Thurs 28th – Fri 29th Jun
Awake and ready I head to Amber and Kim’s hostel for breakfast where I’m treated to 2 amazing breakfast rolls by Kim. Once they’re sorted we’re picked up to collect our stuff from the office. Shit there’s a lot of stuff to carry in our rucksacks!
Once sorted, we hop back in the 4×4 and it’s a 3 hour drive out to the drop off point somewhere off road near the mountains.
Here we meet our guide Johan who is here already as he did this hike yesterday with some other people. Introductions and pleasantries exchanged, it’s time to start the 2 hour trek to 5200m asl to basecamp.
20 mins in and the trek is an arduous task – climbing over big stones and boulders, made all the more difficult by our bulging rucksacks.
We stop for a lunch break (a dry as a nine ham n cheese sarnie) but the rest was good.
We also try and amend my rucksack settings but I end up swapping with Kim. It appears I’m far too short for the rucksack I bought!
We finally arrive at base camp. With other tents from another company already pitched, we move to a section further down. The scenery is again amazing. We’re in the middle of nowhere surrounded by beautiful scenery.
We pitch our tent, make up our beds and change into warmer clothes. From boiling hot sunshine it gets pretty bloody cold quite quickly.
Around 5pm, we head into our food tent (which u get if u book a private tour) for dinner that Johan is expertly preparing for us on a little camp stove.
For starter we have chicken noodle soup with chicken and main is lomo saltado with rice. Not bad for on top of a mountain! At this altitude, I’m not hugely hungry but know I need something for energy. We wash it down with some tea and head to bed.
Snuggled up in our tent, there’s a lot of laughs – a lot from the numerous stories Kim shares with us (this woman has lived) and a lot of playground humour from the HAFE we are experiencing!!!
It’s bloody freezing outside, an an 8pm outside toilet call is not ideal! Quickly wrapped back up in our bags and fleecy liners, we do manage to drop off.
Friday and it’s an early start. The alarm goes off at 2am! Despite how cold it was, thank god, we were all pretty toasty in our tent. We get ready and find our rucksacks we left outside the tent frozen! We rush into the food tent for breakfast. Johan has an array of things on offer – eggs, porridge, bread. Again not hugely hungry, I don’t eat much….maybe I need to live at high altitude!!!
Breakfast takes a little longer than planned, but as we are our own group, nothing like this matters. We’re in our own timer. We heard the other group set off about 2am. At about 03:30 we’re ready and set off for our 6 hour ascent to the summit of Chachani!
We had been told in the office this walk was easy – not that anything can be at this altitude but it was the altitude not the hike that I was fearing more. After the first few switchbacks it was evident this was not going to be easy, and indeed a tough ass hike (even without altitude).
The terrain was sand and stones, the incline steep and lots of switchbacks.
Early in we see 2 people from the other group return to base camp. I just hope to god I’m not going to be one of them! Then within about 40 mins I start to feel dizzy and hope altitude isn’t going to get better of me. Our guide Johan tells me to stop talking (!) and focus on my breathing which is a bloody great tip. Whilst deep breathing and in a regular pattern, I’m allowing enough oxygen to enter my lungs.
It is beautiful on the way up and with a full moon, we are able to switch off our head lights and walk solely by moonlight.
It’s tough, oh so bloody tough and at 5750 m, I have a slight melt down when I’m told there’s still 3 hours left. It’s not the altitude that’s getting me as such but more the god awful terrain we have to tredge up….paths don’t really exist and it’s just sand/stone/scree – 1 step forward, 3 back kind of thing. It’s hell and it’s also bloody freezing!
A few more blips ensue along the way – 2 near panic attacks when fear I can’t breath and a lot of moaning about the shitty terrain…oh my god, I just want a path.
The sun comes up and is beautiful. I’m truly lucky to be experiencing this but I don’t feel like it at the moment. I really want to take photos but I’m concentrating so much on my breathing, not losing my footing and it’s also to frigging cold to take my gloves off to take any! I plan to steal any off the others!
There is bugger all enjoyable about this hike! We trudge on up through ice and snow where I slip and lose my breath and then we’re onto an almost vertical incline – if u slipped, u’d be at the bottom. I wanted to get a photo but it was too bloody scary to faff about with a camera here!
I slip once or twice and this puts the fear of god in me so I’m then attached to Johan by a rope – not that I think it will do much but maybe more of a placebo effect!
