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Adventures in Peru – Arequipa Seven Summits – El Misti


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El Misti – 19,101 feet Dec. 1st & 2nd

It was late when we got home from Pichu Pichu so the next day we slept in and took it easy in the morning. Besides the rest, we wanted lots of good food so we decided to stop at El Herraje Restaurant for lunch before heading to Misti. El Herraje has two locations in Arequipa, the one near the Cathedral is large, touristy and expects tips, a smaller one two blocks away caters to the locals and tipping is not expected. They have a grill special, with a choice of chicken, beef or pork, generous portion of fries and a salad for 7 or 8 soles – the perfect way to start any climb. Or to end a climb; we became regulars there during our time in Arequipa.

There are three main trails up Misti. What used to be the normal one starts near the city dump and is considered quite dangerous due to the gangs of robbers that hang out there, waiting for climbers to return. The one on the northeast side is higher in elevation, and a shorter climb, but has a long rough approach drive between Misti and Chachani. The trailhead we used is on the south side; the turn off is near the village of Chigata, which is reached by the same road used to go to Pichu Pichu. It is still near enough to the city that it is not recommended to leave a vehicle parked there overnight, so my friend Lucho drove us to the trailhead. We got started later than planned because the road had been closed for a road race; one of the cars was still there when we went by, over the edge down in a canyon.

We had some trouble finding the trailhead as it had been years since I had been there and there are no signs for the multitude of roads, some of which dead-end in small canyons. Finally we found the correct road and at 3:15 pm we had our picture taken at the National Reserve sign (11,600 feet) and headed up towards the camp. We arrived at the first camp in 2 ½ hours, which is at 14,920 feet, but it was pretty full with another party and their three tents. We visited for a while and got some pictures of Pichu Pichu in the clouds, and then we went on (while being treated to a fabulous sunset!) to the higher camp at 15,420 feet. We arrived there at 6:30, feeling great and just in time to get our tents set up before dark.

Unfortunately Smiley had a bad night – a severe headache and breathing problems, with only a few hours of sleep. Thankfully the headache lessened at about 6:00 am so we got up then and were on the trail at 6:45. Most groups start by 3:00 am or before but knowing we would be climbing fast, we weren’t worried about the late start. Smiley was feeling much better, but I continued to lead, setting a slow (for them) but steady pace. At 9:15 we caught up to the group that had been camped below us, and after a short break, we went on ahead of them. After a couple of photos at the saddle on the crater rim, Smiley and Nathan took the lead for the last climb up the rim and reached the summit at 10:05, three hours and 20 minutes from camp. A few minutes later I joined them there and we visited with another group who had come up the backside, while enjoying the view and taking photos. Of course we got a good look at Chachani, where we would be the next day. On the way down, we took the traverse trail to the lower crater, which is still active. There we could look down through the sulfur fumes to the base of the crater where mummies were discovered a number of years ago.

One of the fun things about a Misti climb is the very quick slide down the steep volcanic sand; we were back at our camp in an hour and 15 minutes, where we dumped out shoe fulls of sand. After packing up, we continued the rapid descent, arriving at the trailhead at 1:50 for a total descent time of three hours, including the 40-minute stop to pack up camp. Total time from leaving camp in the morning until returning to the trailhead was seven hours and five minutes, which beat my previous time by two hours. Unlike the previous climb, there was no snow at all on Misti this time.

If you want to read about another mountain we climbed at the same time, please see the Ezine article on Chachani

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