In the heart of Machu Picchu, Machu Picchu Mountain otherwise referred to Montana Mountain is one of the most popular mountains to trek. If you are like many travelers, doing the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu might be out of reach. For us the high cost and the minimum 4 day requirement wasn’t worth it. We decided to do the Machu Picchu Mountain instead to still get the experience of trekking among the Andes Mountains and experience Machu Picchu with a beautiful view.
We were fortunate enough to go to Machu Picchu and climb Machu Picchu Mountain during our honeymoon after our time in Huacachina Peru. Before we embarked on this adventure, it’s important to note that we are both active and healthy individuals who enjoy the outdoors, exercising and keeping fit. Though we had anticipated that the trek would be difficult, we didn’t realize just how difficult it would be until we got there.
Climbing Machu Picchu Mountain
When we arrived in Machu Picchu at 7am, we walked around the Inca ruins to take photos. It was a bit cloudy and cold. We then made our way to the start of the trail at 8am in order to avoid the heat in the afternoon. Lining up at the start of the trail, we noticed many people waiting in line who were from all over the world, young and old.
When we started the trek, we were asked to sign-in for safety reasons in case you go missing or are injured. You’ll be given a number and upon exiting the trail, you’ll be asked to sign out. The designated number helps you locate your name in the book as there are hundreds of people coming in and out of the trail every day.
The trek has a lot of uneven stone stairs, steep hikes and narrow paths. There was even one point where I had to avoid looking anywhere but the steps in-front of me because we were so close to the edge and so high up the mountain. Due to the altitude, it can get difficult to breath, so we stopped several times to take a water break and to catch our breath. We are generally healthy and fit but the altitude was difficult to handle regardless. If you feel unease at any point of the trail, it’s best to take a break and regain energy and momentum to continue.
There are a lot of view points when walking up the mountain that are spectacular. We really took the time to appreciate where we were and stopped several times. It also felt easier to set short and small goals climbing Machu Picchu Mountain, like climbing one set of stairs up until we reached a lookout point.
When we finally reached the top of the mountain, we were amazed by the view and felt it was worth the trek. At the top of the mountain, we reached an altitude of 3,082 meters, which is 10,111 feet. The clouds had somewhat disappeared and the sun began to shine brightly. The Inca ruins were clearly visible, though it looked so small from way up the mountain we were standing on. You could see the Andes Mountains and breath in the fresh crisp air. We truly felt like we had accomplished something big, like we were invincible and could do anything in the world. It was particularly special as we did the trek together.
We decided to sit near the edge and have something to eat before heading back down. By the time it was 10:30am, we made our way back on the same route. We noticed a lot more people just starting the trek and found that the sun was beaming down on us, making it more difficult for all the other travelers who were just starting to trek uphill.
The recommended time it takes to climb Machu Picchu is 4 hours and we were able to complete it within 3.5 hours including breaks, eating and taking in the view at the top of the mountain. Overall, we were pleased with our trek and how long it took us.
Tips for climbing Machu Picchu Mountain
After our own experience climbing Machu Picchu Mountain, there are a few things that we would of done differently and a few other things that we would do exactly the same. If you are interested in climbing Machu Picchu Mountain and are wondering about the difficulty, what to wear and what to expect, you should continue reading below.
TIP 1: Prepare for the altitude
If you have just arrived in Peru and do not adjust to the high altitude, you may experience symptoms of altitude sickness. Besides the heat, bugs and exhaustion of the trek, one of the biggest concerns we had was the high altitude.
Taking sips of water during the course of the trek will help reduce dizziness, fatigue and and other altitude sickness symptoms. Remember to breath in deep breaths, remain calm and take as many breaks as required.
TIP 2: Wear layers
Firstly, wearing the right and proper gear is important. There are a lot of bugs and mosquitoes which although we had anticipated and sprayed bug spray constantly the entire time, we still managed to get bitten quiet a number of times. This was particularly evident on me, where I had over 50 bug bites predominately behind my legs. We remember a few people walking behind us commenting in horror of just how many bug bites there were! A few months later, she is still recovering from them!
On the minimal level, we recommend wearing a long sleeve top and pants. It’s also important to wear the proper hiking shoes that have sturdy footing as there are many uneven paths and stair cases. Opting for leggings or workout pants are ideal for the weather as it can get really hot and helps to avoid bug bites at the same time. Although it was extremely hot, we couldn’t help but wear shorts, which at the time felt suitable. This was a bad decision looking back.
In order to help with the drastic weather changes from rain, dark clouds to the unbearable heat, we recommending wearing layers. Layers could include, a long sleeve top, shirt, light jacket, long socks and pants. Having layers allows you to remove each layer as the sun starts to heat up during the day or to cover up more if it gets colder.
TIP 3: Stay hydrated
To prevent you from feeling fatigue and dehydrated, we recommend bringing plenty of water, 2 liters should be enough and would be light enough for you to carry. It was helpful to use a sturdy backpack to avoid any back pain you may experience.
TIP 4: Pack snacks and lunch
We also recommend bringing along snacks and possibly a packed lunch. There is a buffet lunch available at the entrance of Machu Picchu which cost $40USD per person. If you are thinking of doing the trail, you might be feeling hungry and fatigue by the time you are able to reach the buffet. For us, we enjoyed a light snack once we arrived at the top of Mount Montana before heading back down and having a packed lunch overlooking the Inca ruins.
TIP 5: Go early morning
Going early morning was one of the best decisions we made that day. Not only are there less crowds and the lines going into Machu Picchu are shorter, you’ll also have better chances of taking great photos without too much competition. In addition, the overall experience is much better having plenty of time to explore other parts of Machu Picchu in the afternoon.
Before 11am, the weather isn’t as bad with clouds and little heat. Remember that you’ll be enduring altitude, the sheer heights, bugs and the heat throughout the trek. So avoiding the times when the sun is beaming down on you can prevent dizziness, fatigue and allow you to enjoy the experience much more. This all depends on which month you decide to go to Machu Picchu. It’s best to research online the rainy season and the best month to go. We ended up going in October 2015.
It is also important to remember that the trail closes at 2pm everyday and that there are limited tickets available to complete the trek. Therefore, we recommend purchasing your tickets online beforehand, particularly if you are traveling during peak season. Going early morning also means you have more than enough time to complete the trail even if you are taking long breaks.
TIP 6: Take breaks
As we climbed up, we saw so many people quitting in the middle of the trail, throwing up or looking rather ill. It’s important to remember that the altitude levels are extremely high, over 10,000 feet above sea level. This makes it very difficult to breath, particularly because you are climbing up steep stairs and flat ground throughout the 3 hours.
Although walking down is fairly easy, it is also easy to slip and sprain your ankle or injure your knees from the pressure of your weight going down the steep stairs. Be careful of the uneven stone steps and make sure you have a good grip particularly if you are walking near the edge.
Overall our experience of climbing Machu Picchu was an unforgettable part of our honeymoon. I have a general fear of heights so climbing right to the top was an achievement for both of us. Comment below if you’ve been to Machu Picchu and your experience of Montana Mountain.