Ever since my gentleman of a husband carried my kit and his 4,500m up Misti volcano (5,822m elevation in total), only to have to CasEvac me back down again following yet another bout of Acute Mountain Sickness kicking my butt, he has (not very secretly) harboured a smouldering grudge. So when he decided he was going to attempt to climb Chachani volcano (6,075m) before we left Peru, I was relieved he would finally have the opportunity to cleanse his soul of the bitterness he feels when he doesn’t achieve something he sets out to do.  So below follows a rare foray into the world of social media from the grumpy old man himself, providing an account of his attempt to join the 6,000m club by climbing Chachani, all in one night, no less.

chachani volcano

The majestic Chachani volcano, as seen from Puente Grau. A view we enjoyed daily, and now miss sorely.

The Plan (by Chris)

As we were running out of time before having to leave Peru, I decided to try and get up Chachani as quickly as possible. This meant a slightly optimistic schedule of being picked up from the city of Arequipa (2,300m) one evening at 22.00hrs, to be driven in a 4×4 up to base-camp 1 at around 5,000m, before leaving the vehicle to begin an overnight trek to the summit. As the trek is normally done in two or often three days I had a hunch this was going to be a toughie, but I knew that every extra night spent on the volcano was one less night I could spend drinking goodbye piscos with friends, so off I set, somewhat apprehensively if I’m honest.

The Drive

My guide, Roy, must have some German blood in him because my doorbell rang bang on 22.00hrs, meaning to my great embarrassment I hadn’t quite finished polishing my boots by the time he arrived. Nonetheless we managed to set off at around 22.10hrs for the long, bumpy ride to base-camp. The road on the way was, like me, a bit old and knackered, to the extent we had to keep stopping to make temporary road repairs as even our 4×4 couldn’t get over some of the pot-holes. But after some making-do and mending, we arrived at base-camp 1 (5,000m) by about 01.30hrs. So after wrapping up the vehicle in a nice vehicle duvet so he wouldn’t get cold, as well as gulping down some fantastically strong coca tea which Roy had kindly prepared, we set off for the summit at around 01.45hrs, full of optimism and bravado – which was very soon to fade.

The Climb

After about 90 minutes of fairly comfortable trekking, we arrived at our first resting point, a second base-camp at roughly 5,400m. For the two day trek, this would be the place to rest up for the night to aid acclimatisation. But with leaving-drinks in the Museo de Pisco in mind – my favourite place in Arequipa to get blind drunk on Peru’s (in)famous liquor – I knocked back some more coca tea and set off again, still feeling pretty strong and with hardly a sign of altitude sickness in sight

chachani volcano base camp

Base camp 2, (5,400m). A great place to spend the night, notwithstanding the lack of wifi and hot showers

After a pretty laborious climb up a very steep, sandy path which zig-zagged it’s way up to 5,600m, we stopped for our second break. By this stage the steep climb, combined with the higher altitude and the fact it was about 4ish in the morning, meant that I was beginning to feel my age. It was here that I began to seriously regret not booking a two night trek as the tents below looked mightily inviting but it was a bit late for hindsight, so off we plodded again into the cold, dark night.

chachani volcano sunrise

Here comes the sun, da, da, da, daaa

We arrived at the next resting point (5,750m) at about 05.00hrs. By this stage the jokes between Roy and I, such that they were, had completely dried up and my face had adopted a permanent grimace, occasionally complemented by an incredulous shake of the head or two and a little bit of involuntary dribbling. But there wasn’t really anything to do other than drink yet more coca tea and press on. So we did.

chachani volcano climb

The sun was finally with us by about 5.30am. A great boost for morale just when it was most needed

By now my walking pace had slowed to that of my grandmother’s after one too many Christmas Baileys and every other word I mumbled was either a rude one or a fruitless appeal to the Almighty. But by about 06.30hrs, we’d ticked off the next leg and now found ourselves sat, or in my case lying flat out in a heaving mess, at 5,900m. The climb to the final resting point at 6,025m was possibly the toughest physical challenge of my life. I felt like a very fat person was sitting on my chest throughout – granted, some people happily pay for such an experience and who am I to judge – but more worryingly I was feeling very dizzy and having trouble focussing on where my feet were treading. Not a great feeling when there’s a huge drop down the side of a volcano right next to you. In fact, if I’m honest it was at this stage that I was nearly ready to throw in the towel. I told Roy about my symptoms, which included feeling sick (I couldn’t even stomach sips of water), having a pounding headache, a complete lack of balance and, well, pretty much a lack of the will to live. To which he replied with a broad smile on his face ‘relax, amigo, sit down, take some breaths, drink some tea, be happy’ – sage advice for which I’ll be eternally grateful because he could easily have led me back down the volcano and still got paid for a shorter, easier day in his office – but thankfully he wasn’t that type of man. And so, after a few minutes of gasping, dribbling, swearing and drinking yet more coca tea, we pressed on to the crater of the volcano from where, for the first time, we could finally see the summit.

chachani volcano final ascent

Our first view of the summit – the cross you can just about see at the top of the path

