Hiking El Misti a volcano in Arequipa Peru

Hiking Misti Arequipa

Last month (December 2016) while I was in Arequipa I decided that I needed a second attempt to reach the summit of El Misti.

I first tried 4 years ago when I spent 2 months in Arequipa at Spanish school.  At the time I felt I was physically fit but I was not used to carrying a heavy backpack or the altitude and when I booked the trip I only found out the night before that I was expected to carry everything up to basecamp!! This included my clothes, tent, sleeping bag, crampons, ice pick and 5 litres of water.

Unfortunately I had never walked more than 100 metres with this kind of weight and was unprepared for hiking from 3,500 metres to 4,500 metres for 5 hours!!  Despite frequently giving the content of my backpack to the rest of the group, my legs could not cope with the amount of weight hiking uphill for so long.  By the time I reached basecamp my legs had had it but I was still determined I would make it to the top.

Our group was made up of 2 girls and 2 boys.  We had to leave 1 boy at basecamp as once we got to 4,000 metres, altitude sickness kicked in for him and he was unable to see properly or walk in a straight line.  He got in the tent and did not appear again until we were ready to hike back down.  At 1am we got up and started our attempt to summit. At the time I thought I had achieved about 5,300 metres but I now realise it was probably only about 4,800 metres.

4 years later, I knew that it would be more of a mental than physical challenge for me.  I didn’t feel as physically fit as I was 4 years previously but I knew what to expect and I was used to carrying my heavy backpack for at least an hour and I had spent a lot of time in the previous years at altitude.  I got picked up at 8am and taken to the agency to meet everyone else and get any supplies we needed.

As I had already hiked this volcano I had come prepared with my 4 season sleeping bag and no change of clothes or toothbrush/paste (as these add to the weight), I only had 3.7 litres of water and this time I was put in a tent with a boy who I decided looked fit enough to carry the tent!!  Once we were all ready and had our gear packed, we headed out to the jeep and drove to the start of our hike, stopping on the way to buy coca leaves, for us to chew and help us with the altitude.  They taste disgusting and you have to keep them in the side of your mouth, but surprisingly they help with the altitude and give you energy!!

Hiking Misti Arequipa

After a few hours and driving up a dirt road forever, we finally reached the starting point. We unloaded, found a bush to use as a toilet and put our backpacks on.  The guides told us it would be a 3 hour hike but I knew last time it took me 5 hours, so I was prepared for a 5 hour hike!!!

It was a hot day and the sun was out.  The last few days, Misti had been covered in clouds and there had even been a little sprinkling of snow on the summit!!  I started off strong with 2 of the guys in my group but quickly the guy with my tent went hiking off in the distance and the other guy started having issues with the altitude.

Hiking Misti Arequipa

I carried on walking a bit ahead of the guides but the path was easy to see and eventually got to basecamp after 5 hours!! My tent buddy made it in 3 hours, but on this trip I came in 2nd out of our group of 7!! This is unheard of for me, I am normally at the back!!

Hiking Misti Arequipa

Hiking Misti Arequipa

The last guys made it in 7 hours, just as the sun was setting!!

Hiking Misti Arequipa

The sunset was amazing to see, and I just stood there taking lots of pics and watching the lights come on in Arequipa.

Hiking Misti Arequipa Hiking Misti Arequipa Hiking Misti Arequipa Hiking Misti Arequipa

We then had dinner which was soup!! We were all just looking at the guides thinking is this it after a 5 hour hike and when we were told we would only get coca tea and a piece of bread when we got up to make the summit we were like surely we need more food, so they made us some pasta!! Just pasta with nothing on!!

We were then told to go to sleep as we would be getting up at 1, the guide made the mistake of telling us we might have a problem sleeping because of the altitude and of course I couldn’t get to sleep!! Was even worse hearing the guy heavy breathing next to me knowing he had fallen asleep straight away.

