From the Bottom to the Top: Colca Canyon and Misti

Colca Canyon and Misti Volcano, Peru

**BecauseItzThere is currently in “Patagonian Summer” re-runs as we are off fixing up new adventures. Be sure to check back soon! In the meantime, here’s a repost of our trip to Colca Canyon and Misti Volcano which appeared on this blog over a year and a half ago.

*Colca Canyon/Misti Volcano, Peru, Completed in 2017, is one of BecauseItzThere’s Bucket List Hikes. This was the third of our trips together to Sylvia’s homeland of Peru. Be sure to check out our series on the Inca Trail Salkantay Trek and Machu Picchu as well.

Finally, after weeks of preparation, it was time to go.

I touched down in Peru on May 15…Sylvia had gone before me and was waiting with her family to pick me up. This is the first time that “Gringo Grande” had flown into Peru alone; during that time I had worked to improve my range of conversational Spanish from nil to the approximate level of a Latino Tarzan. I made it through the airport with no issues, though, and after a day spent in Lima we boarded plane for the hour-long flight to Arequipa, Peru’s second largest, and by most accounts most charming, city.

Main Cathedral of Arequipa, Peru


The flight was not without some moments of excitement, the most serious being that the airline had overbooked and we were left without a seat. Eventually a seat was found…but only one. Sylvia wisely seated me, the Gringo, in the open seat and then, when the next seat opened, sat herself immediately down in it before the flight crew could react…and then refused to yield. This was just days after a well-publicized video of a man being hauled off a United Flight had gone viral. The airline was in no mood to argue; after a somewhat testy altercation with a trio of irritated women who apparently thought this seat belonged to them, the plane took off and all was well. The flight itself was uneventful, and I amused myself looking out the window watching the shockingly barren landscape of the Atcama desert pass by, punctuated by snow capped mountains and volcanos in some cases over 20,000 feet high. At one point my lofty view afforded me an early glimpse of Colca Canyon, distant but impossibly deep and menacing. As we neared the city, there on the horizon loomed the unmistakable cone of the famed El Misti…the active volcano that we planned to climb.

Colca Canyon

But it was only after landing that I fully understood the scale of this monstrosity. As we exited the jet bridge, I saw (across a runway disturbingly strewn with pieces of airplane fuselage, some with the seats still in them) Misti itself TOWERING over the city. It reminded me that the volcano is just six kilometers from the center of the city and an eruption at this point would be…less than good.

Misti Volcano

But it was not erupting today. The summit was wreathed in a small circle of snow, what looked to be only a dusting…which was to my relief, since one of my concerns had been the very real possibility of having to summit in icy conditions neither of us were prepared for. I could rest easy at least as far as that was concerned. (As it turns out, the ascent was by the opposite – eastern – face, which we could not yet see. There was no snow at all on that side.)

A driver was waiting for us and this man at least had my name right (in 2012 when I first toured Peru, the name that proceeded me at every stop was was some combination of “Ryan” and “Francis.”) We proceeded through the streets to our Hotel just a few blocks from the center of Arequipa, the Plaza Del Armas. Compared to Lima, the traffic seemed light, though we were warned it could get ugly. It was twilight when we arrived…we had another day in Arequipa in which to acclimate, though the cities elevation is a modest (by Andean standards) 7,700 feet.

We did the usual tourist destinations the next day, including the magnificent main cathedral, the interesting and sprawling Monastery of Santa Catalina, and several prominent viewpoints.

Some videos of our ramblings through Arequipa, the “White City.”

We returned to our hotel to discover the next of the many awkward surprises of the trip: our ride would be there to pick us up the next morning at 2 am…NOT the 6 am start time we had been told previously. This meant less time to sleep, and more importantly, less time to prepare. Having five days hiking ahead of us and only sketchy details about logistics, we had to make the best of it, taking as much gear as we possibly could…we figured on having to carry all the gear we needed for Misti into the canyon too.

It turns out there would be more surprises and many things that it would have been good to know about beforehand…but that’s the reality of travelling in Peru, you must adapt to any number of shifting circumstances. We packed our bags, set our alarm, and got as much sleep as we could –  which, thanks to the noisy street outside and a room with no air conditioning, was very little.


Next up: The Cross of the Condors

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