There is no such thing as failure, there is only oppertunity to succeed!! It doesn’t matter how many attempts it takes just never give in to the fear thats holding you back.
Nevado Mismi- the source of the Amazon river… The longest river in the world which travels 6,400 kilometers from the mountain Nevado Mismi in the Andes, Peru to the Atlantic Ocean in Brazil. Who on earth wouldn’t want to visit!?
Sitting in bed one morning reading Walking The Amazon by Ed Stafford a British guy who walked 860 days from the source of the Amazon to the Atlantic Ocean…. I had an idea, Well I’m not going to do that!! But I did think wouldn’t it be amazing to visit the source of the Amazon!! That’s epic..I’m going to do it I thought.
If you want to learn more about Ed Stafford heres a good interview with him on some of his latest projects http://blog.maptia.com/posts/ed-stafford-in-olorua-and-the-amazon
Later on during my travels and getting closer to Peru I looked into a tour because I had no experience climbing above 2000 meters altitude. Well all I could find was a 4 day tour to climb the mountain for $400US. It was unrealistic so I put the idea aside and didn’t think about it again until later.
Only a few weeks ago in fact I found some blogs online with a few people who had climbed Mismi with a local guide very cheap.!
Check out the blog- its a good read-
More information about climbing Mismi-
Well I started thinking again that this climb is possible. Then I thought why not do it solo? This would be an atempt like no other so I needed to plan and plan well. I sent some emails to try and get some info.. But I didnt receive many good responses unfortunately.
When I arrived in Arequipa, Peru I went to Incaventura http://www.incaventura.com a small tour agency I found on Facebook. I can’t remember the owners name but he knew the Mismi route well and had been there for research also. He printed out a map from google earth and explained the route to me in pretty good detail.
I felt pretty good with the information I had and I got everything together that I needed for the hike, food clothing etc. I needed to buy gloves and wet weather pants. I had everything else with me to survive in snow conditions.
I still knew there had to be a better map out there. I went to many tour agencies but the topographic maps they had only had Mismi in the top and it cut out the whole route.. Hmm what to do. I went online and with more searching I found a great website with gps topographic maps https://www.gaiagps.com.
The owner of my hostel in Arequipa (La Casona De Jerusalem- great owners) let me use the computer and I cut and pasted all I needed into paint then printed out a map then covered it in sticky tape to protect it.. This is what I used. (Photo to come soon)
I checked out the mountains weather on http://www.mountain-forecast.com/peaks/Nevado-Mismi/forecasts/4000 and everything was clear, just cold and wind. No snow or rain predicted.
I was ready to rock so off I went and took the bus to Chivay.
I stayed in hostel Rumi Wasi in Chivay. The señora is named Yuli if I recall (Julie) she was very helpful and took me too a local guide who knew the Nevado Mismi route. He was really helpful and said that my map was good. He said to climb up on the west side of the mountain facing north whereas the guide in Arequipa said climb up the east side. Not too worry I thougt. I will assess this when I get to the mountain. This is my adventure and it will be epic!
On the Monday morning I made my way to the vans that go to? I cannot remember but they go through the small town Tuti where the 4×4 road begins. Yuli took me to the vans and told the guy to drop me off at the exact location where the route starts..
Well the van was meant to leave at 8:30 but we spent nearly an hour driving around the small town trying to fill up the van!! It was driving me insane!!! I just wanted to go! Finally we were off… Not too long in the van.. Maybe 20 minutes driving along the main road and not far out of tuti (4kms approx) and you can see a huge sign saying Nevado Mismi 26kms and a dirt road to the left. The driver stopped and let me out. I prepared a few things. Got some photos and off I went. This road is used for the miners in the North and its in great condition. You can hire a 4×4 to take you very close to the Mismi then you can summit. You could do it in one day.. but thats no adventure…
Wow did I feel the altitude.. It had been over 4 months since I had hiked with a pack and only at 2000 meters above sea level. The start of this walk is at 3800m.
It was a beautiful day and the sun was shining strong. Because of the hight the sun is super powerful and you need to use lots of sunscreen to avoid getting burnt.