I heard the guides get up about 1 but when it all when silent quite quickly I wondered what was happening.  At 1.45am I looked out of tent and woke the guides up and asked them if we were still going to the summit, they said yeah we were just waiting for the water to boil!!!

We eventually set off as a group of 6 at 2.30am.  One guy was exhausted from the hike earlier and decided not to try the summit.  Another of the guys headed back down after about 15 minutes as he could not cope with the altitude (he had got really sick the previous day hiking up to basecamp).

Hiking Misti Arequipa

I was doing well, 2nd in the group, again something very unusual for me, but I was mentally getting to the top!! I kept asking the guides how high we were and did we have enough time as I had heard the guide say we needed to set off back from basecamp at 10am!!! They kept assuring me that I would get to the summit, that was my only goal, all I could think was that I never wanted to do this hike again!!

Hiking Misti Arequipa

It was freezing cold and my 2 pairs of woollen gloves were no match, luckily someone had a spare pair of gloves and with 3 pairs I was feeling warm again!!

Hiking Misti Arequipa

Eventually after about 6 hours I could see the top of the old crater.  Though it still seemed to take forever to hike that short distance!!

Hiking Misti Arequipa

It does not really look like a crater as its not deep, but from here we would see the flag in the distance showing where the summit is.  The summit is about a 45 minute hike from the crater.  5 of us made it to this point, 2 decided not to summit but to go see the new crater that was steaming!!  My tent buddy had already done both by the time we made it to the crater, so he headed back down while 2 of us decided to get to the summit.

Hiking Misti Arequipa

It was a hard uphill hike  to get to the summit at 5,822 metres and even a few steps away I had to stop for a break, but eventually I got to the top where I just sat down and cried!!

Hiking Misti Arequipa

I couldn’t believe I had made it to the top, I was so proud of myself for having the willpower to get there, it had taken me 7 hours but I did it, and I got to see the amazing views!! Thankfully it was a clear day and we got to see the other volcanoes and Arequipa in the distance.

Hiking Misti Arequipa

Hiking Misti Arequipa

We had about 20 minutes at the summit, taking lots of pictures and selfies to prove we made it before we had to start out descent!! The guides thought we would be quick getting down as you go down the volcanic sand!!

Hiking Misti Arequipa

It was funny to watch the guides just run down while I went quite slow, aware that if I fell and broke my wrist again I was only insured up to 4,000 metres and not 5,822 metres!!!

I eventually got back to basecamp to find my tent buddy had packed away the tent and my sleeping bag and eventually we started the descent back to the jeeps.  Again we went down the volcanic sand, which by this time had heated up enough to melt the soles off my hiking boots!! It was great to hike the last hour over rocky ground with no proper soles on my shoes!!! I was so scared of slipping as I had no grips!! Eventually though I made it back to the jeep and looked back at Misti, unable to believe that just a few hours earlier I had been stood on the top of it!!

What an achievement, I am so pleased I made it to the top, and I never need to do it again!!  At times I did think I wasn’t going to make it and that I would be trying again in a few years but NO I made it, I got to see the amazing views and I know that I can cope with the altitude that high.  I know that mentally I am strong and if I am determined I can do anything I challenge myself to.

It’s not an easy hike, one of the hardest I have done because of the altitude, but if you are in Arequipa then it’s a great one to try.  The agencies will tell you its an easy hike but it is far from it and not everyone will make it to the summit!!

Yes you need to be fit, and capable of carrying your backpack for 5 hours, but make sure you take as little as possible in your bag though you do need to take a certain amount of water, tent and sleeping bag.  Clean clothes, deodrant, toothbrushes and toothpaste are not essentials and you can do without for 36 hours!!

