Category Archives: Hiking

Up to Aquas Caliente and a Machu Picchu Tour


Looking out the window of the train on a gloomy Peru afternoon.

I trained up to Aguas Caliente where I holed up in a small family owned hotel called Marco Wasi (House of Marco) in the middle of town. Nobody spoke English but all seemed to be ok and up to my room I went. It had been a great day of touring but I was sort of cold from the rain early in the day. I looked forward to my Thursday Night hot shower and some text messages from Seattle to keep me up on the Seahawk v. Packers game.  I turned on the water and alas, no matter how long I waited there was nothing hot coming from the spigot. I put on the pajamas, cracked open some hand warmers and threw one in the bed, held the other in my hands to warm up. I could not complain, however because I knew that several miles away from me, on the other side of Machu PIcchu Maggie lie in a tent after a very hard day of hiking down 3009 stone steps in the rain. Steps that wanted to buck her off with every bend of the knee. Steps I was supposed to be enduring with her instead of luxuriating in a hotel room. So I settled in to getting updated scores from Kathlene, Kathy and Sonya and enjoying an old fashioned play by play call of the game courtesy of iMessage and the three of them. Ronald Reagan would have been proud of their exciting delivery of the action!

IMG_6353The next morning I got up bright and early and paced all my things. It was raining and the little girl at the desk walked b]me down to the bus. The steep walks were slick in the rain and I could only imagine what Maggie was enduring coming in on her final leg of the trek. I stopped at the bus and ducked in for a great south American coffee. They served me the steamed milk and the shots of espresso separatelyIMG_6946 so I could pour them in myself.  It was a nice time to sit and reflect on teh adventure as a whole. But soon the clock moved and it was time to take the 25 minute ride up the hill to the ruins themselves. IT was a great ride. No harrowing corners but quite safe and really very pleasant.



Once off the bus I simply awaited the arrival of the rest of the team, and most importantly, the arrival of Maggie. I was so concerned to see how she looked, hear how she felt. I had felt so ashamed that I had been cut from the team and had such feelings of having let her down and having deserted her. At the same time, I was so very proud of her for digging in and doing it. AND THERE THEY WERE! Maggie was sitting in the doorway to the restaurant which had not yet opened. She looked tired and wet and ready for some rest. But she smiled and we hugged and if she could make it three and a half more hours, we would be at the buffet eating and drinking and reminiscing.  As we walked in to Machu PIcchu in the rain and clouds, it was an ominous eery feeling. We would not be getting all teh classic post card pictures of sunny Machu Picchu. Instead, we would be getting clouds circling around the ruins. Clearing in some spots, getting thicker in others.  I am simply going to post seceral of the pictures for you to get the idea:






It was an amazing tour. All sorts of great sights and scenes.

















So, as you can see, the grey came in and out around the ruins and it brought you back to a time where you could just feel and imagine the Inca with all his people there to serve him residing here and doing what Inca’s did. Their advanced civilization was amazing. The stone work, all without metal tools, was mind blowing. Carving, hauling, repairing, measuring and all of it with precision. The fact I could step foot on it was an honor as I gazed in awe and in wonderment.

IMG_6378We had done it. Maggie and I had set a goal a year before. While my adventure changed and I did not actually achieve my goal, I was to head home enriched by the things I had seen and the things I had learned from Julio. Maggie did it all. She took each step that the Incas would have taken to get there. She slept under the clouds and she walked through them. Stone step after stone step after stone step. And as we headed to have lunch with the boys before they headed home, I knew what it felt like not to summit, but to have joy for those who did.

More Groovy Inca History

It has been a couple days since I could blog so I will catch up on what you have missed. Thursday started with Julio arriving again and heading out toward the Sacred Valley. We went to Moray where there are a series if circles on terraces. The theory is that seeds were tested for flavor on each terrace to determine slight changes.

IMG_6331.JPG It began to rain and as we walked down to the bottom it was really slick. Walking up was slicker yet!!! But I got to the top, the rain passed and we headed out to the salt mine.
Now when I think of salt mines i think of deeeeep places in the earth and animals pulling carts of salt up to the surface. But this salt mine derives from a small spring that bubbles out of the side of a hill and people have little pools or sections to add wafer to, let evaporate and then scrape out the salt left behind.

IMG_6338.JPG it was so cool and the people there are working so hard. It is a co-op and different people own the different pools.

After the mine we had lunch of hamburgers and InkaKola and then it was off to the train where I bid farewell to Julio and headed to Agua Caliente!



