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The great Apu Salkantay is one of the more difficult mountains to climb in Peru and is rarely attempted. Salcantay is the highest mountain close to Machu Picchu. The first ascent was in 1952, and until 1988 about eighteen teams had made the summit of Salkantay.  For many years after, no teams were able to climb the mountain. Some people disappeared or died while trying in the attempt, giving this peak its savage reputation. 

Since 2013 Sky High Andes has led five successful expeditions to the summit of Salkantay, being the only guides in Peru that are experts on this mountain. The easiest route is the North Face, but you still get over 800m of exposed ice/snow climbing mostly around 60-70°. I have also made the summit by the East ridge which is more difficult. Salkantay is for mountaineers who want a challenge and wish to climb the most sacred of the Andean summits.

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Itineraries

Day 1

Cusco - Soray Pampa (3,888m)

We take private transport to the town of Mollepata and have breakfast. Afterwards we arrive to Soray Pampa (3888m) below the south face of Nevado Salkantay. There we will stay in cabins for the night.

Day 2

Soray Pampa - Abra Inkachillaska (4,900m) - Sisaypampa (4,200m) - Palqaycasa

We will have breakfast at 6am and start our trek up to the pass at 5,100m which should take around 4 hours. Then at Sisaypampa we will have lunchbefore crossing the next pass and going down the other side to Palqaycasa.

Day 3

Palqaycasa (4,200m) – Base Camp (4,550m)

An easy 2 hour 30 minute hike to BC.

Day 4

Base Camp - Camp 1 (5,500m)

The climb to Camp 1 will take us about 5-6 hours while porting up our food and equipment, we will have to climb a few steep sections to get there.

Day 5

Camp 1 – Summit (6,279m / 20,595ft)– Camp 1

We will wake up at midnight and leave the tent by 1am. The climb should take about 9 hours in total and then another 6 to get back to Camp 1.

Day 6

Camp 1- Palqaycasa (4,200m)

The next morning we will pack up the tent and return to Base Camp for lunch. After lunch we will descend to Palqaycasa.

Day 7

Palqaycasa - Soray Pampa

We return to Soray Pampa after about 8 hours of hiking.

Day 8

Soray Pampa – Cusco

We awake at the hour of your choosing and have breakfast. Then go by a car to Cusco.
  • Transportation
  • All camping equipment
  • Climbing equipment
  • 1 High Mountain Guide per 2 clients
  • Arriero and horse service (will carry all expedition gear)
  • Food from Lunch Day 1 until Breakfast Day 8.
  • clothing for cold and rain
  • hiking boots or trail shoes
  • mountaineering boots (we have them for rent also!)
  • headlamp
  • sleeping bag (0F/-18C)
  • air mattress
  • backpack 40-70 liters
  • daypack 20-30 liters
  • duffel bag
  • sunglasses
  • sunscreen

The best time for mountain climbing in Peru is the South American winter; April to September, with the driest months being June and July. Early in the season there is more accumulated snow left over from the rainy season, by August the glaciers are usually quite dry and more crevasses will have opened up. These conditions can affect route conditions over the season, for example: the normal routes on some mountains like Huascaran or Chopicalqui can be impassable late in the season due to a large crevasse that has opened up. In my experience the best time to climb your project peak is July 15th to August 15th.

It is very important to acclimatize properly. If you are just arriving to Cusco, I recommend at least 3 full nights in Cusco (3,300mts/10,824ft) before sleeping higher than 4,000mts (13,120ft).

It is recommendable to climb a peak of 5,500 meters, before a 6,000 meter peak if you have the time. If you are already well acclimated, it is possible to go directly to climb an easier 6,000mts peak like Ausangate, Chumpe or Yayamari. These guidelines should be regarded as the minimums. Often people have a tight schedule and want to do as much as possible with their time, but acclimatization is important for you to be able to accomplish your goals.

Temperatures in the mountains of Peru can vary greatly depending on weather conditions. Above 4,000 meters in altitude, If the sun is out and there is no wind, it can be up to 65F (18C) during the day. At night during clear weather it can get down to 23F (-5C).
Above 5,000 meters in altitude at the moraine camp (5,500m) of Ausangate it can get down to 14F (-10C) during the night. Above 6,000m it can get down to -4F (-20C) and even colder when you factor in the windchill.

There is much more solar radiation at altitude in Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia than other places because they are tropical ranges. It is very important to protect your skin and eyes from these conditions so that you don’t go snow blind after climbing. Anyone who climbs in the Andes needs good sunglasses and we suggest to have a brimmed hat and plenty of sunscreen, even for your lips.

It is important to have your layer system dialed in so you can climb fast while not getting overheated. Everyone feels the cold and conditions differently but I will give you the example of my own system.

Lower body - 3 layer system:
- Base layer: Thermal tights
- Mid layer: Alpaca wool pants or down pants
- Outer Shell: Waterproof pants (goretex or similar)

Upper body - 4 layer system:
- Base Layer: Under armour cold gear long sleeve shirt
- Light Mid layer: Synthetic down hoodie
- Heavy Mid Layer: 700+ fill Down jacket
- Outer Shell: Waterproof jacket with hood that can go over
helmet (goretex or similar)

The most important pieces of clothing/gear for mountaineering are where your body makes contact with the mountain: gloves and boots. I would recommend single boots like the Scarpa Mont Blanc or La Sportiva Nepal Evo or similar boots for peaks that are 5,000 meters up to a peak like Tocllaraju (6,034m) that just goes over 6,000m. For anything higher like Ausangate (6,384m) or Huascaran (6,770m) double boots are best for most people but not absolutely necessary. I personally use the Scarpa Phantom 6,000, because Scarpa boots have a wider toe box for my wide feet than La Sportiva boots. But there are good La Sportiva models also like the Spantik or the G2 SM. As with all mountaineering boots, buy them a size larger so you have room for an extra sock or wiggle room to keep the circulation going.