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Hiking El Misti in Arequipa Peru

Find out about Why I started travelling here, Miami Beach here, Key West here, Everglades here, Bolton Abbey here, Naples here, Koh Tao here, Yangon – Myanmar here, Ischica – Italy here, Koyasan – Japan here, Machu Picchu – Peru here, Memphis here, Faro – The Algarve here, Fiji – South Sea Island here, Egypt – My trip in a hot air balloon here, Doutbful Sound – NZ here,  Death Road – Bolivia here, Iguazu Falls – Argentina here, Northern Lights – here, Hobbiton NZ – here, The Lost City Hike Colombia – here, Choquequirao Trek here,San Blas Islands, Panama here, Vilnius Lithuania – here, Trakai – Lithuania here, Riga – Latvia here, Sigulda – Latvia here & Kemeri – Latvia here, My 2017 Travel Plan – here

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73 thoughts on “Hiking El Misti a volcano in Arequipa Peru

  1. wow big respect to you that you made it to the summit! The way you describe it, it sounds really extreme, like REALLY and I find it amazing that you could overome all odds and difficulties and made it to the summit! It’s an experience for life and you are right to be very proud of yourself! Well done!

  2. So so proud of you big sis, what a fantastic achievement and a really great read, which I’m sure will inspire lots of people out there!! We are all missing you lots but enjoying hearing about all your travel adventures, love u lots x x

    • Thanks little sis, glad you are enjoying reading about my travels, even though you wouldn’t like to do most of it!!! Miss you lots too, less than 2 months now!!

    • Arequipa is one of my favourite places in the world, I have been 3 times now, it’s such a great place. Hope you get there one day 🙂

  3. I’ve done two volcanoes but they were in the range of 2000-2800 m. Impressive enough views from the top. I’m scared of heights so I don’t think I could do what you do.

    • It was quite scary looking down at the scree field and wonderig how I would get to the bottom, but actually when you are walking down it does not seem quite as steep!! I hate heights but I like to force myself out of my comfort zone!! Still not sure I would do a sky dive though!!

  4. Well done! We had helpers to carry our bags when climbed the Kota Kinabalu Mt. But we didn’t have any help with the high altitude! Lots of people gave up and I was the last one in the group to make it to the summit! Its a challenge when climbing high mountains not physical but mental too!

    • My dad hiked that mountain and I know he found it really tough. If you don’t get altitude sickness then its more a mental game than a physical game. Well done on making it to the top 🙂

  5. Gorgeous photos; I especially love the sunset ones! What an amazing accomplishment, congrats! There’s nothing like the feeling of setting out to hike your way to the top of a summit and making it and being able to enjoy the beautiful views from the top!

  6. Wow, congrats on making it to the top! Looked like an epic journey. This made me miss overnight hikes and camping, it’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed the outdoors (hunkered down for the winter where I am).

  7. You had me glued to my seat waiting to see if you made it up to the top of El Misti. That was quite an adventure and that you came in second both at base camp and the top is impressive. You did something most people only dream of doing in their lifetime. Well done!

    • Thanks, I was mentally ready this time for it, and just powered up there!! Am looking for something higher to climb now 🙂

  8. Well done. It goes to show the value of experience. I am sure everyone who climbs Misti volcano could do with a tent buddy! The pictures at the top were sure worth the climb!

  9. Wow! This was an amazing post, thanks for really allowing your readers to come along for this experience with you. The scenery in Peru is really beautiful! Thank you for sharing, I cant wait to read more of your post.

  10. What AMAZING photos of the sun and the mountains backdrops! So many strong and vibrant colour in a single shot. I am a huge mountaineering fan and I love wildlife and hiking (and climbing mountains). Peru is a lovely destination for that. One thing I always struggle with whenever I hike is all the packing I need to bring with me. I hope technology (maybe more lightweight items) will help us with this, because I’ve always felt that because of my packing I can’t truly feel “free”.

    • I always pack too much stuff, but surprisingly on this hike when I had to carry all my own things, I managed to pack barely anything!! Maybe one day I will learn to pack light or I will just buy a smaller bag!!

