Raptors on the Inca Trail

Monday, August 22, 2011

Raptors on the Inca Trail

By  Walter Rhein & Roberto Carcelen


I just finished a six day trek on the Inca Trail with Peruvian Olympian Roberto Carcelen and World Champion cross-country skier Martin Koukal.  The two of them were using Peru's vast network of Andean mountain trails as some extreme training for the upcoming ski season.  I was coming along just for the adventure.

The day before we left, Roberto handed me a pair of La Sportiva Raptors, the lightweight, trail-running shoe that he had chosen for the hike.  Initially I had intended on bringing along a more conventional pair of hiking boots, but after taking my Raptors on a couple leisurely walks through Lima, I decided to leave my boots at home and rely exclusively on the Raptors.  I found the Raptors to be well ventilated, comfortable, and equipped with a solid sole that was designed to handle rough terrain.

After a couple days of acclimation hiking around the ruins of Pisaq, Ollantaytambo, and Sacsahuaman, we headed out to the small village of Cachora and the start of the Inca trail.  The first day was a grueling 17-mile hike in which we encountered a variety of different trail conditions.  Below is Roberto’s account of Day 1:

From Cachora to Machu Picchu Expedition: Day 1

We arrived in Cachora in the afternoon to meet with my old friend Mauro. Mauro manages the porters and also the trail transportation with logistics services for travelers.  We spent the afternoon catching up with him and arranging the transportation details for the upcoming days.

The next day, the weather was finally nice and sunny after previous days of unusual rain, cold temps and snow in the highlands.  After a very early breakfast Ben was the first to hit the trail, along with our expedition cook, Jesus. The idea was to have Ben hiking ahead, so he would snap great shots of the group making our way up, and yes indeed, Ben took really great photos of us along the way.  We left 60 minutes after Ben for an 18- mile run to our first campsite called Marampata, located 1 mile away from the ruins of Choquequirao.

The first 8 miles are slightly uphill but gentle, a really nice way to start the day and get the body well adjusted to the elevation. We passed Ben and the rest of the crew after 30 minutes into the run. 59 minutes later we reached Capulilloc pass, with 360-degree amazing views of snowy peaks, forming the endless depth of the Apurimac canyon. After taking some pictures and refueling with some carbs, we started our descent to the bottom of the canyon so we could cross the river and begin our way up to Choquequirao-Marampata camp.

The downhill in this section is very steep making the descent is fast and nice, and the weather started to warm up as we were getting closer to the bottom of the canyon.

The drop is about 6,000 ft within a 5-mile distance, so shoes with great grip and perfect fitting are a must; otherwise your toenails are going to suffer on the downhill. This is a great terrain to test shoes and other gear, I wore a pair of La Sportiva Raptors and they cruised well and proudly did the job.  

After few miles into the descent, I started to bonk a little bit, I didn't stick to my typical plan while running in the Andes (taking a gel in every 25 minutes). Elevation and heat rapidly started giving me a bad time. 90 minutes later we reached the bottom of the canyon, here, we refueled our backpacks with water, bananas and electrolytes. Then, we started the final 4.8-mile run with a 5,200 feet gain run uphill to Marampata. This is a very enjoyable and challenging traverse (better, of course, if you are not bonking and cramping).  My next 4.6 miles were hell as you can imagine, however, we managed to keep the whole activity under level 1. We made it to the Marampata camp 2 hours later, where we were able to see the Choquequirao ruins ahead of us, just a flat mile away!

We spent the afternoon in Marampata waiting for the rest of the crew, laid under the sun on the grass refueling and resting after a 4 hrs 40-minute traverse. A flock of wild parrots and hawks flew above us as we just laid down. It was a great opportunity to catch up with Martin and learn more about his latest outcomes in the World Cup, Olympics and future plans for the upcoming season.  - RC


At the end of day one, I knew my Raptors were an effective shoe, but it remained to be seen whether they could withstand the wear and tear of a seven-day hike.  As the days went by, the Raptors proved themselves again and again, and when we finally emerged triumphantly from the jungle to arrive at the gates of Machu Picchu, my Raptors (except for a little dirt and grime from the trail) were none the worse for wear.

My Inca trail expedition with Roberto and Inca Runners turned out to be a bit more of an endurance test than I had anticipated.  Had I been more familiar with the extreme conditions that were awaiting me, I might not have been so cavalier about embarking upon the journey with only one untested pair of trail-running shoes to carry me.  However, having completed the trip, I would have no hesitation choosing La Sportiva as my footwear for whatever other crazy adventure Roberto, Martin, or fate has in store!


Find out more about the Inca Runners and their expeditions at incarunners.com












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