i don’t care what month or year or day it is. it’s sometime between 5 and 6pm and i’m watching the sunset. we are at camp for the night, slowly moving towards machu picchu and i’m looking mt. salkantay right in the eye.
it’s hard to say, but this may be the greatest thing i’ve ever seen. i’ve read about mountains like this. i’ve dreamed of them. now, i’m finally with one. all of the mountains here in the andes are massive. they seem to sprout straight up out of nowhere. they seem to sit steeper and more aggressive then others dare. i imagine their formation, quick and loud and strong. they scream for attention and boy is it working. the wind is blowing furiously and i very well may lose a hand for it, but my camera won’t let me stop.
flighty clouds dance near the base as glints of pink and orange and purple and blue wink through. the feet point to a quechua farm with tents, horses, cows, and carts all resting in the small valley, golden delicious. to my left is our camp, a russian doll in the andes, a set of green tents with smaller and smaller tents inside. hungry and drained trekkers rest in the shelter, awaiting dinner, passing time and beating language barriers with clubs, hearts, diamonds, and spades lit by candle light. i should join them, warm up, rest up, give in. but i can’t. it’s the peak that keeps me out.
with light fading by the second, it’s the peak, the summit that continues to hold all light. it’s so bright; it’s hard to even catch in my lens against the cold, arid sky. the shadows reflect blue while the snow lines push whiter than white. i trace the paths of small avalanches down, down, down. spaces of rock protrude through, darker and fiercer than the inca ruins we walk towards. has anyone ever been up there? has anyone ever shouted from the top?
with a click, i try and capture it all: the light, the air, the cold, the story. but with each attempt, i fail. it’s impossible, a sweet defeat.
i turn the switch to “off” and put the eye patch over the lens to rest for the night. then i sit back, look out, and exhale with the mountain.
-an excerpt from my 2010 journal “thoughts in peru” sitting on a rock somewhere in the middle of the andes. below is a picture i took the following morning.
mt. salkantay sits at a proud 20,574 ft tall. the salkantay trail takes you up and over the saddle of the mountain above 15,000 ft. at that time, it was the highest point i had ever been in my life. today it stands in my heart as one of the most important.