft and gentle on the skin

Merino Wool under Microscope

Merino wool is much finer than conventional sheep’s wool and therefore does not scratch! The fine wool fibers are 16.5 – 19.5 microns (one micron = one-thousandth of a millimeter)

They are so thin that they are well below the human scratch limit of 25 microns. In addition, they curl when they come into contact with the skin and the contact is not perceived as unpleasant.

Despite its thin fibers, merino wool is so strong that it does not tear.

← Merino wool under Microscope

Merino wool has a natural UV protection

Merino wool absorbs part of the UV radiation and thus keeps it away from the skin. An indicator for this function is the abbreviation UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor), similar to the common SPF (= Sun Protection Factor) for sun creams.


UPF indicates how much UV radiation is blocked by the clothing.

Merino wool is a real functional miracle and is perfect for hiking in all weather conditions

Merino wool does not absorb perspiration odor and is self-cleaning

functional hiking cloth

One argument against products made of wool is usually that woolen bodysuits would smell. Here, we can refute this:

Firstly, the surface of merino wool resembles roof tiles (in comparison, synthetic fibers are smooth), which makes it difficult for bacteria to settle. Thus, you reduce unpleasant odor.

The second reason for anti-odor, as described above, is that less sweat is formed on the skin in the first place. Thirdly, wool fibers contain keratin. These internal protein molecules break down odor-causing bacteria and have a self-cleaning function.

Less change of clothes

Due to the excellent breathability and moisture transport of merino wool, you sweat less and have to change clothes less often in total.

The intelligent combination of natural fibers with innovative, technical materials makes it possible to wear merino products from the first to the third layer.

Breathability is thus ensured even with several layers (onion-layer principle). Furthermore, wool clothing has an antibacterial effect and can also be worn longer or several times.

Merino wool is very easy to care for

Even though wool is odor-neutralizing, you should still wash it from time to time. This does not have to be in the form of time-consuming and tedious handwashing – products made of merino wool can usually be machine washed at 30° or 40°.

This only washes off the scaly structure of the wool fiber surface, which can prevent strong shrinkage of the wool.

merino-wool-in-washing-machine

Merinowool is a renewable resource and clothes made of wool last longer

The producers of merino wool are merino sheep, which are sheared twice a year. Shearing in itself does not hurt the sheep. However, you should pay attention to the origin and husbandry of the animals because not everywhere are the animals treated well.

Ortovox merino wool comes from farms in Tasmania, which are managed according to the ORTOVOX WOOL STANDARDS.

Wool is natural and grows back. Moreover, it is so ecological that you could even compost it. And yet, it is so durable that it could be bent up to 20,000 times without breaking – an indication of the material’s long life. All in all, merino wool is made for outdoor sports.

Because wool is an animal product, the industry has a special responsibility. The Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) is intended to ensure uniform standards here. Ortovox has developed its own wool standard that goes even further.

Tasmania Trailer – Discover the origins of our wool | ORTOVOX

How do I recognize fair produced merino wool?

Fair conditions for animals and farmers, as well as transport and production chains: The OROTOVX WOOL PROMISE takes a holistic approach to sustainability.

Merino wool has fallen into disrepute due to the use of Mulesing: This refers to the removal of the skin around the tail of animals without anesthesia to protect them from infestation by fly maggots.

Ortovox is clearly against this practice and only cooperates with farms that supply MULESING FREE MERINO WOOL. Over two years, discussions were held with wool farmers, suppliers and producers to develop a binding standard.

For protection, the animals are sheared more frequently instead. In addition, the back breeding of the skin folds is encouraged. Regular audits ensure this animal-friendly approach.

Merino Sheep

The promises of the Ortovox Wool Standard

  • no mulesing
  • personal relations with wool farmers
  • preserve nature
  • transparency to the origin

Since 2012, Ortovox has been sourcing merino wool from 60,000 sheep on selected farms in Tasmania. Utilizing the OWP, transparency is created for farmers and customers so that the farm production systems fully meet Ortovox’s high-quality standards.

Ortovox knows the farms from which the merino wool comes and is regularly on site. Ortovox takes feedback from stakeholders in the wool supply chain, ensures transparency, and continuously develops innovative solutions.

A traffic light system is used to independently check indicators for farm management, animal husbandry and welfare, land management, slaughter and transport. The areas are: Management, feed, infrastructure, health, animal husbandry, shearing, handling, slaughter, transport, land management.

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