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Peru’s Rainbow Mountain High Altitude Trek – Our Guide

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Rainbow Mountain, Peru

 

The fabulously coloured Rainbow Mountain, also known as Vinicunca, Montaña de Siete Colores, or Montaña de Colores is a mountain ridge in southern Peru, at an altitude of 5,200 meters above sea level. In recent years it has become one of the top attractions for visitors to the nearby city of Cusco.

Rainbow Mountain on the Ausangate Trek, Peru

Rainbow Mountain

 

What is the Rainbow Mountain

The stunning striped mountain is familiar to many from photos on social media and the internet. The fabulous colours range from reds, oranges, browns and even green, purple and gold.

 

This classic much photographed stripey mountain is just a very small part of the Ausangate massif, which is part of the Vilcanota range of mountains.  This is just one, small 80 km long, mountain range in the immense mountain chain of the Andes that runs the full western edge of the South American continent.

Views on the Ausangate Trek, Peru

Views whilst trekking the Ausangate

The Andes have been formed over millennia as the Nazca plate and South American plate have slid and grated together, causing an uplifting of the earth, volcanic action and the introduction of a variety of multi-coloured minerals. The uplifting and weathering over the centuries has exposed the magnificent layering of those minerals that we see today.

On the Ausangate trek

The Vilcanota range of mountains has 6 peaks over 6,000 metres, and over 150 peaks above 5,000 metres. The highest peak, Ausangate 6,380 metres, is the highest of all the mountains in the Cusco area. It is a venerated peak, traditionally thought to influence the weather of the Cusco area and to be an ambivalent god (locally known as an apu) with the power to blight crops or bestow health and fertility.  The Incas made offerings of gold to the mountain and local devotees continue to leave offerings. The massif is home to one of the most traditional and fascinating Andean indian festivals of all, Qoyllor R’iti. This is held around Trinity Sunday each year and involves a pilgrimage of tens of thousands of pilgrims, an explosion of colour noise and ritual at which veneration of Christ and the sacred peak have become mythically intertwined.

Arriero Ausangate Trek Peru

A view to be enjoyed, Ausangate

 

 

 Lodge Based Ausangate Trek

The best way to savour this remote fabulous mountain area is to join a 5 day rather luxurious lodge based trek. This allows you to spend 5 days taking in the fresh air, stunning colours, towering peaks, wildlife and local culture of a unique special mountain area.

Ausangate lodges trek

Lodge on Ausangate Trek

This trek is well away from the crowds. You’ll see very few trekkers up here in the high mountains and may not see anyone other than your group for most days. The highest point on the Inca Trail is 4,212m, whilst on the Ausangate trek you rub shoulders with the glaciers on passes of 5,000m.

Dining room of Lodge on Ausangate trek

Dining area lodge based Ausangate

The glaciated massive of Ausangate, a sacred mountain, provides a stunning backdrop throughout the trek, with a new view of it each day. This really is a tough high mountain trek, for which you should be well acclimatised before heading off. It is unsurpassable.

Panoramic views for trekkers on Ausangate Lodges Trek

Panoramic views on Ausangate trek

 

 

Short treks

 If you don’t have time to take 5 days for this trekking experience then we recommend a two day or even a one day visit.

 

1 DAY OPTION

Rainbow Mountain

The tour has to start very early (0200) as it involves a 3 hour / 100km drive to the start of the one day walk. It is essential you are well acclimatised before doing this walk. It is a really tough day as you climb from 4,300 meters (14.200 feet) to 5,200 meters (16,200 feet), taking 4 hours or so. You have the option to hire a horse. The path is steep and can get very muddy and slippery. The views are beautiful and you hike through fields where alpacas, llamas and vicuñas graze. The views at the top are the classic ones of the rainbow mountain. You will be given a packed lunch, your guide will explain the geology and geography of the region, you take photos and head back the same way.  It takes 2 to 3 hours or so to get back down. Then we return to Cusco and your hotel at around 7 pm.

ausangate-rainbow mountain-peru

Trekkers on the Rainbow Mountain

 

2 DAY OPTION

Rainbow Mountain

The two day trek option is a good compromise if you can’t make the 5 days. A word of warning however, you sleep very high on this trek so it is dangerous to do this unless you are extremely well acclimatised. We pick you up from your hotel on the first day at 0500, so not quite so early, to get to the trailhead. We stop on the way to visit a local market where we can see local fruit, vegetables and massive loaves of bread. Main bags go on horse back and you set off through a beautiful valley where we will see local families farming and herding llamas and alpaca. We trek up hill for 3 to 4 hours to the Condor pass, 5,100m, 16,000 feet. The views are stunning, Ausangate peak towering above and lakes spread out below. We descend a little and hike to Ananta, our camping spot for the night.

 

Distance: 14km/ 8.7 miles

Height gain: 4200m-5000m

Hiking time: 5-6 hours

 

On the second day a warming cup of tea, a good breakfast then a walk of 90 minutes or so will bring us to the Rainbow Mountain. We should be there well before other trekkers arrive. The hike back to the trailhead takes 2 to 3 hours. We then drive back to Cusco (3 hours). We expect to get back to Cusco at 5pm, where we drop you at your hotel.

 

Distance: 18km/ 11 miles

Height change: 5000m-5200m-4200

Hiking time: 6-7 hours

Trekkers at Rainbow mountain Ausangate trek

All ages on Rainbow Mountain

 

 

Trekking at high altitudes

Whichever trek you choose don’t underestimate the high altitude of your destination. Rainbow Mountain is at an altitude of 5,200 meters above sea level.

Views on the Ausangate Trek, Peru

Views on Ausangate Trek

When gaining altitude, air pressure drops and the amount of oxygen reaching the lungs is reduced.  It’s a good idea to read as much as you can about how your body may react to being at high altitudes so you know what to expect and what is normal. Get a good book on the subject or read about it online. The main risks from heading to high altitudes are from hypothermia, pulmonary oedema and cerebral oedema, so the more you can read about those the better. Educate yourself about how to spot the symptoms and know how to deal with any situations that might arise.

 

We recommend several days at altitude before the day walk, a week or so in Cusco or above before doing the 5 day trek, and several nights at higher altitudes (Over 4,200m)  before doing the two day trek.

Weavers Ausangate Peru

Weavers on Ausangate Trek

 

 

 Useful Blogs on high Altitude trekking

Preparing for high altitude trekking in Bolivia and Peru – part 1

Preparing for altitude trekking in Bolivia and Peru – part 2

 

Planning to visit

If you are would like to trek to the Rainbow Mountain on our lodge to lodge trek check out our

5 day tour.

Typically dressed local, Ausangate , Peru

Typical dress, Ausangate

Read our blog about other Peru lodge based trekking.

 

If you would like to chat about any of the other fabulous trekking routes in the Andes of South America, do get in touch with us at Andean Trails.

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