The full first day is spent on the dirt road which is mainly used for the miners in the north. I was really struggling to walk. Sometimes walking 20 meters then needing to stop. I kept going and around 3:30pm I met a guy in a van. I asked how far it was to the Quebrada Aquenta where I was planning to camp the night. He said one hour and offered me a lift. I declined. I really wanted to walk myself even though I felt like I couldn’t make it.
Finally around an hour later I made it to a Aquentya valley which was to my right with heaps of Llamas and a small stone house. I could see a frozen waterfall on the mountain. I left my pack on the road and walked down the hill to ask the señora if I could camp on her land. She asked if I was alone an I said yes.. I went to the edge of the property and set up my tent by a stone wall to help keep the wind away. The hight was approximately 4,800 meters. The highest I have ever slept (on land).
I hopped in my sleeping bag around 6pm and cooked some noodles and a coca tea and then tried to sleep. I was warm yet I was rolling around all night. I think the longest between time checks was 2 hours. Not sure why I couldn’t sleep?
I woke up just after 6 and thought I would try and sleep more but nope I couldnt…
I got up out of the tent and wow was it was freezing. There was so much ice on the inside of the tent from condensation. One bottle with 300mls of water was nearly frozen. I made sure everything was kept inside the tent.
I cooked up some oats and a cocoa to drink. Shook the ice from the tent fly and packed away my gear then made my way down into the valley where most of the river was frozen. I took some photos because it was such a beautiful place. I found a spot to fill my water bottle then made my way up to the frozen waterfall.
It was easy to get to the bottom part of the waterfall. I took some shots then made my way up the clif climbing to get to the biggest part of the ice wall.
I climbed above the waterfall and tried to get around beside it…. Then my foot hold slipped and then my hand hold. I didn’t go far luckily.. I changed my body position quickly which stopped my slidding off the 10m drop. I laughed at myself and said don’t be an idiot! You would have died, find another way. So I back tracked and climbed down a little and found the easiest way to the frozen waterfall. It was magnificent, I haven’t seen anything like it before. Ice really makes some beautiful shapes.
Well unfortunately I had to leave and make my way to my bag for another days hiking. I loaded up and off I went at approximately 9:20am I was pretty stoked and felt good after the waterfall. Not far up the road to the right there is a running waterfall. I am now sure after reading this is the Aquenta fall.
Just over an hour of walking the road turns north to the mines. You can see Nevado Mismi from here.. I was confused and thought it was a different mountain. I turned left on a very dull 4×4 track..
It ended quickly and I kept going up for a couple of hours over rocky sand that looked a lot like a desert then I followed some animal tracks where I was just hoping I see the mountain.. Then it hit me.!! This is Mismi. It had been all along and im super close to Cerro Ajo which is on the ridge line to Mismi (this is also the best route to climb Mismi, my original plan which I later changed). I had climbed to 5200m high when I didn’t need to. It was good to get into climbing to prepare for the summit the next day.
I made my way west towards Carhuasanta where I needed to descend nearly 500m. I got some nice photos of the twisters in the valley I continued my way down to Carhuasanta valley where I met a farmer who i had a lot of trouble understnding but he said there were houses down in the valley and you can used them.
With a steep decent into the valley I arrived at around 3pm. I saw three houses in the valley. The first full of straw on the floor. I found a nice place to fill my water in the river of Carhuasanta.
The waters from Nevado Mismi flow into the Quebradas Carhuasanta and Apacheta, which flow into the Río Apurímac which is a tributary of the Ucayali which later joins the Marañón to form the Amazon proper. (Wikipedia)
I made my way to the other houses calling out but no one was around and doors were closed shut with iron.
Ok I thought!! I’m going to stay here the next two nights. I made my way to my house and cooked up some chicken noodle soup that was horrible!! It had so much salt in it I couldn’t eat it. (I left the soups for future travellers). I relaxed for the afternoon and planned my route for the next day. I was expecting a 3 hour summit (later I realised this was from the east side using Cerro Ajo ridge.. not the way I went).
I was planning to tackle the summit of Nevado Mismi from the east side ride and then continue across the whole mountain to decend on the west side then head into the valley to find the source of the Amazon that is marked with a cross.
The temperature at night was to drop -3 degrees Celsius so I was thinking it may be nice to make a hot water bottle but in the end I didnt because I felt warm.
