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Inca Trail Trek Day 2 Wayllabamba To Pacaymayo







Looking back down along the Inca Trail as we headed up towards its highest point at Dead Woman’s Pass.

Intro: Our second day on the Inca Trail trek saw us traverse more spectacular Sacred Valley scenery and take on the challenging Dead Woman’s Pass – the highest point along our journey to Machu Picchu.

We continued our journey to Machu Picchu along the Inca Trail with an early morning wake up call around 6AM on day 2. I had woken up about an hour beforehand and was out of our tent just in time to catch the morning light hitting the mountains surrounding us. There was even a peak in the far distance, completely covered in snow – perhaps foreshadowing my next trek to Nepal’s Everest Base Camp in just a few weeks time.

The first day of our Inca Trail trek from KM 82 to Wayllabamba was marked by a gradual increase in elevation, perfect weather, and lots of socializing and smiles among our group. But the second would actually end up being slightly different, as we were going to be challenged with a hike up to the highest point on the whole trek (Warmiwañusca, aka “Dead Woman’s Pass”) and encounter some strong wind and rain.

A colorful map along the Inca Trail showing us the route from Wayllabamba to Pacaymayo.

In the hour or so that everyone had to get ready before we headed off on the trail, not only did we get to wake up to a beautiful morning and have our first breakfast (coffee, bread, and oatmeal), but while we were enjoying our food, the amazing G Adventures porters had already taken down our sleeping tents and packed them all away. Then as we were preparing our backpacks, they quickly took down the tent we had just been eating in. It was incredible how efficient, but also discreetly, the porters worked!

A determined Charlene as we hiked along the Inca Trail and up to the highest point of Dead Woman’s Pass.

Not only did the porters take down all the tents and pack everything within an hour or so, but they also laid out all our backpacks on a giant tarp, filled up the water reservoir for us to refill our bottles, and even put together bags of snacks and other goodies for us to enjoy while trekking. To say I was really impressed with their quality of work would be an understatement! I think I speak for our entire group when I say that we were very appreciative of the hard work and dedication the porters put in throughout the entire Inca Trail trek.

Looking back across the Sacred Valley towards Wayllabamba Camp where we had departed that morning on the second day of our Inca Trail trek.

With our energy levels high and our bellies satiated, we put on our backpacks, extended our trekking poles, and followed our guide Jeiko along the Inca Trail to our second campsite. It was another gorgeous morning of hiking as the sun slowly emerged while the temperature remained cool. We first trekked along a gradual incline, passing large, green mountains on both sides. Team “Hey Hey Hey” was still all smiles and laughter.

The forest we passed through on the second day of our Inca Trail trek was both eerie and magical.

After ascending a bit, we then passed through a dense, luscious forest, filled with all sorts of vegetation and a river that cut right through. It felt like we had just entered a scene from “Lord of the Rings” or a Disney fairy tale where all the tree limbs seemed to take on a life of their own. Our group continued marching forward while I made a few stops along the way to capture the surreal atmosphere around me. At one point I set up my Gitzo tripod and did a long exposure shot of the water running down the river.

An Inca Trail porter taking a break in the middle of the path, wearing sandals that look like they are on their last legs.

I also slowed down to capture the hardworking porters with their heavy backpacks as they passed by. There was also a group that had stopped to take a breather and I kindly asked them if I could take some photos. One who was sitting down right in the middle of the trail was nice enough to let me get really close to him and capture a portrait. One thing that really stood out to me were his sandals. They appeared to be on their last legs and pretty worn out, but somehow this porter was still able to literally run up and down the trails with a heavy load on his back. Simply amazing!

Low-lying cloud hovers over Dead Woman’s Pass – the highest point along the Inca Trail and the biggest challenge of our second day trekking.

What lay ahead after hiking through the forest was the famous (or rather infamous) Dead Woman’s Pass. At 4,198m (13,769ft), the trail up to the top is not only steep, but because of the elevation you need to drink lots of water and go slowly to prevent altitude sickness. By the time I saw the path leading up to the top, my group was already 15-20 minutes ahead of me. From a good distance below, all the trekkers, including Charlene whom I was able to spot, appeared like tiny, colorful ants marching up the hill. The smiles from earlier in the morning had quickly turned to tired expressions and there was lots of huffing and puffing.

