Hiking the Inca Trail, Day 2: Nobody Messes with Dead Woman's Pass

Dead Woman's Pass

After a successful first day hiking the Inca Trail, Day 2 loomed ahead as menacing as the name of the high elevation pass we would hike up to for most of the day: Dead Woman’s Pass.

It had been years since I had slept on the ground in a tent, and I awoke from a night of tossing and dozing for 10 minutes at a time. We hiked up and up and up for hours, often climbing the roughly hewn rocks like a steep staircase. Getting to Dead Woman’s Pass at 13,800 ft. (4,215 m) proved to be a monumental struggle.

When I hiked to where I was above the elevation of Cuzco (11,200 ft./3,400 m), which I had successfully acclimated to, I was gasping for breath after every 20 steps or so. I soldiered on the best I could and heard from my guide that in about 10 minutes we would have our next break. I was more than ready for one.

Then a strange thing happened. Most of my group was ahead of me on the trail, and my guides hiked ahead as well. I knew there were two women from my group hiking a ways behind me on the trail.

I came to an area with a field where hikers from another group were taking a break, saw no one from my group, and hiked on. I kept up my methodical progress, and it seemed like much more than 10 minutes must have gone by, but I am a slower than average hiker, so I just keep hiking on.

I didn’t have a watch and don’t know how much time went by, but it became apparent that I must have missed the spot of the break. I had seen no one from my group on the trail now for quite a while and was getting anxious.

Read more at (Don't Be) Too Timid and Squeamish


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