I woke nice and early day three with a slight stomach ache unfortunately. Again I didn’t sleep great and rolled around most of the night. It was really warm sleeping inside the stone house on top of the straw. I got myself up to the brisk breeze and made some breakfast and hot tea. I was ready to go at 7:45am.
I made my way straight up the side of the ridge from Carhuasanta valley (west side of Mismi facing north) with a small daypack with some food and water along with rain gear. The air was super cold and I was rugged up as I set off. It didn’t take long to heat up and the layers were being stripped. The first steep section took me an hour to get up!! Wow this is hard I thought.
I got to an open section that looked a lot like Tattooine from Star Wars. The ground was filled with tiny stones along with some bigger ones. It was quite impressive. I got a few photos and set off again. It was difficult to walk on the small stones, I found myself zigzagging up the hill. I hate having to do this but it’s the best way to save energy.
I kept to the left of the ridge because I wanted to get a good view of Mismi and where I was going. Up here there was a great view if thei Carhuasanta valley below along with the tiny tributaries that are the beginning of the amazon river.
Well after admiring the beautiful landscapes I got back to what I was here for. The route just continued and time was slipping by. Finally I hit so much scree (loose broken rocks) I was slowed down to crawling pase. The weather was all over the place, wind, sun and layers were coming on and off to adjust to the temp changes.
There are so many rock types as you climb, I’m pretty sure it’s mostly volcanic, everything from tiny stones to huge sheets of stone layered on top of each other. It looked like giants had been there to layer the rocks and scatter them. It was truely amazing.
I was pretty excited to come up to the main ridge of Mismi and I continued to climb. I made one mistake and went across to the right (the south side of the mountain). It was covered in snow and I traversed 2 small icy snow walls.. Which later I saw I didn’t need to. If I just stayed left it would have been easier.
Now all of a sudden huge dark clouds rolled in and brought snow and thunder.. I was pretty excited to see the snow then realized this isn’t good for me!! I want to summit. I put on my snow pants (a cheap waterproof pair which worked well). I waited around 10 minutes and the clouds pushed through.
I decided it was now or never because the weather was pretty sketchy all around the mountains.. With snow falling in the valley. I was still around one hour from the summit due to all of the scree! It was killer and I could definitely feel the altitude now walking 5 meters and having to stop out of breath!!
The last 50 meters must have taking me 20 minutes to climb! I tried to push through but I couldn’t. I felt so old.. But I kept going and I made it to the summit!!! 5,597 meters high!! 5 and a half hours after setting off from the valley. I was stoke and I was on top of the world! At least the highest I have ever been before on land.
I realized it must be easier climbing up the east ridge from Cerro Ajo!! Ah well I was on the top!! I was happy. I ate some food then took some photos and a video then looked over to the east peak and it looked higher so I made my way around with just my camera just to make sure I was at the summit..
Back to my things I packed up and decided I was going to decend straight down off the mountain.. Down the scree slope!! I thought screw walkng the ridge again it’s going to take me forever..
So geared up off I went running down the slope leaning back digging in my heals. I fell on my butt a couple of times because it was fast! It felt so good to be running freely down a near 45 degree angle slope. It was a lot like skiing and it must have taking me 4 minutes to decend what took at least 2 hours plus to climb..
Just as I was near the bottom of the scree slope the snow started falling again and tt came down hard. I couldn’t see much more than 30 meters in front of me. I knew I just needed to continue walking straight down and I would come the big cliff wall at the end of the valley. It was slow going through the snow and over some really big rocks!!
I made it to Laguna McIntyre and the snow eased off. The sun came out and brought the most beautiful view with steam rising from the rocks and the smell!! Oh my it was the best in the world. Like fresh rain yet 1000 times better..
I continued down to the big cliff wall and made my way around to the west side to drop into the valley to find the source of the Amazon river which was located somewhere along the cliff wall. I started along the cliff walking east and found some beautiful frozen icebergs hanging from the rocks.
I was looking across the huge wall to try and spot the source. I knew it was a black rock marked with a cross but I couldn’t see it!! Time was fading so I dropped into the valley and walked along side the cliff in the snow walking through all the tiny rivers that all merge together.
Well I walked the whole length of the wall and thought wow it has to be around the corner going back up towards the mountain. I was getting really tired and it was now or never to find the source. I wasn’t going to walk back up here.