Step-by-step, one breath after another, I made my way up Dead Woman’s Pass. The necessary rest stops were rather a blessing in disguise for me. Not only was I able to take photos without getting even further behind my G Adventures group, but the whole experience was good preparation for my Everest Base Camp trek the following month. I must’ve taken a breather every 10 minutes or so. What started out as every 100 meters until a break turned into 50…then 25…and finally near the top, it seemed like I was stopping every 10 meters! It didn’t help that I had a near 30-pound camera backpack on me.

Clouds rolling in over the mountains on our second day trekking through Peru’s Sacred Valley along the Inca Trail.

Up until this point, my group had been kind and thoughtful enough to wait for me every quarter-half mile or so, making sure I didn’t fall too far behind as I took photos or, even worse, get lost or fall off the trail :). But I knew at the top of the pass, the last thing anyone wanted to do was wait around. You might think that getting to the top of Dead Woman’s Pass would mean taking a nice long break, capturing a ton of photos, enjoying some snacks, and soaking in the beautiful scenery around. Well, we sure did soak everything in, but in the form of rain and wind! The clouds had rolled in right above Dead Woman’s Pass, creating quite an unpleasant scene at the top.

I put all my energy into catching up to my group as they neared the top, mainly so they didn’t have to wait for me before heading down along the other side of the mountain. We were all hoping for blue skies, calm winds and some sun, but instead we got the complete opposite. Despite all of these unfavorable conditions, everyone felt quite accomplished to have made it through the toughest part of the Inca Trail trek.

A photo together at the top of Dead Woman’s Pass – the highest point along Peru’s famous Inca Trail.

It was around noon when we made it to the top of Dead Woman’s Pass. Now it was smooth sailing to Pacaymayo Camp. Even though we were going down the mountain now, we still had to hike slowly and use our trekking poles to prevent injuring our knees or accidentally slipping, particularly as the trail was still a bit wet after the light rain.

As for me, I waited for everyone to go on ahead so I could get some photos of the scenery and just have some quiet, alone time. I think our trekking group was starting to get hungry and wanted to get to the campsite for lunch sooner rather than later. I told Jeiko that I’d be fine and there was no need to wait for me as it was impossible for me to get lost or worry about a bear attacking me. And as long as I was careful, I wasn’t going to fall off the side of the trail into some ditch. I would just see everyone at the campsite within the next few hours.

Heading down along the other side of the mountain from Dead Woman’s Pass on Peru’s Inca Trail.

What followed was one of my favorite parts of the entire Inca Trail trek: hiking on my own and really taking in the surroundings. Of the 2-2.5 hours that it took me to go from the top of Dead Woman’s Pass to Pacaymayo Camp, only one or two groups passed me by. The irony of all this is that I actually didn’t take too many photos. Whether the lighting wasn’t that great, I felt lazy to set up the tripod, or I just didn’t want to think about photography for a moment…I decided to just put my camera away in my backpack.

Slowly, but surely, I made it to the campsite, just in time to join the group for a belated lunch. The only thing I was worried about after Dead Woman’s Pass was not having any water left as I managed to drink all of it on the way up to the pass. I had assumed I would be able to fill my water tank somewhere along the way, but there were no streams/rivers/water sources on the way down at all. Thankfully, it was all downhill so I wasn’t sweating as much and didn’t get too dehydrated.

The steps coming down from Dead Woman’s Pass along our Inca Trail trek with G Adventures.

As we concluded the second day of the Inca Trail trek we were already at the halfway point of this adventure to Machu Picchu. Now it was time to freshen up, relax, and enjoy some more delicious food at our campsite. What lay ahead on day 3 was the longest, but in many ways the most rewarding, day of the whole journey, which included trekking through cloud forests, side visits to ancient Inca ruins, and getting to the doorstep of Machu Picchu. Stay tuned!

Day: 2 of 4
Start: Wayllabamba (3,000 meters)
End: Pacaymayo (3,627 meters)
Elevation change: +627 meters
Distance: 12 kilometers
Time: 8 hours


  • 1: This will be the longest and most difficult part of the trek, so make sure you get a good night’s rest.
  • 2: Pace yourself, stay hydrated and take frequent breaks since you’ll most likely feel the high altitude.
  • 3: If you want some treats or snacks, you can purchase them at the top of Dead Woman’s Pass.
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