I know, “Rainbow Mountain” sounds like a happy place filled with unicorns and good times, but it was one of the more difficult things we have ever done. At the same time, it was also the most victorious we have ever felt! Like, we aren’t intense hiker people so this literally was the summit of our careers. Do I tell people I’m a mountain climber now? Yes. Am I? Absolutely not. I almost died.
- Altitude- The altitude is NO. JOKE. Again, we aren’t hikers. We don’t know what we’re doing, this was all new to us. We had been in Peru for a couple days and knew the struggle of having to stop and breathe every 3 stairs in the hostel but had no idea what 15,000 feet would feel like. Be prepared my friends and do as the experts say. Spend 3 ENTIRE DAYS in Cuzco before you attempt this…it would have been the smart thing to do. Ya’ll our guide came back for us and had us inhaling a sketchy looking substance from a water bottle that he promised would make us better. No idea what it was but it got us going.
- Horses- So if you aren’t a super fit human or maybe you aren’t trying to exert yourself on vacation, you can still do Rainbow Mountain! There are horses that you can rent, a Peruvian person will literally put you on a horse and lead you all the way to the top. Here’s the best part: You can choose to rent a horse at any time during your journey. They know. These mountain dwellers know my sea-level body is not equipped for this. They know that I am going to fade very quickly and will regret my choice to walk instead of ride to the top. So, because of the savvy business people they are, they will literally run up and down the line of hiking people offering their “caballo”(horse) to you. I happily gave in when fairly close to the top and left Katelyn in the dust to trudge along the last section of the trail all alone. It was the best decision I have ever made. In case you don’t speak Spanish let me help you out: Me: Cuanto cuesta? Peruvian: 30 soles Me: Si, hallelujah. Best $9 I’ve ever spent.
I just hated the idea that we were the last people and that people were waiting on us and it was starting to stress me out so I rode to the top in a blaze of glory…at least that’s how I imagined it. I saw people ride all the way from the bottom and honestly if you aren’t fully acclimatized, it wouldn’t be a bad idea. That will also allow you to spend more time at the top and take in the “rainbow”. Just FYI the horses don’t go to the very top because it is too steep so no matter what, you’re going to have to exert yourself at the end. I literally only beat Katelyn up by like 10 minutes but I’d do it again.
- Alpacas/Llamas- There are herds of grazing llamas/alpacas all along
the path and if, like us, you just need to frolic among them, go ahead! I’m not like in charge of them or anything but all I’m saying is that nothing bad happened to us. I led the way (with Kate worrying if they would attack us) and we got to hang out, make some alpaca friends, and enjoy the mountain pastures. Just a heads up, they do not attack.
- Who to go with- Most tours don’t run in the rainy season because of silly things like mudslides on the dangerous roads and quick onset storms. If you decide to go in February and you’re willing to risk it, never fear! The hotels and hostels may not be doing tours but the travel agencies all around town still are. Just pick one and sign up! They are basically all the exact same. The best part? It is so cheap. We paid $30 a person which included: a 3 hour ride from Cuzco to the mountain, a hot breakfast in a village along the way, a personal guide up the mountain, and a ride back to Cuzco. This is an all day activity!
- What to wear- L A Y E R S. All the layers. If you think you’re wearing too many layers, just assume you need 2 more. Started out in a t shirt, leggings and hiking boots and ended in a coat, hat and gloves. The weather is unpredictable; it started hailing on us when walking back down the mountain, then by the time we reached the bus I was back in a tshirt and Kate was literally in a tank top.
There ya go, mountaineers! Happy trails!