From the crater to the summit was only an altitude gain of about 50 metres along a soft, sandy path which at sea level would be a delightful little stroll. But by now, with the effects of altitude fully kicking my backside, it was instead a grim, torturous stagger to the top. In fact, it was here I committed the cardinal sin of ditching my backpack, even though at this stage it only had a litre or so of water in it and a half-eaten banana – but even those few kilos seemed like an unnecessary burden in the circumstances. But eventually, to my great relief, we finally strode proudly onto the summit shortly before 08.00hrs, making the total trek a little over six hours from bottom to top. chachani volcano cross chachani volcano chris and chris on summit chachani volcano chris on summit After a couple of high fives and man hugs, as well as taking a few moments to appreciate the stunning beauty of Arequipa and it’s surroundings from up high, we picked up our walking poles and headed back down. The trek down took about two and a half hours and to be honest wasn’t much fun as I was running on fumes and seriously dehydrated but, by about 11.00hrs we were back at the car, heading down to Arequipa for a hot shower, a big plate of pasta and a sleep which would have put sleeping beauty to shame (and which involved yet more involuntary dribbling).

chachani volcano view misti

Looking across at the iconic Misti volcano

chachani volcano

Always easier to enjoy the views on the way down

So that’s my account of climbing Chachani. I’ve tried to resist the temptation of making out I found it easy. The truth is if the summit had been another metre higher I might not have made it. But I’m glad I did, as what better way to say farewell to the beautiful city of Arequipa than by summiting a volcano which has stared down at me since the day I arrived in this picturesque little corner of Peru, all those many, many months ago.

About Tammyonthemove

Tammy & Chris are a couple hailing from Germany and England, meaning between them they are efficient and polite, but unable to talk about football. Find out why they stopped pushing pens around the British civil service to travel the world on their blog.

11 Thoughts on “Climbing the Majestic Chachani Volcano in Peru

  1. Nice work Chris! And a very entertaining read! You sound exactly like me, with a “she’ll be right” attitude, which leads to regret when I’m actually doing whatever I impulsively decided to do.

    Congrats on the climb, the views look gorgeous!
    Stacey @ OneTavelsFar recently posted…Why I have no Sympathy for Tourists Mauled by Tigers in ThailandMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on December 11, 2014 at 11:43 am said:

      Spicy! What a lovely surprise! And completely agree about the tigers. Next time I see you I’m going to cook you one of my special veggie meals to help us wash down a bottle of tequila, or two – soon I hope. Until then….

  2. Tom Bartlett on December 12, 2014 at 2:59 pm said:

    6,000 meters! Knowing how poorly I handle altitude (I am on the extreme worst on whatever scale there is for handling altitude) – that would have taken me at least a month to prepare, going up and then down to help adjust to the altitude before finally going for the final push to the top. And here you did it in a couple of days if that. Based on what you were wearing I’ll bet you could have done it in shorts and t shirt during the day. You make it look like a walk in the park (although I know it never is). SUPER jealous.

    • Tammyonthemove on December 14, 2014 at 10:14 am said:

      Hi Tom

      Yeah, altitude sickness is a real pain, partly because there are seemingly no rules about who might suffer and partly because once it kicks in, there’s nothing much you can do about it (apart from descend ASAP, obviously). Which is why with hindsight I reckon I’d spend a night at the second base camp (5,400m), both to acclimatise a little more but also to break the trek into two chunks. Which might also allow for a shorts and t-shirt-based assault on the summit, so long as you have a LOT of sunscreen 🙂

  3. Would love to follow in your footsteps, even if it’s at your grandmother’s pace. Years ago I spent almost 2 weeks in the Cordillera Blanca on a self-guided trip with a donkey driver + 2 donkeys, my husband and friend. Magnificent scenery and hardly a soul around.
    Leigh recently posted…Cross-country Skiing in Gatineau Park, QuebecMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on December 14, 2014 at 10:12 am said:

      Hi Leigh,

      Funnily enough, now that I’m back in the UK I was able to visit my grandmother yesterday and having seen her walking, I reckon I was actually slightly slower than her pace!

      P.s. Gatineau Park looks stunning, despite the sad fact that naked skiing is inexplicably prohibited 🙁

  4. Wow! You guys did an amazing job and your photos have wonderful views. Just gorgous! You’re so brave. I went on a smaller volcano in Bali and I whined! I certainly wouldn’t have made it up this one. I would have died just breathing!
    Victoria@ The British Berliner recently posted…The beginner’s guide to going up a volcano: because going up a volcano isn’t for everyone!My Profile

  5. Many thanks, Victoria. So looks like we have at least two things in common. Volcanos and German Christmas markets – although I know which one I prefer! Hope you get to visit a good one this year. We’re opting for Dortmund’s, which I’m led to believe has the biggest Xmas tree in the world!?
    Chris recently posted…Climbing the Majestic Chachani Volcano in PeruMy Profile

  6. We’ve been reduced to an elderly relative’s pace hiking on Gran Canaria. Glad it’s not unique to us. Very entertaining read.
    Gran Canaria Local recently posted…Restaurante TehranMy Profile

  7. Frederick Clayton on October 10, 2017 at 3:25 pm said:

    Hi guys!

    Congrats on the adventure.

    Just wondering if you remember which guide took you up the mountain? i”m looking to do the same thing next week. Also, don’t suppose you remember the cost? Please feel free to e-mail me if you don’t want to post the answers in the thread, on frederickclayton53@gmail.com

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