Inca Trail Trek – Day 2

Day 2!  Advertised as the hardest day, day 2 takes us on another 7 mile hike that goes over Dead Woman’s Pass.  The pass sits at an elevation of 13,800 feet.  I felt confident that this wouldn’t be much of an issue for me, since I’ve hiked a couple Colorado Fourteeners without issue in the past.  Despite my confidence, day 2 turned out to be a surprising day.

The day started out well.  My stomach seemed to have settled a little, but even though I had skipped dinner, I wasn’t really hungry for breakfast.  I ate anyways, knowing I would need energy for the day ahead.  Breakfast was another big meal consisting of pancakes, oatmeal, bread and scrambled eggs.  I ate a little of everything, but I didn’t eat a lot.

Love my pink shoes!

My feet were feeling great from the previous day’s hike.  My new shoes were holding up nicely!  Amanda also wore VFFs on the hike, and we both got a lot of comments about them from just about everyone on the trail.  The most common comment was “monkey feet” but one guy called them “ninja shoes”, I liked that one.  Monkey feet or not, these shoes were fantastic.  I had been exclusively wearing minimal shoes for nearly a year at that point, and had done a lot of hiking and running in other VFF models so my my foot muscles were strong enough and my feet were adapted to feeling the ground, including all the pointy rocks.  I bought the pink Treksports because they had more aggressive tread, plus they were pink!  How can you go wrong with pink shoes!?

Dead Woman's Pass.

The first several miles of the hike were steady uphill.  The grade never got very steep, but it stayed steady nearly the whole way.  Once we got close to 13,000 feet I started feeling headachey and my stomach ache came back so I started drinking more water.

We stopped about 2 hours away from the pass to have a light snack.  By then I was more than ready to eat, my small breakfast was definitely not enough to get me even that far.  Snacks were cheese sandwiches, crackers, popcorn, coffee, tea and hot chocolate.  I had also packed fruit bars so I ate one of those too.

The real pass is up there somewhere!

The rest of the hike to the pass was frustrating.  There were 2 false passes, where it looked like we were about to reach the top, but when we reached that point we were nowhere near it.  The hike to the top continued steadily, and was not as physically strenuous as the Fourteeners I had hiked, but the mental challenge of the constant grade and false summits was tougher than anything I’d hiked at home. As physical challenges go, my most recent Fourteener Mount of the Holy Cross – (done a year prior) made day 2 look easy by comparison.

At the top, looking back the way we came.

Despite being a lot less strenuous than I expected, by the time I reached the top my head was really starting to hurt.  Clearly I was feeling some mild altitude sickness – something I’ve never felt before.

Looking back up to the pass from the other side.

The hike down was challenging in its own way.  The trail was mostly “paved” with uneven stones and stone stairs.  From here, the rest of the Trek is largely downhill over uneven stone Inca stairs.  Downhill is hard on my knees as it is, and the stairs made it that much more challenging.  I was really thankful for the walking stick for all of the downhills!  By the time we reached camp my headache was gone, my legs were very tired from the descent, but my feet were still feeling pretty good.  Yay!

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