False summit - this was the theme of the morning. When you think you've finally reached the top, only to discover that there is still another knob, and then another, and the obstacles to the summit kept coming around every bend. I'll admit it was a little deflating after about five false summits.
With the campsite above 15,000 ft. the night prior, some of us were still feeling the effects of the high altitude, so the way over the mountain pass (another 16,000 ft) was slow going. I sent my backpack with a horse so I'd have the energy to focus on the steps without the added weight. This also meant that my water, sunscreen, and lip balm were with the horse instead of being used by me. The lips and nose would suffer later for this lack of planning, but I was thankful in the moment to be without the extra pack weight.
Each side of Ausangate brought new views and terrain to navigate, which kept the interest level at a high during our journey. The weather also kep things interesting, we saw snow, sleet, hail, rain, sun, and clouds, sometimes all in one day! The mountains are dynamic places, filled with mystery and awe, and never to be taken for granted.
The initial plan was to complete the trek in 6 days, however, after summitting the mountain pass, it was determined that we would reach the end of the trek by mid-afternoon. Because several in the group were dealing with altitude issues, it was determined that we would return to Cusco a day ahead of schedule to enjoy a good night's sleep in a bed and a room with a shower. Those that wanted to enjoy the hot springs at the end of the trail had time to soak before we loaded the bus for the 3.5hr. drive back to Cusco.
Ausangate challenged us, inspired us, and left us breathless most of the time. Isn't this a parallel to life? This experience was more than just finishing a 61 mile trek, it was about uniting for a purpose - helping students and a school reach their own mountain. More on this story tomorrow!