South American Odyssey: Tierra del Fuego or bust
After six months of hiking south through the mountains of Ecuador and Peru, Leadville’s Gregg Treinish and Deia Schlosberg are alive and well.The couple has logged nearly 2,000 miles on foot since departing from Quito, Ecuador, in early July, according to Treinish, who said roughly 3,500 miles still separate them from Tierra Del Fuego. From there, Treinish and Schlosberg will discontinue their hike and arrange a surface journey up the east coast of South America, then across the Amazon River basin. “We’ll be at this for quite a while,” Treinish wrote in a recent correspondence to the Summit Daily News. “As far as we know, we are the first to do this hike, without roads, often without trails, in the mountains and on foot. … We simply point our compass south and go. Many times this means that we are crossing huge valleys, having to cross huge ranges and therefore climbing and dropping over 4,000-5,000 feet at a time. There is no guidebook, only us forging the way. Often we bushwack, scramble up scree and cross large rivers because of this.”Despite their obvious trailblazing tendencies, the travelers have periodically walked upon sections of an Incan road, as Schlosberg describes below.
As part of an ongoing SDN series, we rejoin our travelers in mid-December just after their ascent of Paso Pucaraju, a 15,000-foot peak near the heart of Peru’s Cordillera Blanca trekking region. After meeting with lots of clouds and very few views on top, Treinish, Schlosberg and their two Leadville friends (Dave and Jessie) began their descent via the Huaripampa Valley.The following excerpts were taken from blogs posted by Treinish and Schlosberg at www.roadjunky.com and www.steripen.com, respectively. Photos and movies can be viewed at http://southam.smugmug.com.Gregg Treinish – Dec. 23
Three quarters of the way down I was stopped dead in my tracks. I looked to the right and almost immediately felt a wave of excitement inside. I simply pointed and said to Dave “look.” The two of us sat for nearly a half-hour looking at the single greatest thing that either of us have seen in our backcountry explorations. Rising 6112m (20,052ft) from behind a very large mountain was Chacraraju. The pictures surely can explain it far better, but it is the most inspiring jagged creation that I have ever laid eyes on; I could have sat there for a lifetime just looking. I couldn’t help but wonder if the people living below, the people of Huaripampa, know. As most if not all of them never have stepped foot out of the valley, do they really know that the rest of the world doesn’t look like that? I guess when you live in a place like this one there really is no reason to leave. So often throughout this section the four of us would happen upon a remote high-mountain cabin and say to one another that we could live there. Life seems to be incredibly simple in a lot of high-mountain Peru . Often we see people watching their sheep, sitting with views we would walk a lifetime to see, reading a book or sewing. As we wave and exchange few words, it is continuously clear that simplicity has done these people well. Twice, sometimes three times a year fields are tilled by hand or using cattle, as crops grow year round. Cattle, sheep and chickens are raised by almost every family providing much of the food supply. Often the days consist of long walks up to ridge tops where new grazing lands can be found for the animalitos as they are called. Water comes as it does for us from the rivers and the rain, and power really just isn’t needed. Perhaps you will all be able to visit us someday high up in the Peruvian sierra in our new mud house that our neighbors helped us to make.Soon after saying goodbye to Leadville friends Dave and Jessie, who shared a month Treinish and Schlosberg’s journey, Treinish stopped to ponder on what he has learned in South America thus far.
What I realized with the help of Deia, is that we are learning a lot without realizing it, much like a child learns. We have been traveling through backcountry South America for nearly six months now and probably have changed a ton. I feel like me, I am not aware of many of the changes yet, and don’t think that they will really sink in until our return to “normal” life in the U.S. I know that I am far more aware of life, far more in touch with people on a global level. I know that priorities have certainly changed, fully exploring the places we visit at the top of the list. I know that I am continuously amazed at the centrality of family in the lives here, often people will remain with their families a lifetime. This has certainly made me evaluate the role of family in my life. There are so many things that are the way they are here, they no longer seem different to us, no longer strike us as life changing, nonetheless there is very little doubt that we will continue to grow and to learn simply from being here, let alone from doing it the way that we are.Deia Schlosberg – December 23For this last section, we walked a good length of Incan road. The road is a feat of ancient, and modern even, engineering. The width varies from less than a meter when limited by rock cliffs to six meters wide in open, grassy pampa. Much of it is lined on both sides by inset rocks/small boulders with periodic inset rock drainages running perpendicularly across the trail to keep it from getting too mushy. These gutters were probably very effective in the time of the Incan heyday. Now they are only intact in places, leaving the Incan road-walker caked from toe to knee (at least those daring (or ridiculous) enough to hike in the wet season) in mud. Mud aside, there was something very special about walking on a portion (we will return for more) of a track running thousands of kilometers toward Cusco, the center of the empire. We have been on other parts of the Incan trail network webbing across much of South America, but this time it felt different. Somehow being on a major ancient highway and knowing how many Incan runners covered the same exact steps centuries before, in the same direction, with the same destination made me feel like I had more of a purpose, like I was part of something bigger than me and this trek of ours. I felt like we were experiencing Peru in the way most in accordance with its history and traditions.
Adam Boffey can be contacted at (970) 668-4634, or at email@example.com.
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