Finally around the corner I looked up and could see some black rock with water flowing from it! I thought this has to be it. Off I went climbing straight up the biggest rocks. It was quite a challenge and slow going. But then I got to the top.. And I could see the cross an the water flowing from the rock!! It was around 5:30pm I was totally wrecked. I had been walking and climbing all day.
I was so excited I was laughing and couldnt control my emotions I even shed I tear, I couldn’t believe I made it!! This was the source of the Amazon River!! The longest river in the world.. Well no time to relax, a few photos and then I had to get going. The sun was setting and I still had to get back to camp.
I set off through the snow and the darkness came quickly. I went as long as I could without using my head torch because I knew the batteries were getting low!! Finally I had to use the torch and I walked through the valley to the left side along the base of the ridge I used to summit. It was really difficult to see and the ground was pretty sketchy.
Time slipped by an pretty soon it was 7pm.. Somehow I had started to walk up the ridge when I wanted to stay next to the streams. It is really dissorienting in the dark. when i finally realised I needed to drip down I turned to walk back down to the river and my feet decided to fly! I slipped and fell hard on my hip and elbow.. I thought oh shit this is bad.. I broke my elbow.. But I got up and kept going and knew it wasn’t too bad just a scratch and a good bruise to come..
Walking in the dark there were a few dogs barking at me from the distance. Made me a little nervous because I knew the closest llama farmer was up over the mountain, they did sound like domestic dogs and not wild (I dont know if you can tell but I was hoping this). I did take my knife out and held it for security.
The dogs stopped barking and around 30 minutes later I arrived to camp.. Well where camp should have been but for the life of me I couldn’t see it!! Try finding a rock building in a place that is all the same rocks that the building is made from! I couldn’t see it.. I took out my iphone to use as a torch to get some more light but nope.. I kept walking blindly. I was thinking what the heck. How is this so hard. I made my way down to the stream and started waking back the way I came and there it was.. The broken ice I smashed with a rock in the morning. It was healed but I knew home was close.
I walked up a little bit and there it was!! My home and all of my things still in there.. I was dead. I can’t remember? I don’t even think I cooked. I’m pretty sure I just went to bed wrecked yet feeling satisfied with the day.
I layed in bed refleting on the day and I knew it would have been much easier to go up through the valley to the left side of the cliff where the source of the Amazon River is then continue left to summit.. Ah well next time.. I had a few different guides tell me different things. It didnt matter, I made it and I felt happy knowing I went up the hard way and made it.
Waking up the next morning I felt pretty tired. It was another broken sleep. I have no idea why I was not sleeping well.? I made breakfast and packed up my gear. It was around 7:30 when I left and I made my way out the same way I came into the valley. I stopped to get some photos of the mountain still covered in snow and reflect on the climb. I was planning on waking around 25kms this day to get back to Tuti and finish the hike…..
Well I continued.. Instead of going back through the mountains to the road I thought I would go north through the valley and head east from there through the pampas and down to the road and back out too Tuti..
Well I made it to and through the pampas then I seemed to have lost myself? I had another snowstorm and yeh who knows.. I saw a road just after the pampas so I went for it and followed for quite some time then eventually it just ended at what looked like some sacred rock site. I was facing the biggest valley I had seen so far and couldn’t pin point myself on the map!!
I had mountains beside me all made from boulders and slate rock.. I knew I had to climb to try and see if could make reference to where I was. I climbed one mountain then the next and next.. I summited 4 small mountains and at every one I couldn’t work out where I was?
Ok what do I do? Go back? Walk the 5 fast hours I did an start again? Or try and continue through the valley? I had to go back to my bag which I left and that took another hour..
I looked around the area because I had seen a few cairns (trail markers made from piled rocks) leading into the Valley. These markers are amazing. Because they are man made there aperance is unatural to everythng else around making them very easy to spot at a long distance.
I looked hard Across the valley I saw what looked like a road and I was pretty certain it was so I decided to go for it.. I dropped into the valley and climbed up the other side! It took me a little over two hours!! As soon as I popped over the ridge there it was. An orange plastic bag secured to a rock.. And then another and another. I found a trail. But where was it going? Had to be somewhere people went becuse this was man made. (I had put my camera away at this point because I needed no distractions. I had to focus on where I was going. From here I only got a couple of shots with the phone).
