Snow to sweating (Bikepacking the Salkantay Pass)

The Salkantay trail is offered to trekkers as a more challenging alternative to the classic Inca trail. It was a year before our trip began that I first saw Joe Cruz’s blog about bikepacking the Salkantay route. It obviously stuck in my mind. Feeling a bit lazy, Gina and I were torn as to whether or not to burn straight through to Cusco or give it a go. The nice thing about riding a fatty is that it guilt trips you whenever you try and cop out of a challenge. Boring asphalt is wasted rubber.

We turn off towards Mollepata. It being the starting point of the Salkantay trail, I thought it’d be busy and touristy. It was dead, although the prices were happily touristy. We later found out that most hikers forgo the leisurely (boring?) stay in Mollepata and take up the trailhead in the small community of Soraypampa. As we climbed towards the pass, the clouds began to transform into angry dark swirls. A light rain started followed by… (wait for it), heavier rain and then hail. The decision to pitch up early turned out to be a good one as the weather persisted and worsened. Two other hiking groups had made the same decision. Drifting off to the sound of tent fabric thrashing in the wind, we gratefully awoke to a more peaceful morning.

The following day as we carried our bikes up the 4600m pass, we were shocked about the almost endless barrage of guided hikers joining us on the trail. In fact, the trail popularity has increased so much that there is talk of bringing in a booking system next year, not unlike the classic Inca trail. This is probably bad news for anyone looking to bikepack it in the future as I suspect security will be ramped up. Moral is, bike-hike it while you still can. It’s a stunning route.

The gpx file for Salkantay can be obtained here.

Our accommodation in Mollepata was a dingy affair. Complete with absolutely pointless chair.

 The ride up to Soraypampa was a straightforward afair, there is also a trail which we could’ve ridden. Still at least I had a good excuse to take get a topless photo of me taken when the mountain came into view. (I swear I was riding without a shirt anyway)

The views amaze as we get closer. Excitement grows as we think about getting up close and personal with this bad boy.

  Dozens of horses and mules passed us in the reverse direction. All returning from previous tour groups who’d presumably made it to Machu Picchu.

 Good things to come

  Gina doing her first carry. Me feeling so proud. Have I convinced her that carrying is easier than pushing? Only time will tell.

 You can see how popular the trail is. A constant ebb and flow of people passing and pausing for breath.

  Summit, 4600m. The carry up was steep but far from the worst out there. And the view at the top makes you forget all your back pain. A real bonus.

  Initially the ride down was rough. The first 400m down were the worst. After that it was all smiles. Or mostly, except for that one time I was really angry.

  We appreciated the fat tires on this one. Props to Lukas for doing this on his skinnier rubber a few weeks ago.

Side note….
If you’re joining The Divide and Cusco/Salkantay, you will probably have to ride on the highway for a bit like we had to. In Curahuasi, a lovely hotel to stay in is Q’orihuayrachina. Probably more easily identified as the big pink hotel right on the highway. The owners are incredibly friendly and we paid 15 soles for our humongous room.

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5 thoughts on “Snow to sweating (Bikepacking the Salkantay Pass)

    • Thanks Joe, beautiful route! We considered the hydro option just for adventures sake but had some gear breakdown and weren’t interested in Machu Picchu. Thanks again for your blog, wouldn’t have happened without it!

    • We just took a collectivo to cusco from Santa Ana I believe it was called. We were going to ride but had some stuff that needed to be sorted in cusco. People have had various luck riding the train tracks through Aguas calientes, but the current recommendation is to pass through super early in the morning before there are guards so there is less risk of being turned away.

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