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Participant: Stefan Roman
Period: 29 - 30 june 2006
Area: Misti volcano, Arequipa, Peru
Altitude: 5822 m


With it's 5822 m, El Misti is one of the easiest climbs to this altitude. Various tourist agencies offer 2 day tours to climb the summit of El Misti. The prices vary between 40-60 USD, including mountain guides, transportation until the beginning of the trekking-path at 3660 m, warm tea in the evening and the summit morning and a warm meal in the base-camp.
I decided to climb by my own and eventually join a group hiking the same way. For this reason I will leave a short description of the trail.
The necessary equipment for this tour is the usually one for trekking/hiking tours, but be aware that temperatures in the night can fall down to -10ÂC. You don't need crampons and ice-axe.
I carried 6 liters of water and food for two days, although the second day is a short one. The food I carried consisted in: crackers (instead of bread), 2 avocados, 2 tomatoes, 4 cooked eggs, sausages, cheese, marmelade, 3 kiwis, 3 apples, 2 bananas, jogurt, 2 instant nudle packs, 3 teabags and my MSR-stove for cooking. As clothes I carried long bikepants (excellent for trekking-tours), a t-shirt, long underwear, windstopper jacket and pants, 2 fleece polos and a pair thick wool socks. The tent, sleeping bag and matress made my backpack weighting almost 25 kg.
Early in the morning at 6 o'clock I took a bus out of Arequipa to Chiguata (1,20 soles) until the unpaved road (3100 m) leading to the trekking path. The distance of 6 km can be made in more or less 2 hours until an altitude of 3660, where you enter the path. This is the place where the cars bringing tourists have to turn back. There I met a group of US students with their 2 guides prepareing their bags for the same tour. I decided to join (follow) them and make the climb together with them the next day, in order not to get lost somewhere on the path.

mistiweb.wmv - 9:40 min 10,3 MB
El Misti - map 1 - parque coche
Vedere din intrarea în potecă la 3660 m, deasupra parcării. Altitudinea de pe perete este greşită. Secţiunea de fotografie se poate mări.

From this place, you can reach the basecamps in 5-7 hours. The first one lies at 4650 m and has place for 5-6 tents, the second one at 4800 m and has place for 8 tents. Eventough there are some places at 5000 m to pitch up a tent, the effort to climb to this altitudine with all your equipment is rather big.
The path begins at the car turning point and goes slightly uphill for about 40 min. Then you have to cross left hand a valley and continue the climb. Further on you can recognise a grey sand dune which you have to cross to the left to reach the rocky ridge which you have to climb until arriving to the 1. basecamp. Take care not to loose the path, you have to climb all the way up. From the first basecamp you can recognise a second rockfield. Just behind (on top of) this field lies the second basecamp. At this altitude you can feel the lack of oxygen. I did a great part of the climbing alone, reaching the group just when they were having a break, as they were less tired and were carrying less stuff.

El Misti map 1 - parque coches - 3660 m El Misti - map 2 - campamento 1

Gaining altitude, my breaths got deeper, the stepps smaller and my backpack heavier. The idea was to pitch up my tent together with the group and begin the climb next day with them. My breaks were getting more often and longer and in order to relax my back, I had to take of the backpack, movement that cost you precious energy. At about 4000 meters, I got sepparated from the group, but the guides described me the place they would pitch up their tents. From basecamp 1 I could see them taking the path to basecamp 2 and arriving there, pitching up the tents. The path leads on the right part of the rockfield in front and brings you to a little plain, where you can camp. The altitude difference is of 150 m at a distance of aprox. 800 m. Unfortunatelly, I lost the path and had to climb directly. This was the toughest part of the whole day. In less the an hour (at 5 PM) I reached the camp and after getting my tent ready, I prepared a warm meal. The spectacular sunset and the view over the light scattered town compensate for the hard climbing this day. The temperatures falls rapidly after the sunset and the harder blowing wind force you to get into your tent. From basecamp 2 you need usually 6 hours of climbing to the summit.

Hardly anybody could sleep this night. Although I had my eyes closed all the night and was very tired after this long day, I couldn't get asleep. I had some coughing too and had to clean my nose all the time, not being sure at the time I was prepareing my bag wether I could make the climb or not. I got up at 2:30 AM, prepared a hot tea and some breakfast and waited until the group was ready to go. They offered me a hot tea before starting and at 3:30 we were ready to do the final climb to the summit of El Misti. The path climbs the rocky ridge behind the basecamp until the exterior edge of the crater at 5650 m, which we reached at 10:30. From here, you cand already recognise the cross on the top of the volcano. Before climbing the last 200 m, we had a longer break to recover some forces. The landscape is getting more and more spectacular as we get closer to the summit. You can see on right hand the ash-spitting volcano Ubinas, at left hand snowcapped peaks of the Cordillera Chilca, the Coropuna and the "neighbour" Chachani.


At 11:30 I had reached the summit of El Misti, 5822 m. Satisfaction was great, landscape even greater. Everybody from the group was very happy and we congratulated each other. Another group had already reached the top, coming on the western route.


We took the obligatory summit photos and at 12:!5 we started the descend. Until the plain part at the edge of the volcano we took the same path, but from there we descended directly through the fine volcanic sand until reaching the base 40 minutes later. It's a strange feeling descending through this fine sand, as if you would ski in deep snow. We then packed our tents and backpacks and continued descending directly through the sandy valley and crossing then the grey sand dune to the little ridge which leads us to the place where the cars were waiting. As there was a free place in one of the cars, they gave me a ride to the center of Arequipa. This way, I didn't have to walk the 6 kms down to the main road.
Although this mountain does not require special previous preparation, it was a great experience for me and I am very eager to climb the other route, via Independencia. Anyway, the altitude does test your body and strenght.
Well, I hope this story will encourage other people to climb El Misti.

If you want to hire a mountain guide for this climb, I warmly recommend you the following ones:

Arcadio Mamani
Jerusalen 400 AB2
Arequipa, Peru

Eloy Cacya
Tel.: 054-9912814, 054-485860



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