Photographing the Inca Trail: 4 Days. 2 Summits over 13,000 Feet. Some Fog & a Wonder of the New World

I just remember nodding aggressively when Rebecca and Cliff at Intrepid floated the idea: photographing the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. I had no idea what was in store, how far we would be hiking in thin air, or the Peruvian weather in March.

Didn’t matter.

I was going to photograph Machu Picchu, something I’ve wanted to see IRL since I first saw it in a National Geographic back in Grade 7 science class. It just looked magical. Impossibly distant and alien to anything I’d ever seen. I had to go.

I’ve been to Ecuador twice now, and have always been cool with altitude. Good thing—as due to plane delays, I missed my connection in Miami and arrived a day late on the trip—so I had less than a day to acclimatize to Cusco’s 11,150 feet above sea level. Better yet, we were travelling to the Sacred Valley that day to see the traditional Peruvian ways. Best start to a trip, hands-down. Meeting the locals is always a highlight of every adventure. The people show the warmth of the land. The altitude was cool, didn’t mess me up.

And then the hike. The Inca Trail. A four-day hike across the Andes Mountains with terrains from cloud forest to, well, mountainous regions with a couple summits, one being called Dead Woman’s Pass. Cool. The ancient Incas built a large section of the pilgrimage that still stands today, with a variety of Incan ruins along the journey. With a limit of 200 new hikers permitted daily, this is a real honour, a real pilgrimage that isn’t easy. It’s a tough journey, especially at this altitude, with some wild weather and with a backpack full of camera gear, but so damn worth it. (Speaking of which, the porters on these trips are just otherworldly with how they handle the terrain, cook brilliant food and are quick to say hello and share their culture).

I’ll let the photos tell the rest. Shoutout to the amazing group of Intrepid travellers from England, Australia, America (‘Sup, Sally!), and South Africa. Thanks for another life-changing adventure. Extra shoutout to Gary—a cab driver from the U.K., who is turning 60 and has waited over 30 years to see Machu Picchu—who climbed Dead Woman’s Pass way quicker than I did for damn sure. Click any photo to expand.

If you’re into a trip like this, you too can hike the Inca Trail with Intrepid

4 thoughts on “Photographing the Inca Trail: 4 Days. 2 Summits over 13,000 Feet. Some Fog & a Wonder of the New World

  1. Excellent post, Ryan. It takes me back to Peru, and specifically the beauty of Machu Picchu. A great series of photos, although when I was there it was in February and the Inca Trail was closed which was too bad ~ but fortunately our friends there took us on another trail which got the blood flowing as well. Cheers to more travels and photos ahead.


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