Trekking Mount Pitusiray, in Peru

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I’ve done a lot of hikes in Peru. A lot. (I’ve listed a selection of hikes I’ve written about at the end of this post). But my overnight trip to Mount Pitusiray ended up being one of the best treks yet.

Mount Pitusiray was great for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was that it would be the last hike that I would share with my friend Laura, and our guide Miguel. Almost 2.5 years prior when I arrived in Peru, we three met and shared our first trek together, to Machu Picchu.

Over the last couple of years (and hikes), Laura and Miguel and I became great friends. And although Miguel isn’t going anywhere, both Laura and I have departed Peru (in different directions, for different reasons), and we’re not sure if we’ll ever meet in Peru again. (See also: Apprenticeship Update: BIG Changes for The Professional Hobo).

Seeing that I like full-circle experiences, to both start and end this Peruvian chapter of my life with these two people, trekking in the mountains, seemed nothing short of the sort of poetry I’ve come to expect out of life.

Mount Pitusiray in Peru is a great trek any time of year, but very special for a few days each year. Here's why, and what it's like. #SacredValley #hiking #mountains #Pitusiray #Peru #TheProfessionalHobo

This post was originally published in 2016. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.

Mount Pitusiray: The Hike

Fin Del Camino sign above Calca in Peru
Fin del Camino (end of the road): a poetic way to close this Peruvian chapter of my life with this trek.

Our hike to Mount Pitusiray started at the end of the road (again, poetic in so many ways) above the town of Calca. From there it was up, up, and up some more as we zigzagged to the top of a ridge overlooking the Sacred Valley in both directions.

house over the sacred valley

Just when I thought I couldn’t get any more remote, I’d stumble on a house. This one has a great view of the valley in both directions.

Then, we put the valley to our backs and approached Mount Pitusiray, looming around the next corner.

approaching Mount Pitusiray
Approaching Mount Pitusiray

Eventually, we reached a small lake at the base of the peak of Mount Pitusiray, which got increasingly more majestic the closer we got. We circumnavigated the lake before setting up camp to one side, held in the semicircular cradle of Pitusiray’s jagged peaks.

reflective water in the Peruvian mountains
The Professional Hobo, Nora Dunn, posing below Mount Pitusiray
Andean lake mirroring the sky with clouds
The same lake, from the other side
camping below Mount Pitusiray

The Shadows of Pitusiray – a Major Mystery and Attraction

The actual height of Pitusiray is debatable; I’ve seen figures from 4,990-5,400+ metres above sea level. Either way, it’s very high (and at night, it’s very cold – consider yourself warned).

On this particular May day we had the place to ourselves. But at the end of September each year, for just three days, Mount Pitusiray is is overrun with people. Why? Because of The Shadows.

Mount Pitusiray is considered to be a solar clock of sorts, and for three days per year, as the sun rises over the peak of Pitusiray, it casts a set of dynamic shadows on the peak behind it. These shadows take many forms, including that of an Inca warrior, being consumed by a puma (the puma being an important totem in Andean cosmology).

Nobody knows if these shadows were somehow engineered, since Pitusiray doesn’t appear to have been carved, yet the shadows are apparently unmistakable.

“You have to see it to believe it,” said Miguel, who was not the first person to use this exact phrase about The Shadows of Pitusiray before.

But given that September is a few too many months away, I’ll have to take Miguel’s word for it since this will be my last post about Peru for the time being.

Thus, with amazing company and thrilling views, we three enjoyed a gorgeous sunset from our camp, and the company of some neighbouring llamas the next morning, before hiking back down into the Sacred Valley and moving on.

sunset from camp over the Andes
Sunset from our camp
llamas silhouetted by Peruvian Andes
Curious llamas in the morning

Other Peruvian Treks You Can’t Miss

Trekking to Lares Hot Springs

Trekking the Andes: Birthing Llamas, Abandoned Villages, and Rain

Kinsa Cocha: Stunning Pictures of High Andean Lakes

Machu Picchu

Climbing Pachatusan, and Taking Refuge in a Quechua Home

Hiking up to Pisac Ruins

The Pilgrimage to Huchuy Qosqo

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10 thoughts on “Trekking Mount Pitusiray, in Peru”

  1. Wow. Beautifully explored and the pictures are amazing. My first trek was of Nepal, India and these pictures are similar somewhere. You made me remember my trip. Thanks

  2. Love this story Nora, really gorgeous photo’s too…can’t wait to to meet you on the road someday 😉

    • Hey Sheryl,
      OMG that would be awesome! Let’s see where our respective ships bump into one another! 🙂

  3. Wow, spectacular photos! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and amazing trip in Peru. Peru is certainly beautiful, and there’s so many things to do there! Traveling certainly presents such an amazing opportunity and can really broaden your perspectives on life and strengthen your understanding and appreciation for other cultures.

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