So we survived and tomorrow will arrive at the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu. This is the second scheduled event for those of you following us and having this great interactive experience from the comfort of your own easy chair. This will represent 5 days of hiking and climbing. Sleeping in tents. Eating out over a fire. No showers. We will accomplish what we have worked so hard on all these months and it will be bittersweet to see the adventure winding down. So lift a glass whilst donning your IncaTrek 2014 shirt if you have one. Get creative. Group shots, individual shots, just photo bomb us and enjoy it with us. We have so enjoyed the preparations, the discussions, the talking with all of you about our adventure and we want to enjoy the day knowing you all enjoyed it with us. We will hear the high winds carry the clink clink of your glasses across the miles into the high Andes and we will thank you all! This, like the last event post, has been pre-launched so we could remind you to get your trek on with us. We will post all we can in real time, depending on the technology available!


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Pikillaqta, Tipon Bread and Chicharones

I slept in fits and starts and finally simply lie there awaiting my wakeup call. I packed for the day and met Julio and off we went for a day of awesome archeological site seeing.

First stop: Pikillaqta. This was an amazing civilization that preceded the Incas. The stonework was grand. The walls of the city extended as far as the eye could see. As many as 8000 people lived there at one time. The Wari as they are called and they were considered warriors. You also could see their method of lashing with leather as restored. There were a couple of crafts people there and I bought sone of their handiwork.

Our next stop was a little town called Oropesa “Capital Nacional de Pan” in which bakers spend the day baking fresh bread to be sold to people and businesses in Cusco. We went into one place where the bread was being baked in open wood fired stoves. As the boys raked out the bread into the apron of a man who was buying it you could not help but be envious of the availability of good, fresh non-preservative filled bread every single day. We got a couple of warm rolls to eat and were they tasty!!

The second archeological site we visited was Tipon. It was magnificent with aqueducts coming down from a main stream at the top of several terraces. We walked the stone steps and grass fields to the source of the water where Julio gave me an excellent Explanation of the Inca philosophy if life at all levels. The Inca were genius with their water engineering and stone work and this site is well worth the time.

It was a great day and now it was time for lunch! We stopped where they serve Chicharones!!! A great snack. Yes, pork rinds. That and roasted corn nuts followed by InkaCola, Cruzquenian beer and a plate loaded with corn, potatoes and ribs!!!! We chatted and ate and toasted Maggie on her conquest of Dead Woman’s Pass. I came away with so much more knowledge of Inca life and culture. I know I have said it before, but Julio is simply a wonderful guide chock full of knowledge just bursting out of him. And, at 11,000 feet I am still working pretty hard with this Inca pension for steps and high places.

We drove back yakking about the US and Peru and passing slow moving trucks. Then I showered and went to toast Maggie for her day of accomplishment, cresting close to 14,000 feet! Tomorrow: more archeological sites and then I train up to Machu Picchu!

Bittersweet Adventure

So today was it. This was the day the trek was to begin for all four if us. After yesterday I knew what was coming. We arrived at our hotel in the Urubumba, and we gathered for a meeting. Julio was letting us know what was happening going forward. He then politely asked to speak with me. I appreciated that. But I wanted my teammates involved. I did not want them to think I had been dealt with unfairly. So I said lets talk here. Nothing you say will be off limits. I was given a couple of options. I wanted to be sure my decision did not impact the team negatively. We all paid to be here and accommodating me could sour the trip of the others. My words not Julio’s. In the end, since I knew how much impact even doing the one day would have, I decided I would walk to the checkpoint and get my passport stamped and say goodbye. It was hard seeing them go over the bridge and up the hill. We each hugged and when I hugged Maggie my eyes filled with tears as I gripped her. I felt I had let her down and as though I were abandoning her. I stood and watched as they crossed the river and climbed the hill our of sight. I was all alone. They were gone and I cried.

I turned to see Darwin our driver waiting for me. I huffed and puffed up the hill to the van. Darwin speaks no English. As we drove away I looked out the window. What beautiful country. I wanted to k ow more so started picking through my very limited Spanish and asked questions. Soon we were having quite the conversation. We spoke about dogs, family, work and sights along the way. He is a nice man and has a 5 year old boy who started first year of school. At one point I am not sure if I asked him to marry me. And he may think that Maggie’s husband is dead and that Maggie and I are married now. By the look on his face something big got lost in the translation!!

We arrived back to Cuzco and Julio was right at my door and we went into the hotel to hammer out details going forward. He had already gotten my train ticket to go up to Machu Picchu Thursday. Ingot a good hotel rate and we have archeological tours to do for the next two days. Julio is so passionate about his Inca heritage and it comes out in his knowledge as he explains things T the various locations we go. Once again, Mountain Madness is providing the best!