From here we push on and finally the summit is in sight….another 20 mins or so and we’ll be there…..just keep breathing. I keep thinking that the altitude is going to get me and I won’t make it but I’m doing ok. One final last push and we’re there! OMFG!!! I have reached 6075m above sea level!!! F**king get in!!!
On reaching the summit, I am overcome with emotion and burst into tears again. A massive overwhelming sense of and achievement and overcoming a lot of fears and obstacles – previous altitude sickness problems, having a cough and cold and fear of heights.
But despite all this, here I am, on the summit of volcano Chachani at 6075m!!! Who the hell wd have thought I wd have done and achieved something like this….certainly not me! I still keep surprising myself at the things I can do and achieve. A truly remarkable achievement and I was spurred on by someone’s comments on a Facebook post a few weeks back (Stuart Leighton).
I only met these girls 2 days ago but they are amazing and as we hug at the top, we share a few tears together and gave our photo taken at the summit
We manage to take a few more photos despite the cold. The amazing Misti in the background – we’re higher than her!!!
then pose for the one to match Kim’s drawing…an indescribably awesome feeling and photo
If I thought going up was bad, the down now I’ve seen it is the bit I’m dreading! Holy shit, it’s almost a vertical drop! A slight exaggeration maybe but it bloody feels like it! It’s awful. U could ski down this slope no problem! Again, there’s no proper path as such just lines in scree where others have walked!
I hate it and moan pretty much the whole way down! It’s made worse after stacking it several times. I hate it that much I’m even roped to Johan again!
I manage to look behind and see Amber on her arse too!
I want to take some photos on the way down but it’s just too slippery to take any (but I have some from the girls)
My enthusiasm has also waned and I just want to be at the bottom! About half way down something isn’t right, we stop for a break and something is up with my back. A muscle or something has gone and it’s aching like hell! Cue more tears….I’ve just about had enough of this whole bloody trip despite the jubilation of hitting over 6000m!
I finally get back to camp and lie outside in the sun stretched out…I just want 5 before we have to start packing and dismantling the tent.
We refuel, rehydrate then the dreaded packing commences. Kim and Amber very kindly carry most of the heavy stuff due to my back and poor Kim has my beast of a bag again. Once ready, despite hiking for hours already today, we have the walk back to the car. It’s actually feels worse and longer than we remember from yesterday – it seems to go in forever! I’m sure though it’s just because of what we’ve already achieved today and we’re all just pure and utterly knackered!
Finally, FINALLY, we get to the car and a comfy jeep seat for the 3 hour journey back to Arequipa awaits. Using my fleece as a lumber pad I’m quite comfy and we sing along to the radio, chat and share munchies all the way back. It feels like a school trip with great friends.
Back In Arequipa, we drop our stuff back at the tour office and joke around with the guy we booked with about it not being bloody easy! Again he insists it is – maybe he did it that long ago he’s forgotten! We tip our formidable guide and I thank him from the bottom of my heart for all his help and guidance.
Dirty and tired, it’s time to bead back to our hostels. I bid farewell to my 2 awesome buddies. These girls are amazing. We shared a lot of laughs and stories – both personal and funny. They are 2 of the nicest and genuine people I’ve met in my travels and I feel truly blessed to have completed this challenge with them. I have made 2 awesome new friends in Kim and Amber. Both our guide and the man in the office thought we were long term friends due to our dynamics. I think that proves just how well we get on. Johan also said how much easier it made his job having people that were really connected and got on.
So to Amber and Kim…thank you both loads for your friendship, stories, support and everything throughout this little adventure. You made an awfully hard task more bearable and enjoyable. I’m so glad I met u both asking for a wet wipe after slipping in oil!!!
There are a lot of companies out there offering this tour. Many just asked agents. Others tell u one thing like small group sizes but end up quite large (we were told several times maximum 5, but the other group on the mountain were 12!). Also ask to check equipment – a lot we saw was far too thin for the temperatures you’ll be exposed to. If you are at all worried about a group and the pace…look into a private tour. It makes a world of difference. At these altitudes, u can’t rush to keep up with those in front.
We found Naturaleza Activa to be amazing and in the end we only paid about £50 more for our private tour. The information was clear, equipment great and our guide bloody brilliant. If your looking to hike Chachani, definitely look into using this company.