Magnificent Ausangate Peak

We have repeated the proverb “this too shall pass” during both trying times such as battling the evil Patagonian horseflies and during invigorating times such as blazing our own trail by swimming across a lake in Lanin National Park. We were recently reminded of the proverb’s significance by a fellow traveler who enlightened us with its history as a Jewish proverb – that all material conditions, positive or negative, are temporary.
We kicked off our time here in Peru with a high-altitude punch of three gargantuan passes over a five-day circuit around the powerful Ausangate peak. On the third day as we embarked up the circuit’s daunting Palomani Pass (peaking at over 17,000 feet), we exclaimed the proverb aloud as if to say, “we will make it over this darn pass!” Almost simultaneously, we were overcome with a serendipitous feeling of being so fortunate to experience the pass on that day. As we looked ahead to the multiple false peaks of the pass, we sensed the hanging glacier falling over the black cliffs to our left, the soft lines of the dune-like mountains to our right… and when we stopped to catch our breath, control our heartbeat, or regain our balance, we’d peer backward at a lone red mountain with another mountain’s sharp black spires peaking out from behind it. In this sense, the proverb evolved to, “always remember feeling this alive”.

Llamas and alpacas graze on the alpine tundra sweeping up to these dramatic black and white peaks


View of Palomani Pass

Moments that should last a little longer…

  • Having Sarah’s younger sister Emily as a chica loca! Depsite the stress fracture in her fibula, losing a toenail, and giant bruises on her hips from her pack, this Boise State track star rocked it over this leg’s three passes and high altitude.

Sarah and Emily

  • Again, breaking our record for highest campsite (4,800m) and physical existence (5,200m)
  • Having glaciers so close we feel we could reach out and touch them
  • As the snow was gentling falling on our tent, we could hear icefall from the glacier emptying into the other side of the lake

Trinity welcoming the glacial morning from the warmth of her sleeping bag

  • I woke up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night to find a clear, starry sky lighting up the gargantuan glaciar overlooking our campsite. I saw a flash out of the corner of my eye but thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. It happened again so I looked harder- it appears there was heat lightning (or some other great light-producing phenomenon) coming from clouds I could not see behind the glaciated mountain.
  • Emily thought she was going to pass out from excitement walking through the llamas, alpacas and sheep

Emily with the elpacas!

  • Loving our new packs straight off the press from Gossamer Gear. Lighter, sturdier and comfier! Thanks for getting them to us in time for this resupply. Take less, do more! 
  • When Sonnet was with us a few months ago, she (unintentionally) ate the group’s dinner chocolate. Backpacking faux pas! To avoid a similar situation, Shelley carried the dinner chocolate so Emily wouldn’t be tempted. 
  • Relaxing in the hot springs at the end of the circuit

Our new Gossamer packs! So clean…

  • Before taking off on the trek, touring the floating islands on Lake Titicaca with Sharon, Laura and Emily Field (Sarah’s mother, aunt and sister). We had such a wonderful tour-of-Titicaca vacation with the Fields! Thank you!!

Indigenous on their floating island in Uros


Dress up! From left to right: Sarah, Emily, Sharon, Laura, Shelley and Trinity.

Moments that should pass faster…

  • Sarah, Shelley and I are currently just finishing, restarting, or in the middle of a course of antibiotics. A growing pattern seems to be that we get sick in towns and well on the trail.
  • Snowy nights and half-inch layers of frost
  • We started Palomani Pass at approximately 15,500 feet- where our maximum physical performance is estimated to be 50% (and increasing as we ascend the pass) of normal (according to Medicine for Mountaineering: And Other Wilderness Activities by James A. Wilkerson)- and summitted the pass at 17,060 feet (5,200m)
  • At each inhabited camping area or while breaking on the trail, Peruvians would approach us and linger quitely in the background despite our attempts at initiating conversation. Eventually, they would ask if we needed a guide, horses or one man even asked us if we had medicine for white splotches on his face. This would even happen upon waking up in the morning as we pondered how we would change our pants in front of the crowd.
  • We realize people just repeat back to us what we say. For example, I said “Bajamos y despues a la izquierda? (We go down and to the left?)” to which the Quetcha man I was asking said “Sí, bajamos. (Yes, we go down.)” as he continued past me up the hill.
  • Sarah took a phone interview via a pay phone set up outside a shop on the main street of Tinki. Trucks honked in passing to alert potential clientel of their arrival and music was blaring down the block in anticipation of a local marathon.

Sarah taking a phone interview.

  • After selling Sarah a bracelet, the young girl demanded “give me chocolate”. When Sarah replied she didn’t have any, the girl pointed to items peaking out of the exterior pockets of Sarah’s backpack asking if she could have them (including Sarah’s bag of trash).
  • Flip flopping between which shoes to hike in Sarah inadvertently left her insoles in the wrong pair and hiked he entire circuit feeling each pebble
  • Return of the mallín (marsh) – skitdattling our way through marshland on our tiptoes to keep our feet dry as the seemingly dry grass beneath our feet gave way to water
With still nearly three months to go, our time here in South America seems to be all too quickly coming to an end- family and friends are already here to hike Macchu Picchu this week (which seemed like eons away when it was planned eight months ago), Sarah returns to the USA in a little over a month (July 10), and we’ve realized we have limited time in Peru and Ecuador to hike a fraction of what we would love to experience. Now that we have arrived in Peru and our time in South America is fleeting, we are reminded to slow down, breathe, and take in each moment we are rewarded on this amazing adventure – this too shall pass.

Shelley testing the water at our first night’s campsite- the Upis hot springs


Two cute kids (with adorable bright-colored hats) that ran up to us on the trail asking for candy


Descending into a marshy valley from the mountaintops


Hiking along the glaciars


Trinity, Emily, Shelley and Sarah on the top of Qampa Pass (16,400ft/ 5,000m)


Turquoise lagoons on our fourth day.


Very kind woman selling handicrafts