  11. Wowza, this looks like a phenomenal experience! I don’t think I have it in me to accomplish this feat but I enjoyed reading about your journey! I particularly LOVE your sunset photos…thanks for sharing!

  12. Wow, I felt like I was on the journey along with you! I was definitely cheering for you to make it to the top the entire time as well and I’m glad you did. 5,822 meters is no small feat at all so kudos for the effort, especially after not summiting the first try! Will you do it for a third time? 🙂

    • Twice is enough for me!! I was walking up thinking I really don’t want to have to give this another go!! There are other volcanoes in arequipa, so next time I will try one of the others 🙂

  13. I would’ve loved to experience this side of Peru! I did a pretty touristy trip to Cusco and Machu Picchu back in May. I’d love to go back one day and do a trip like this!

    • Peru is so easy to get around on your own and there is so much to see. This is my 4th trip here and I still feel there is loads more to see!!

  14. What an amazing accomplishment — no wonder you cried at the top! It was probably all the sweeter, this being a second attempt. When I was trekking in Peru, I chewed a lot of cocoa leaves and I think it helped. Now I want to do this hike!

    • There is so much hiking to do in Peru, it’s probably why I am back for a 4th visit!! The coca leaves certainly help and give you a boost to get up a difficult mountain!!

  15. Wow! That seems like an incredible hike! I’ve been wanting to more hiking this year, but am a bit worried that I won’t be able to carry a heavy backpack for that long. I’d really like to do the West Coast Trail in Canada (75km long- about 5-7 days of hiking), but I may need to practice walking around with my backpack for a few days first! How long were you exposed to high altitudes before it felt like you were comfortable? I’ve mostly lived in lower altitudes my entire life and I’m very familiar with the “winded” feeling whenever I go for runs in the hills. And are the coca leaves unique to Arequipa?

    • You need to learn how to pack as light as possible and then train at this weight!! A few hours hiking with a bit of weight you will soon learn what is essential and what isn’t!! I would start with a few hours hike and then build up and also get used to different terrain. I have spent a lot of time in high altitudes so I get used to it fairly quickly now, the only symptom I have is lack of appetite, which is great for the wasteline!! Coca leaves are what is used to produce cocaine, very easy to find the leaves in Peru in the highlands as all the locals use them to combat altitude sickness!!

    • The locals use the coca leaves to help with all sorts of things. It used to be used as an anaesthetic and so numbs the pain but also gives you energy to get up to the top. No one knows how they will deal with altitude until they experience it, it has nothing to do with how fit you are, it’s all genetics!!

  16. Wow, you can really be proud of yourself! Are you gonna continue hiking? I mean, now that you know that you are capable of reaching summits, are you going to try out other amazing hikes? If so, what would be your next goal? Amazing pics, by the way 😉

    • Last week I did the 5 day Salkantay trek in Cusco. I love hiking so I will be continuing to do lots. I am going to make my way up to Ecuador and do some hiking there 🙂

  17. Amazing, so happy that you made it the second time around. I can’t imagine how spiritual the hike must have been and the mental strength it must have took to get to the top of El Misti! Congratulations on your incredible accomplishment!

  18. Gorgeous photos and helpful written content; I especially love the sunset picture! What an incredible accomplishment, congrats!

  19. Wow! I really enjoyed reading this. Props to you for making it all of the way to the top and back again. You must feel amazing knowing that you have done it!

  20. Well … Peru looks fab! I really loved the pictures of the sunsets. The colours are incredible. I think the trek would be a lot of hard work but really worth it! A really good peace – thanks!

  21. Wow this is so inspiring! Finally, you made up your mind to the summit. carrying the backpack for 5 hours of the hike up is definitely not easier as can be seen. The sunset vistas and the summit are incredibly beautiful and worth all the efforts to hiking.

  22. Congrats on your second climb to Misti volcano! You must’ve felt such a rush and such exhilaration when you finally reached the top after all the effort you put into it. Carrying a backpack uphill for hours on end is a challenge in itself!

