In the Highlands of Peru travelers are often at the mercy of the fickle weather. Dargui recently had the good fortune to be invited to trek the Mountain of Seven Colors or Rainbow Mountain - a day hike about 4 hours outside of Cusco. The striped mountain shows brilliantly in photos of adventure seekers in Peru who make the 5 kilometer trek up the 1,000 meters to the summit.
However, when a snowstorm rolls in overnight, the views and experience change
to something else completely. So was the Dargui Tours experience 2 weeks ago when several centimeters of snow draped the landscape during our night's stay at nearly 5,000 meters. Fortunately the beauty of the landscape of the Mountain of the Seven Colors stays intact no matter the conditions.
From Dry Highlands to Snow Covered Mountains!
The Mountain of the Seven Colors is typically done as a day hike starting at about 3am to get on the trail early and off the trail in time to return to Cusco. However, there is the option for a 2 day adventure with an overnight stay in a camp about 1 kilometer up the trail. This is a more complete experience and typically allows trekkers to be some of the first to the summit and experience a bit of tranquility instead of the larger crowds who normally choose the day trek.
We arrived to the trail head at 12pm after several stops in Peruvian Highland villages along the way to see both Incan ruins and present day cultural sites (our stop to taste chuta bread fresh out of the oven was unbelievably delicious). After bundling up, putting on rain ponchos, and sipping a round of coca tea, we were off in the thinning air to our camp.
Two hours later, we arrived to our camp in the middle of a large mountain valley surrounded by llamas. As our outfitter set up camp, we explored nearby hillsides without our packs and then were invited back to camp to a spread of culinary delights by our camp chef Braulio who continued to surprise us with Peruvian Andean gastronomy that would rival selections in restaurants.
As night descended and the cold mountain air rolled through the valley, we started a ceremony to Mother Earth - a traditional Quechua ritual involving offering small sacrifices for the continued providence of the land. A 3-course camp dinner then prepped us for a cold night in our tents tucked in our sleeping bags.
To our surprise we unzipped our tents in the morning to find snow blanketing the mountain valley - a rare event according to our guides. However, our host outfitter did not have their spirits dampened either and we all decided to push upward to the top of the summit through the falling snow and the lightly blanketed landscape. At 10am we arrived to the summit as the 2nd group atop the Rainbow Mountain with hardly a soul in sight except for the hardy locals who make their way each day for coca tea and food sales at the summit top. It was a stunning departure from how most people experience the trek with many more fellow trekkers and of course without the layer of snow.
After our descent and on last lunch by our star chef, we arrived to the trail head and slept like babies on the ride back to Cusco. Another day hike explored and another Peruvian experienced had firsthand by our agency's travel advisers.