So by now Maggie is in her tent. She is sleeping out and I am Missing seeing her reaction to it all. But we each have three days of adventure to create before we meet again at Machu Picchu!

Toast Two at Dead Woman’s Pass

Don’t forget! Wednesday the 3rd of September is TOAST TWO AT DEAD WOMAN’S PASS. Maggie and I will have hit the high altitude mark of the trek and survived Dead Woman’s Pass. It will be a hike of ours up stairs hewn by ancient Inca workers. It will crest at 13,800 ft high and then we will go down a knee pummeling steep trail to camp. So get your shirt out and wear it Wednesday and take a selfie or a video that you can post at Facebook and toast us! YES toast US! IF you have no IncaTrek 2014 shirt…wear another shirt and toast us anyway! When you post at:

Karen A. Whelan facebook page

WhelantTrek facebook page


or WHELANTREK on instagram

and PLEASE use the hashtag #IncaTrek2014

We love the fact that you guys are following us and we cannot wait to actually SEEEEEE the posts. This very blog entry is prewritten and auto-posting so we are not writing this post in real time.


Pisaq and Ollantaytamba

This was a day of seeing Inca ruins outside of Cuzco. But for me, it started out with Imodium. I have not acclimatized well and it is threatening the success if my Trek. Maggie is doing great! She seems to be acclimatizing and enjoying all we are doing.

Our first stop today was Pisaq. It is built high on the hills above the Sacred Valley. We were able to see the marvelous aqueducts and sun dials. There were lots and lots of stairs. My balance was precarious and gave me concern. Today, Julio would be judging my progress, acclimatization and whether my other issue all combined would cause them to scrap me from the trek. Unlike Everest, my slowness is a far bugger factor here.

We next travelled to a rescue organization. It was filled with Macaws, condors, deer, llamas and many more animals. Most would eventually be released back to the wild after healing from various injuries. Many of the former pet birds simply needed to grow their wings back.

Then it was off to lunch and great conversation. Before we headed to Ollantaytambo.

Little Girl in Ollantaytambo market.

Little Girl in Ollantaytambo market.

At Ollantaytambo there was a hike to the top but I was sent around the bottom. Again because my slowness impacted the whole group. So I saw all the fountains and buildings and hung out at the market. Even had a latte at The Bus Stop Cafe and had a great visit with the owners.

The others returned and we jumped in the van for our short ride to the Hoteles Hacienda Del Peru. We were given instructions about how everything would work going forward. It was at that time the guides decided I would not be trekking to Machu Picchu because they felt I would not be able to get through day two to Dead Woman’s Pass in time. So. Stay tuned for alternate plans and details!

Day One =Two Days in One


Julio was our Guide for the City tours. He was amazing!

IMG_6117Today was long with travel from Vegas to Miami to Lima to Cuzco. I didn’t sleep much on the plane. We got to our hotel and waited about an hour and half for our room. While we waited we drank cup after cup of coca leaf tea. When our room was ready, we took a couple hour nap and were ready to hit it. Julio, our Cuzco guide, Julio,  met us at 12:45 and we headed out on foot for lunch. The 11,000 was evident as we huffed and puffed along. Our trek mates are a couple of nice guys. Jeff from Denver and Tom from New York. After that we toured Museo del Convento de Santo Domingo. A church/museum that was built on Inca foundation. It was amazing the stone work and trapezoidal architecture. After that we went to another wonderful church that was three churches built in succession. No pix allowed so I bought a book about it!

Inca Stone Work at Saqsaywaman

Inca Stone Work at Saqsaywaman

After that we went to Saqsaywaman to see some ruins. Let me just say, above the city and some inca steps and it was a lung buster for me. This raises concerns for both me and the guide as to how I will do.
We then went to dinner and enjoyed stories and good company. Pictures are not uploading so you will have to await an edit to see them. Bedtime. Tomorrow will tell me a lot about how the rest of my time here will go.

Trail Canyon –Final Prep Hike

IMG_6073It is two years and two pants sizes since I went to Everest. I am none to happy about how I am leaving the USA but it is what it is. Today, Maggie and I headed off to our final preparatory hike before our departure. It was a great morning. Cool yet comfortable. I have been battling some ankle swelling and have been a bit concerned about that. But today was all about that last effort on home soil.

I had not gotten much sleep. I tossed and turned as my pups, for some reason, were at each other all night. usually they simply sleep with the occasional alerting because something outside catches their attention. But this particular night was different. Lots of banter and territorial growling with he occasional rough necking. All.Night.Long! Morning came and I drug myself from

Dog Jail.

