In this post we climb El Misti aka. The Gentleman. A volcano outside the beautiful city of Arequipa in Peru that has been dormant for over 550 years. It was created like the rest of the Andes by Nazca Plate sub-ducting underneath the South American Plate. Standing out and dominating the landscape of the area, El Misti is a local landmark that locals are very proud of.
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Challenges especially those undertaken far away from the comforts of home can define one’s life. Staring fear in the face and overcoming it truly shapes character. Overcoming adversity in what ever shape or size is what we strive for, even if it takes a while.
– A Wise Bearded Man
How to get there?
- The map below shows the route from the city of Arequipa to the start of the trail. The southern trail ascending the volcano & the short cut down the ash field.
From Arequipa, many companies offer 4×4 transportation to El Misti’s trail head & back to the city. They also offer tents, backpacks and sleeping bags to hire during the trek.
When to go?
Between Mid April & October is weather is ideal but be warned night temperatures can be pretty cold (as we found out!)
- Take water with you as there isn’t any water on the volcano
- Allow yourself to acclimatise. Take your time and please don’t rush.
There aren’t as many gruelling physical challenges I have faced in my life which have compared to the challenge that El Misti gave me. Luckily, I undertook it with two amazing people who helped me along the way.
Over confidence was the biggest culprit to my downfall on El Misti. I took the first stage too quickly and didn’t give time for my body to acclimatise. By the time I reached base camp my body was shutting down.
After a few hours rest, I awoke to the freezing air and the realization that I could barely walk. Mustering enough courage to embark on the ascent, I could barely walk before succumbing to exhaustion & needed to stop.
Stopping for too long wasn’t an option, it was well below zero, we had to keep moving. Luckily my companions were excellent motivators, coming to my aid & being by my side step by step.
Climbing in the shadow of the huge volcano made the temperature stay sub-zero even though the sun rose. Each step was agonising, I have never wanted to feel the sweet feeling of the sun on my face as much as on that trek towards the summit.
Reaching the summit was an exhilarating experience that I will never forget The sun on the face, Mount Chachani & being surrounded by an incredible volcanic landscape. That reward made it all worth it. I even started dancing!
On the way down, the idea to take the ash field down turned out to be a brilliant suggestion. Running down it was a moment to savour & the feeling was incredible.
Back down waiting for the 4×4 to drive us back to Arequipa, I looked back at El Misti. I was humbled by the what I had learnt… Never underestimate the challenges you undertake in life & be thankful for the people you meet along your journey.