I continued and the sun was starting to drop. I couldn’t see the next marker because it was all just rocks on the ground and the marker under a rock.. I saw I I pretty fresh set of boot prints and decided to follow them!!! It paid off and took me to the next marker and the next.. Until finally it was too dark and I had to set up camp. It was around 7pm near a 12 hour day. I cooked up a meal and then studied my map to try and figure out where I was.. I was heading west.!! What!! how did this happen I thought as I looked at the compass? It would have been a great time to have a GPS.
Ah well not much I can do but get some sleep I thought because I really needed energy. I was expecting day five to be 12 hours long too. I prayed as I always do before I sleep and asked for signs in the morning to keep me going.
It was the coldest night yet and I woke at 4am shivering on and off. I was also busting to pee for the first time in all my nights on the mountain so out came the water bottle (a must have in cold conditions, it’s not worth getting out of tye sleeping bag to loose precious heat) . I started getting things ready just after 5.. Still took me a while to get organized and off I went at 6:30am.
I continued following the markers but they ended and I couldnt see any sign of where they went. I continued down the mountain on the ridge and saw a small house so made my way hoping someone was there.!! Hmm nope :( ok moving on.. I could see a road in the distance on the mountain so I started walking towards it. It was a good 2 hours away.
As I got a little further down into the valley I could see llamas locked up in the corrals.. This was a great sign. There has to be someone in this house I thought. I made my way down into the valley for another hour and could see there were people! Wow I felt so good!! I approached at about 8:30 am and asked kindly for some help. I said I don’t know where I am right now. The man said I could go up the mountain 2 hours to find the road to Tuti!! I said hmm that’s where I came from!? How did I miss the road… Ok I said where else can I go!? I said I saw cars windows reflecting the sun on the top on the mountain ahead… Around a 4 hour plus hike…
But the man told me there is a town Coporaque around 1 hour down the mountain.. And he said there is transport there. I was so happy.. I said thank you so much and made my way. It was hard going downhill, it was very steep. I found what looked like a path which was actually a huge water pipe which I followed and then finally!! Wow I could see Coporaque.
I was dead.. It still took me two hours to get to the town but I was so happy. I arrived at 11:30am and literally couldn’t walk anymore. I made my way to the closest shop and bought two gatorades and asked where the mini vans pick up to go to Chivay..
I waited around 30 minutes and a van came.. Everyone was really excited to hear what I was doing from a younger guy to a señora who was well into her 80s.
Arriving back at Chivay I checked into my hostel and showered twice!! I was filthy. I had to remove the tape I putb on my hips to help stop blisters from the pack.. Unfortunately this made things worse and just removed skin!! I didn’t put any padding on first!! Ouch!
Well showered and a little fresher I made my way for a huge buffet lunch.. Then had a nap and rested a few days. For the two days I made my way to the thermal baths just outside of Chivay 3kms. There are vans that take you for 1 sole. The cost to enter the pools is 15 soles, a little expensive but amazing for the body and they ate right next to the mountains!! It was bliss.. I felt much better after two two hour sessions.. Definitely a must after your hike. I also saw the guide from Arequipa who was on a tour with an older couple.. He said he was a little worried about me and that I am crazy!!
Looking back I’m stoked at what I completed.. It was taxing on my mind and body every second. I honestly didn’t think I could walk more after day one. Your mind rolls into a negative loop telling you your crazy and to stop! Give up… but no I really didnt want to give up! The mountains break you down but they build you up again to be stronger than before. I made some mistakes with navigation but I had enough food and plenty of water I would have been ok for many more days so worst came to worst I would have returned to where I was and started again. I get excited and sometimes go too far but I think about what I am doing and know the consequences… I know its been a long time since ive been out in the field and I need to refresh on my map reading…
But in the end I would rather die knowing I had tried my hardest than just thinking what if? Life is about growing and you will never grow if you never push yourself.
I have spent a lot of time in the field hiking etc (not for may years now) and I have studied outdoor recreation and know about my gear and surviving in snow yet I did take a risk heading out into the mountains alone, this was something brand new for me since we only have peaks up to 2000m high in Australia.
I hope you enjoyed as much as I did. Remember to stay safe in the mountains. It’s definitely recommended to go with a local guide.
“Some of the world’s greatest feats were accomplished by people not smart enough to know they were impossible.” Doug Larson