Dog Jail.

bed and noticed Jack the older of my dogs was not his usual cheerful self. He kept looking out in the loft as if he were watching a ghost. I walk out there and there it is. The oat bar he had drug up after having gotten in my trekking duffel bag and taken out my trail bars! So that was the answer to all the trouble!!! I went downstairs to find them strewn about, unopened. Mystery solved, but that didn’t change the fact I was BEAT before we even began.

Xpectacular scenary.

Spectacular scenery.

Maggie got to the house and we loaded up ol’ Ace the Honda Pilot and set out for the trail-head. We yacked about the trip, how much packing we had to do, what tips we would have on hand for the porters and crew of Mountain Madness, are spa day at the end of the trip and other sundry topics as they randomly came to mind. Then we arrived at the trail-head and laced up our boots. We donned our packs and grabbed our poles and off we went.

Today’s hike was Trail Canyon. It is a two mile hike up hill, rated very strenuous. You gain about 1500 feet over the course of the trail. Though Maggie and I both felt Rain Tree was more difficult. But ut was quiet….for the most part…..and nice and really a good way to finish our preparations for Machu Picchu.

IMG_6064I told Maggie to hike her hike and pretty soon she was far enough ahead of me that I didn’t see her any nore. I made my way up trail in my own slow style, stopping to enjoy the surroundings and breathe in the fresh air of summer. The Aspen and Pine forest was filled with the sounds of birds and bugs and that was refreshing. Unfortunately there were a few groups of loud people that came through. One in particular was a gaggle of high school aged girls.

Back of the pack of hyena girls.

Back of the pack of hyena girls.

Maybe a dozen of them. None but a few even had water with them. But all the way up and down the trail they screamed as if they were being murdered just to hear the echo. Nobody leading them told them what bad trail etiquette it was to do that. The pushed passed and never said excuse me or thank you. Just hollering and yelping foolishly.

But they were not going to ruin a beautiful day of hiking for Maggie and Me.  We took in the day, thought about what was ahead of us and were both pretty happy with the day’s work. After the hike, we drove up to the Charleston Lodge where Maggie treated me to lunch and conversation. IMG_6068I have found a real friend in Maggie. She is a great adventure partner and we can both enjoy our hikes without expecting the other to “hike my way”.


A fine meal with a fine friend!

So that is it. Over a year of training in various ways and times to get ready for this big trek. My second, Maggie’s first. The journey has been great. Ups downs ins outs. All part of the big thing called life and we are finding in our 50’s there is much of it to be lived.


And now, a few more pictures of that final hike:




IMG_6077   IMG_6076




North Loop Raintree at Mt. Charleston

IMG_0351Maggie and I set out again for another run at the North Loop. This is her third, my second time heading up. It has altitude and steepness. Two things we need in preparation for the looming trek. First, thanks to Jim, her husband, for being so kind as to lend her to me today, the start of his fabulous birthday weekend!

So up we went and this time no hot spots on my heels. It is a steep 3 miles to the Raintree, a 3000 year old Bristle-cone Pine yes…I will wait while you read it again but it is true! The first section was much easier than last weekend. We hit the boyscout camp and had a snack and a rest and a great visit.  Then we hit the 7 sets of switchbacks! I am not gonna lie. This was a grueling section designed to brake me. And at several spots it nearly did. Today, Maggie decided to hang back with me and with my slow pace, that gave her a chance to drink in the beauty of the trail.IMG_0360 For me, as always, it was hard work. But that is what I signed up for.

A lot of the Bristle-cones are dead either from past fire or just life going out of them. The strike an ominous pose. They are so cool and eerie to look at!IMG_0358 Reminds me of Tim Burton movie art! Who knows, maybe he hiked these hills!

Once we got to the ridge which sits about 10,000 feet we rested again. I told Maggie I did not think I had any in the tank to drop down to the tree and come back up for our ultimate decent. But she kept encouraging me that that leg was nothing like the murderous switchbacks we had just finished. So I bit and dow to the rain tree we went. And I am so glad for her prodding me on because it truly is the tree of a lifetime!IMG_0380IMG_0373

We spent some time there just enjoying the day and headed back. We stopped back at the boy scout camp. IF you look closely, you will see the stratosphere tower! IMG_0400

We left there and all our media was threatening to die, so we hoofed it back without stops for additional pictures. It was a long day. A good day. One that gave lots of information to us for the final preparations for our IncaTrek!

Here are some more sights of the day…ENJOY!


Only 8 more miles to the top of Charleston!


Maggie in between the two trunks of the 3000 year old Rain Tree




Close up of teh Bristle COne Pine in its prime….only several hundreed years old.


View of Mummy through the Pines

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