  23. I’m the boy you left at base camp! Not actually, but when I attempted Misti in 2013 it was with my then-boyfriend and a random French couple. Massively overestimated my level of fitness and it was SUCH a struggle! My boyfriend contracted what we soon found out was a chest infection, and as soon as we got to base camp he realised it’d be absolutely ridiculous to carry on in his state so decided to stay. Obviously being the dutiful girlfriend I offered to stay and care for him… nothing to do with the fact I couldn’t feel my legs haha. Would love to go back and reattempt it some day! I can’t begin to imagine the feeling at the top. Good on you girl!

    • It is so hard and I don’t blame you for staying at basecamp, it goes 10 times worse from there!! I can’t believe they actually rate it as easy when so many people do not make the summit!! I guess though if its rated as easy they will get more people to do it and get more money. I am glad I got there and did it, but I certainly won’t be doing it again!!

  24. I’m glad you made it to the summit because it means I get to see those awesome photos! I had no idea its harder to sleep at that altitude and I’d be the same way after the guides mention you have a harder time falling asleep. P.S. absolutely LOVE that sunset!

  25. Love the shot of you with your hands in the air with the setting sun in the background. Never heard of Arequipa in Peru, but their food is my favorite in the Americas!

    • Thanks. Have you been to Peru? I love Arequipa it’s one of my favourite places in Peru. It’s the 2nd largest city in Peru!! I too love the food here 🙂

  26. Most of all, congratulations for your experience. Looking at your pictures, all the environment seem so arid and lifeless which makes me think that in a way it may help in keeping people more focused in the hiking, did you thought about that or am I just being silly?

    • Yes it is very arid here in Arequipa, I have never been to a place like it before!! For the first 3 hours of the hike to the summit it was dark and after that I was just concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other!!! I was too exhausted to even take pics at sunrise!! The views though do distract you when you are having a rest, it’s a beautiful landscape, not sure though that the aridness kept me more focused though!!

  27. I can’t believe that the information about the difficulty and duration for the hike are so misconstrued! But, good for you to go back and conquer this obstacle that eluded you so long ago. I have used the Coca medicine before as well to combat altitude sickness, if you find the candies rather than the leaves, they are much easier to handle!

  28. Well done! You should be very proud of yourself. Hiking can be very challenging for people (like myself) not used to it but it gives you a satisfaction when you reach the destination that you’ll always remember.

  29. Hiking with that kind of weight is a very demanding type of travel. You need to be able to rough it out and be persevering to see it through. But I’m sure it was tremendously rewarding. Kudos to you!

  30. Wow, this was really an amazing hike and it’s something that I would try in the future. Although you repeated several times that you don’t want to do this hike again, it only made me want to do it even more! I guess my brain works in mysterious ways 🙂

  31. Congratulations!! You made it to the top. It’s a thrilling story. You even started trek at 2.30am in the morning!! And you witnessed such a beautiful sunset the day before. Totally worth the trek

  32. I appreciate you for your perseverance. It’ i not easy to trek to such altitudes with such heavy luggage. I ‘m very glad you could do it. The sunset looks spectacular from the top and I really love the different colors of the soil on the mountains. Looks like the place is worth every effort you took to reach the summit.

  33. Well done for achieving your goal. Having hiked at altitude I completely understand how much it takes out of your body and for them just to feed you soup is absolutely amazing. How did they expect you to continue the next day/early morning. It makes me very suspicious that they had the pasta with them yet it wasn’t offered at first. Whenever I have hiked something like this we have always had soup to start with to hydrate us, a lovely main course and something simple for pudding.
    You have done really well. Thanks for sharing your incredible journey.

  34. Wow!! What determination to reach the summit. How could you manage with so much hiking and just pasta? I know it would have been tough. The pictures of the sunset are simply stunning. Didn’t know that Peru is so beautiful.

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