Blogs sponsored by Piotr Chmielinski
After crossing the winding, treeless, cold and barren valley from the small mining town of Caylloma, and staying a few days with the hardy local inhabitants, one of whom walked with me for a few hours, I followed the last part of the Apurimac river and then the connecting source streams Hornillos, Lloqueta, Carhuasanta and Lake Ticlla Cocha until I finally arrived at the Nevado Mismi source of the Amazon (the most distant source of continual flow). I summitted the 18,363 ft mountain on 16th May, 6 years, 5 months and 12 days after I began my journey at the mouth of the river.
The views from the top were amazing: I could see the smoking volcanoes Sabancaya and Hualca Hualca In the distance, as I sat on the glacial ridge overlooking the continental divide where the ice melt flows down into the Colca river and on to the Pacific ocean on the southern side, and down to the Atlantic Ocean on the northern side. I felt I was on top of the world – my emotions overcame me and left me quite speechless for a moment.
Before the summit attempt, we slept in our tents under the full red moon eclipse at 5,200m altitude. The waxing moon, Orion’s Belt and billions of other stars illuminated our basecamp, while with the wind chill, night-time temperatures dropped below -10°.
I awoke early, unzipped my frost-covered tent and looked up at the surrounding mountains (Apu), their peaks tipped by the early morning light, as if painted by the sun god Inti himself.
‘”This is it Pete,” I thought. “This is the day you’ve thought about for years. The time has come, and you’re ready to summit!”
I was surprised how good I actually felt when it came to finally walking up the steeper section of Nevado Mismi. It left me a little breathless, but going very slowly was the way to do it – ah yes, and drinking a gallon of coca tea in the morning helped, I think!
I was privileged to be accompanied to the summit by two members of the original Canoandes team – Piotr Chmielinski, and professional photographer Zbigniew Bzdak – prominent members of the famous Polish team of many world-first river descents including Piotr’s first complete descent of the Amazon river from source to sea, as recounted in the classic book by Joe Kane “Running The Amazon“. I was also chuffed to be joined by Vlado Soto – Colca Trek owner – and first class guide Johan Sarate, and then a few days later, whilst walking to Chivay, by adventure-Journalist Jeff Moag. All of this was kindly and expertly arranged by Piotr himself.
I’m writing this from Chivay after walking from Nevado Mismi for a few days. The first day, I walked through what I can only describe as a dry, dusty, barren, lunar-type terrain strewn with rocks and boulders that were probably the result of volcanic activity thousands of years ago. It was so bright that I had to squint at the blazing sun, despite wearing sunglasses. Later, I headed down toward Tuti, which sits in the shadow of Mismi, and then on to Chivay.
Chivay an ln interesting, small touristy town. People use it as a base to visit the Colca Canyon and the Cruz del Condor. Mountain biking and trekking tours also operate from here. Surrounded by snow-capped volcanic glacial mountains and crystal clear blue skies, Chivay and the nearby Colca Canyon are steeped in pre-Inca history. The Plaza del Armas also has a large monument dedicated to Canoande’s first descent of the Colca River in 1981 – seen in the award-winning movie God Speed Los Polacos.
Piotr had arranged a fantastic basecamp, put together by long-term guides and friends of his Johan Sarate and Vlado Soto. We had enough food for a week and plenty of sleeping bags and quality tents – one tent each, and it was the warmest I had been in a week, even when temperatures plummeted at night.
All the terrain surrounding Mismi looks like the surface of the moon, with only the occasional viscachas scurrying over the rocks. Some wild vicuña and herds of alpaca graze in the valley far below, and the alpaca farmers use the rocks to build compounds for the alpaca to sleep in. Their house walls are also built from the same rock. At this freezingly high altitude, little grows in the valleys except the tough grass that the alpacas and Llamas feed on, and a few small cacti and mosses. There are also a few spindly, dry-looking cacti the farmers use for lighting fires. Amazingly, a handful of people live out their entire lives here. They have to be resourceful, including using the combustible, dried, rabbit-size alpaca droppings for making fire to cook food and keep warm at night. Nothing is wasted.
I am now preparing to continue the walk to the Pacific Ocean, passing the world’s deepest canyon – the stunning Colca Canyon – where I hope to see the many condors gliding above the Cruz del Condor.
My personal odyssey will finish there, at sea level. I will Tweet a countdown of kilometres and days as I approach the Pacific, and try to do a live broadcast on the final approach via YouTube. Please follow me on Twitter @amazonascent to keep updated and please RT if you can with hashtag #AOTA to try and get me up to 1000 followers by the time I finish my journey. 🙂
Thanks again to all who have donated and helped me get to this point. I’m looking forward to putting together the special signed sealed and delivered 2023 calendar for all who donated, when I return to the UK.
My support page is still open for donations (I still have to find my airfare and overstay fine)! via the PayPal link below.
Any donations on or above £25 or $30 will receive a special signed sealed and delivered 2023 calendar, unique images from my trek. Delivered anywhere on the planet.
📸 Photos 📸
Header image. On Top of the world. Sitting on Mismi at the continental divide 18,363 ft.
Juan and his 300 Alpacas & Llamas, he has lived his entire life here in the shadow of Mismi.
Top of Mismi. From Left to right. Vlado Soto, Zbigniew Bzdak, Piotr Chmielinski, Me. Johan Sarate behind the camera.
Before the climb. Johan Sarate on the left.
View from near the summit of Mismi
“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day”~A.A. Milne
Heading down to the town of Tupi from Mismi
Base camp at 5,200m
The Andean Condor typically lives about 60–70 years and has a wingspan of 2.1–2.7 metres (7–9 ft). It is commonly referred to as the “Eternity Bird,” as it is a symbol of long life.
A small religious festival in the streets of Chivay.
Pan and zoom map to see more detail
Garmin Inreach Tracking maps
Track point record every 5 minutes from Caylloma to Mismi to Chivay
Caylloma To Rio Hornillos
Following the source streams Hornillos, Lloqueta, & Carhuasanta
Base camp to the summit and down again
Route from Mismi to Chivay