Avg. Time : 2 days
Start / Finish :
- There are three alternative routes to the summit.
- I started and finished my hike in the village of Chiguata, due to the fact it was easy to access via public transport from Arequipa. This is the longest of the three routes at approximately 38km return.
- The two other options, from Los Pastores and Aguada Dam, are significantly shorter (both about 25km), however, each requires that you hire private transport in Arequipa in order to get to the trailhead. Once the summit is attained, you can descend to Chiguita and catch a minibus back to Arequipa.
Season : May to October.
Maps / Info :
- Back in 1996, I couldn’t find the above-mentioned topographic sheet. Instead, I made do with a sketch map on the back of a napkin from a waiter at a pizza restaurant in Arequipa.
- Suffice to say, somewhere between Chiguita and Monte Blanco, my trekking partner and I took a wrong turn and from that point on things became a tad more difficult than they should have been (see below).
- The Lonely planet Trekking in the Central Andes (2003), has a sketch map and detailed trekking notes for the “standard” routes to the top.
Route / Conditions :
- Difficult for me to comment on the standard paths to the summit as I never actually saw them. From what I have since read and heard, they are reasonably easy to follow!
- In our case, after losing the trail from Chiguita my trekking partner and I decided to make a bee line to the top via the SE slope of the volcano. It turned out to be a long hard slog up a predominantly loose sandy surface.
- On the flip side, the volcano’s SE slope was absolutely perfect for a super quick descent. What took hours to ascend, was knocked off in a matter of minutes coming down.
- Be sure to start out with enough water for the entire trip, as there is none on the volcano.
- El Misti (5822m) is a beautifully symmetrical volcano that can’t help but catch your eye from the moment you arrive in Arequipa.
- The views from the summit are magic. Not to be missed if you find yourself travelling in this part of Peru.
- Arequipa is a great base for treks to both ‘Misti’ and the Colca canyon. The town itself is one of my favourites.
Post-Hike Meal………..Cuy, anyone?
After descending El Misti, Rolf (German trekking buddy) and I passed through a small village from where we hoped to catch a ride back to Arequipa. As we weighed up our transportation options, an aroma reminiscent of barbecued chicken came wafting our way from one of the nearby huts.
Climbing 19,000 ft volcanos does wonders for a hiker’s appetite, so after a millisecond of contemplation I knocked on the residence’s door, channeled my inner-Oliver Twist and humbly asked whether my friend and I could procure some food. The lady of the house gave me a huge smile, complimented me on my Spanish and invited us both in.
She mentioned off-handedly that “cuy” was on the menu. Rolf cracked a knowing smile and nodded his acquiesence; I also nodded despite having no idea whatsover what “cuy” was. Rolf refused to satiate my curiosity, telling me to be patient and it was better left as a surprise. Turns out that “chicken” smell was actually guinea pig, which was served up spread-eagled, accompanied by vegetables and much to my chagrin, a glass of Inca Kola…………….my all-time least favourite beverage.