Revitalized by the magic of Royal Hummingbird, I loyally followed my guides up the mountain once more. This part of the trek had us going into some new terrain. When the climb was too vertical, Crisolo would take my pack for me. We climbed past places where there were anchors in the rocks for climbing ropes — but they just lent me a hand and up I went.
The test of all of this continued to be more demanding. After 6 hours of vertical hiking with little food and water at an altitude that I was not accustomed to, we came to the waterfall. This was both a relief and a challenge. There was a chain along the route here so that I had something to hold onto while climbing up past the water. I was very grateful for this chain and also amazed at my body. Having every step be a meditation, I was asked to use this chain to get up this somewhat slippery and quite steep section of the climb. I had to gain some momentum and move quickly, I could hardly believe I was able to move so quickly.
In hindsight, this may have been when I really started to be absolved of all my perceived limitations. There was simply no room for my mind to have its say since the only thing it was feeding me was defeat. Thankfully I had a mantra to return to, K’anchay-Munay-Pachamama-Huñuy-Ñoquani. That walking meditation can include a rest step on Ñoquani, which means, I AM. It was such a blessing to know that I would have relief in the I AM so soon after lifting my feet again.
The mountainside was covered in brave and vibrant flowers. They seemed to cheer me on and remind me of the perfection of all things.
After a few four-letter ‘prayers’ and a lot more determination, I somehow made the right turns and crossed the right streams despite Martín and Crisolo being way out of sight. Emerging from a friendly Andean forest, I saw the most amazing sight:
That’s my tent!! I made it!! I couldn’t believe it. It was about 5pm and Crisolo was cooking on his little camp stove and my tent was already made up and I was delirious with relief. It was stunningly beautiful and getting cold. I pulled out my warmer layers and went to say hi to my guides. They had made us hot coca tea from freshly boiled mountain spring water and holy heaven incarnate, it was good. I perched on a rock for a while, made some offerings to express my gratitude to the Tirakuna, the watchers, for keeping me safe. I could hardly believe how lucky I was to be in this place, with these sublime energies and wise keepers of the balance of ayni.
When we spoke over dinner, Martín told me that we wouldn’t be camping here tomorrow and that we would be going just a little further up and then back down. I was confused and thought for a while that we weren’t going to be staying another night. I was disappointed but knew I needed to make the most of it so I invited Siwar Quenti into my dream time and hope that my one night would be enough. I planned on doing my despacho and ceremony in the morning and decided that would be perfect. Resigned to soaking up all that I could in my limited time, I went to bed at 6:30pm and hoped to commune with the Apu Guia, or Spirit of the Mountain, in my dream time.
My sleep was restless since I’m not used to going to bed so early. I was rewarded though, when I peeked through my tent flap in the middle of the night to see enough stars through the rift in the clouds to make my childhood heart happy. So often on my trek my thoughts returned to the wisdom teaching that the mountains are the first beings on the planet to receive light or information from the stars. The stars are the closest thing to Source. I felt so close to truth up there.
Once dawn broke in earnest, I got out of my tent to the sight of two large squirrels running around the rocks across from me. Except, they were too large to be squirrels and they had ears almost like rabbits, but their tails were too long for rabbits. Raccoons? No, definitely not. I came to discover later that they were wild chinchillas! They were very cute and odd and I admired their ability to thrive in this environment.
Breakfast that day was huge. They boiled a bunch of eggs and potatoes, made coca tea, and then oatmeal. I knew it would be the only meal until the end of the day so I tried to eat, with some success, then I packed up my bag for the next leg of the hike. They said it was only about 1 hour. I said, “So 3 hours for me?” They laughed and said “Maybe an hour and a half, two hours.”
After a short way that morning was the first time we laid eyes on the peak of Huascaran. It was magnetic in its beauty and power. I could feel it lifting me and simultaneously bringing me to my knees. 3 adventurous hours later we had made it to our second camp.
By now I realized that the plan was to make our way to this second spot, set up camp, and then Martín was going to take me higher to do my ceremony. He had a pago (payment/offering) to do as well. I assured him I was already plenty high enough and that I could do my ceremony just near here and that would be more than great, but he calmly assured me I would be fine and that after a short rest we would go up.
All photos by Amy Isakov
Our second campsite was near the snowline on Huascaran. Looking from our campsite, we were in line with part of the lower glacier. I had no idea I was going to come this far. It had never occurred to me that I would climb this high. I sat drinking hot coca tea gazing up at this Apu, lost in its embrace of love, connection, and brilliance.
We camped near what they called a hotel and what I thought was an abandoned stone building. Apparently in season, this refuge was full of mountain climbers. I discovered later that I was at 4700m or ~15,500 Ft. It was challenging to walk 10 feet on completely flat ground. Even my guides felt some change in that altitude.
In that extremely rarefied atmosphere, at the feet of this master Apu, I prepared for ritual. Ever grateful to have a form into which I could dissolve further, I readied myself to climb up just a little bit higher.