Climbing Huayna Picchu
Huayna Picchu (aka Wayna Picchu or Wayna Pikchu), which means ‘Young Peak’ in Quechua, is the large mountain that sits directly behind Machu Picchu, and can been seen in all it’s glory in the picture above.
For many trekkers, climbing Huayna Picchu is one of the highlights of a visit to Machu Picchu. The views of the Citadel and surrounding landscape are extraordinary from the top and well worth the climbing effort.
From a distance Huayna Picchu looks like a technical climbing endeavour, but is in fact just a steep hike with some sections that will require the use of both hands and feet to scramble upwards, but no technical skills or climbing tools. There are sections that include railings and cables for support.
Anyone with a decent level of fitness and moderate constitution for heights can climb Huayna Picchu (if you are afraid of heights or susceptible to vertigo then this climb is probably not for you). There are areas that are exposed to steep drops, so caution should be taken throughout the climb, keeping a good distance between climbers in front and behind you. This is particularly true if the trail is wet. Children over the age of 12 can climb Huayna Picchu.
The total ascent is just over 1,000 feet (360m) with the summit at a steep angle above the city. As Huayna Picchu is so close to the city complex it provides a fantastic birds-eye view, and the climb itself provides brilliant vistas of the city from various angles. This perspective is very difficult to appreciate whilst walking within the Citadel.
From summit the scale and ingenuity of Machu Picchu and it’s various structures and terraces is fully revealed. The sheer magnitude and complexity of the site provides for a humbling view. There are also terraces and temple remnants that crown the mountain’s summit, and will leave you questioning how the Inca managed to build these structures.
Climbing Huayna Picchu – Permits and Rules
In the early days trekkers were able to climb Huayna Picchu without any permits and there was no limit on the number of visitors on the mountain.
As you can imagine unregulated climbing on the mountain had a rather large impact on the Inca paths that lead up the trail, as well as interrupted some of the archaeological work that continues on the mountain even today. Not to mention the safety risks associated with having lots of people coming and going on steep paths.
A few years ago, the National Institute of Culture of Peru (INC) decided to implement a number of measures to regulate climbing activities on Huayna Picchu. Initially a quota and permit system was implemented that limited the number of climbing permits to 400 per day. Climbers could still ascend and descend at any time of the day as long as the final ascent was two hours before the site closed.
On the 25th July 2011 the ruling on timings changed, and fixed times of departure have been implemented.
There are now two group departure times, each with 200 permits.
The first climbing time runs between 7am-8am, and the second group time runs from 10am-11am. The climb itself takes about an hour to ascend and approximately 45 minutes to descend.
Officially, climbers in the first group need to get back down from the mountain by 10am to avoid cross over with climbers ascending in group 2, but this is very seldom the case as many trekkers take longer to ascend and then like to stay up high to maximise the view, particularly if there is early morning fog that promises to leave by 10-11am.
Children under the age of 12 are not allowed to climb Huayna Picchu.
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