Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Inca Trail Day 2 50 Steps

Day 2 on the Inca Trail is the hard day. It's the day that the climb up to Dead Women's Pass occurs, and that means 4-5 hours of hiking uphill, sometimes very steep uphill to an altitude of over 14,000 feet. So, the day again started out cloudy and rainy. The uphill hiking started right away from camp and again, right away my head was pounding, legs weak and I was gasping for breathe. Nearly last in line again, I struggled up to the first set of ruins of the day, very cool wayside for travelers with what was probably a great view, but was covered in creepy clouds. After resting a bit, we continued up and up and up to bathroom break stop on a relatively flat area with some more campsites. There were women selling candy bars, Gatorade, water and other treats, which they lug up every day (I saw them go past me earlier in the climb). I bought a Snickers bar and used the squatter. Thankfully it was a sqautter not a seatless toilet!

After the break, more climbing and more gasping and I was really struggling badly just to move forward. Kind of made the IM seem easy. Lunch was at another camp area, with lots of food. I really just wanted soup, and was not really hungry. The uphill was relentless, one could look down and see the trail snaking along the side of the mountain and the porters and other hikers making their way up. I was losing it badly at this point, and nearly broke down as I tried my hardest to walk a bit more quickly. Not happening. Finally, I decided to break it down like an IM run, just get from point to point and not think about the whole. This led me to decide on 50 steps at a time. So that's what I did. Walked 50 steps and stopped for air, walked 50 steps and stopped. Sometimes counting in Spanish, sometimes in English, but moving forward 50 steps at a time. This of course, led to my thinking about how 50 is a good number for many things and I thought about all the things 50 could mean: 50 seconds, 50 steps, 50 minutes, 50 hours, 50 days, 50 pounds, 50 runs, ect. Now it makes no sense at all, but it did on the mountain!

With the rain now pouring, and the wind picking up, my slow 50 step mantra got me up to Dead Woman's Pass--and I wasn't the last person in our group! Of course the rain was pounding and it was super windy, so once we all made it up, we skeddadled down as fast as we could to our next campsite, down in the valley. We could see the colors of the tents as we hiked down the steep and slippery steps and slopes. I seemed to do ok on the downhill, but my freakin back started to kill, so about 2/3s of the way down, Karen took my pack. Bliss.

Camp was chaotic, many campsites and lots of activity. The bathroom was seatless. Arrghh. The clouds hung low and intermittently rained as we ate another huge meal and sat around playing cards until nearly 9pm. The porters were pissed, as the dinner tent is their sleep area, but we didn't know that at this time. I took a nap as soon as we got there, so I actually rallied a bit and played some cards with the group. Sleep was fitfull, my head kept pounding.

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