Rock Climbing – Hatun Machay

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We were like kids in a candy shop. A stone candy shop. The rock forest – which is by far the best way to describe this place – was literally pillar after perfect pillar of volcanic rock shooting skyward, beckoning weathered crag junkies and soft-fingered newbies alike to tackle as many bolted vias as they dare. And the forest just… didn’t… end. Neither did the fun.

The 4 Huayhuash-hardened musketeers (Dan, Belinda, Ally and I) ponied up after two necessary down days post Vallunaraju and combi-hopped and hiked our way up to climbers’ paradise. Which, I should probably add, was at a ripe elevation of 4,300 meters (14,100 ft), making even walking gradually uphill a battle. Hatun boasted over 280 bolted sport-climbing routes and according to the Austrian refugio keep Stephan, more than 5 lifetimes of bouldering. As Dan so rightly commented, ‘If anyone was to design an outdoor rock climbing gym, it would be impossible to make it any more perfect than Hatun Machay.’

Over the course of 3 days we tackled 10 different routes, ranging from 5.8 to 5.11a, and everything and everyone went up without a (double-half) hitch. Dan and Ally did their first leads, we all climbed a few 30-meter routes and we each had a clean, successful send on our favorite route, which we so affectionately named ‘The Poop Shoot.’ After sundown we feasted on tasty veggie, egg, tuna, pasta and rice combos, drank some whiskey, and were the last people awake in the refugio at the late hour of 9pm. Well, us and Jerry, the 2 month old refugio puppy, who did nothing but beg for human food, look ridiculously cute, and puke in Stephan’s sleeping bag.

In general, travelers often talk about the ‘feelings’ and ‘energy’ you get from this place or that place, and what that means or doesn’t mean, depending on their own interpretation of life and spirituality and emotional rambling. Suffice it to say that I have come to listen to such statements with a grain of salt. But in all seriousness, there is something about Hatun Machay that is magical, mystical, and most definitely magnificent. It was (and is), both concretely and abstractly, a truly special place.

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