As the dramatic backdrop to Machu Picchu, "the Lost City of the Incas," Huayna Picchu ("Young Peak"), is one of the most photographed and summited peaks in South America. It's future popularity is virtually guaranteed since Machu Picchu is and continues to be one of the most popular trekking destinations in South America if not the entire world. For those travelling to Machu Picchu, making the climb to Huayna Picchu's summit is to get a bird's eye view of the ruins and is the ceremonial last stop in many quests to experience El Camino Inca - the Inca Trail.
The first part of climbing Huayna Picchu via the most popular route involves getting to the Macchu Picchu ruins. The primary ways of doing this are to take El Camino Inca (from KM 88, 82, or 104 on the railroad from Cuzco to Aguas Calientes) or to take the bus up from Aguas Calientes directly to the ruins. Once you have entered the city, the well-worn path up to Huayna Picchu's summit leaves the caretaker's hut beside the Sacred Rock at the far end of the main square. Pass between the two huts at about 7,875 feet to make the 1000 foot vertical YDS class 3 scramble to the summit traversing around the peak, using fixed ropes and passing through a small cave/tunnel before reaching the final terraces leading to the summit. From here you will be treated to an amazing view of Machu Picchu putting into perspective the ruins that you may have just explored up close. The sunrise view from the summit is considered even more grand than the one from Intipunku.
When hiking Huayna Picchu, be sure to tag Huchuy Picchu, the smaller nearby peak as well.
In addition to Huayna Picchu, hiking Cerro Machu Picchu (aka Machu Picchu Mountain or Machupicchu Montaña), has been growing in popularity due to the introduction of hiking quotas on Huayna Picchu by the National Institute of Culture of Peru (INC). Other hiking destinations include Putukusi Mountain, aka Happy Mountain, and the Sun Gate (aka Inti Punku).
NOTE: Be careful climbing this peak during or just after any rains as even guides have slipped off the summit and plummeted to their death (Ref: Jeff Rothman).
Machu Picchu, The Lost City of the Incas
Machu Picchu is an amazing Inca city, high in the countryside and surrounded by lush jungles, that was spared plunder by the conquistadors and "rediscovered" by Hiram Bingham in 1911. A recent Yale University graduate, Bingham had raised funds for a 7 man expedition to Peru under the auspices of Yale University and the National Geographic Society. By July, Bingham's team had started to explore the Urubamba River valley from Cuzco and quickly discovered the ruins of Patallacta, Huayllabamba, and Paucarcancha. On July 24, Bingham and 2 others headed out to explore the countryside in the rain and met two tax evaders, Richarte and Alvarez. When Bingham explained he was looking for some ruins, Alvarez, who had been living in the area for four years led them to the city of Machu Picchu cementing Bingham's name in the history books. For more on the history of Machu Picchu, see Richard Danbury's book "The Inca Trail: Cuzco & Machu Picchu" (ISBN: 1-873756-29-1). The city of Machu Picchu was named after the large mountain it is against (also Machu Picchu). Climbing Machu Picchu mountain (Machupicchu Montaña) is not a popular endeavour compared to visiting the ruins and climbing Huayna Picchu but it is growing in popularity since the introduction of daily quotas on Huayna Picchu.
The traditional Logistical Center for Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu trips is Cuzco (aka Cusco), Peru and most people fly here from Lima, Peru. From Cuzco, take the train to Aguas Calientes getting off at KM 82, 88, 104 or at Aguas Calientes depending on your intended route to Machu Picchu. Getting off at KM 82 involves the longest approach hike, KM 88 is the start of the traditional trek, KM 104 is a newer and shorter trek while a short bus ride from Aguas Calientes can deposit you right at the lost city. The bus ride travels 5 miles up the switchbacks of Hiram Bingham Road. It is also possible to get a helicopter ride from Cuzco to Aguas Calientes.
ENTRY FEE (MANDATORY): For the traditional route to the summit, you will need to pay an fee to enter the Machu Picchu ruins and climb the Huayna Picchu. There is a limit of 400 per day split into 2 groups of 200. Tickets cannot be purchased on site and must be purchased in advanced which can be done at the official Peruvian website (http://www.machupicchu.gob.pe/
), at affiliate agents (e.g. ticketmachupichu.com
), and at the tourism office in Aguas Calientes. Affiliates may charge a service fee. Online ticket sites can list ticket availability and tickets for Huayna Picchu often sell out so be sure to make your reservation ahead of time. If you are in Aguas Clientes, the office closes at 8:30pm daily. Tickets also require passport numbers and are non-transferrable. Passport numbers are verified at the Huayna Picchu gate. There are student discounts available if you have a valid ISIC card. If there are routes to the summit that don't go through the ruins, you may be able to avoid this fee but don't count on it.
DAILY CLIMBING TIMES (MANDATORY): There are currently two hiking times, 7am-8am and 10am-11am, with a quota of 200 people per time. The ruins are open only from 7am to 5pm daily. It is illegal to stay inside the ruins at night.
GUIDES (MANADATORY IF ARRIVING BY THE INCA TRAIL): If you are trekking to Huayna Picchu via the Inca Trail, you are now required to have a Peruvian registered guide with you on the trail. However, if you arrive at Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes and simply enter the city, you do not need a guide to explore the ruins and climb Huayna Picchu. Sometimes, you can also just "attach" yourself to a Machu Picchu guided group and listen in on their talk which is what my brother and I did in 1999 after hiking the trail by ourselves (which is no longer legal).
When To Climb
The tourist season is from April/May to October. Going at the beginning of the season may mean less crowds. If you come here at other times of the year be prepared for lots of rain and possibly blocked roads.
Camping and Accomodations
It is now illegal to stay in Machu Picchu proper overnight. If you are hiking in from the Inca Trail, the last place you can spend the night is Trekkers' Hotel (2700m). The gate closes in the afternoon and reopens in the morning. You can camp along the Inca Trail and at the Trekkers' Hotel, however, there are also rooms and showers available at the Hotel. Don't forget to bring your wallet because you can get a great cooked meal, beer, etc. at the hotel and you'll need some additional cash once you get to Machu Picchu.
If you are coming from Aguas Calientes and want to stay close to the ruins, you can either look for a place to pitch your tent on the road up to the ruins as there may be some camping spots (look for a shed 60 feet before the ruins). There's also a free but dirty camping spot across the Urubamba river. If you want to stay in a room, adjacent to the ruins is the expensive but posh Machu Picchu Ruinas Hotel or you can stay down in Aguas Calientes where some very cheap places are available. In 2005, it was possible to get a place in Aguas Calientes for US $3 per night. And don't for et the hot springs or "aguas thermales" in Aguas Calientes. They are quite beautiful and a great bonus. (Addl Info: lucaskerper).
Use the following resources to check the latest conditions for Huayna Picchu (always ask for Machu Picchu conditions) and Cuzco.