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.
This post was originally published in 2016. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.
Mount Pitusiray: The Hike
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.
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.
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.
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.