How tough is the 4-Day Inca Trail?

Old Sep 19th, 2009, 10:41 AM
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How tough is the 4-Day Inca Trail?

I would really like to hike the Inca Trail.
I have read all the old posts...but what I am looking for is an honest assesment of how difficult the trail is.
I'm reasonably fit. I'm not a mountain climber or a couch potato. Somewhere in between. Just a normal average joe....I love to camp. Not afraid of the walking or the work.
I fast walk for an hour to 90 min every night. But I love to take the elevator if I have the choice!

Can normal folks do this? Or are we talking fitness nuts and serious climbers only?

Thanks in advance for any advice
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Old Sep 19th, 2009, 01:59 PM
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I've done it and I consider myself to be at a "normal" fitness level. It's rough though. There's no way around that fact. Remember: it's not just four days of walking, but four days of walking at high altitudes. Day 2 is especially tough, but after getting through that hurdle, it seemed all downhill from there.
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Old Sep 19th, 2009, 11:34 PM
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I haven't done the Inca Trail but have done simailar treks at altitude including the nearby Lares trek and Mount Kinabalu in Borneo. You do not need to be a climber but you do need to be reasonably fit and the more preparation you do, the more you will enjoy it. Forget those elevators for a couple of months and get to love those stairs !(both up and down) Aerobic fitness is important but so is muscle fitness. I find walking downhill is harder on the knees than walking up hill (but maybe that is just me!)

As jeff CR has point out it is at altitude so try and get at least a couple of days at altitude prior to the trek to get acclimatised.
Go for it! Just think of the sense of of achievement when you get there!!
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Old Sep 19th, 2009, 11:51 PM
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It is all in the knees! As said above, up and down those stairs to prepare. When you stop creaking, you are ready! I found a hiking pole good to steady myself.
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Old Sep 20th, 2009, 06:42 AM
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Huenteu - good point re hiking poles. I used to be sceptical, but used them for the first time on our Lares trek. They really did make a huge difference
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Old Sep 20th, 2009, 09:41 PM
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I did the Inca Trail in April 2008. I am not the fittest person by any means and I made it through the entire four days. I'm not going to kid you though, it was VERY tough. Every person in our group struggled at some point (and we had some fit New Zealanders). I found that if you go at your own pace you can make it. The porters will help you make it to camp if it gets dark and you are still on the trail. Happened to me twice. They came with their flashlights and walked with me until we reached camp. Climbing Dead Woman's Pass was extremely difficult for me, but again slow and steady wins the race. Make sure you get a hiking pole cause it will help. And take a lot of mini breaks. I did 30 steps, then paused for 10 seconds, took 30 steps then paused for 10 seconds. It totally worked for me. Also make sure you breathe in your nose, out your mouth... it helped me a ton. You will pass people crying on the trail (I passed several) because it is so darn hard, but everyone that started on Day 1 made it to Machu Picchu (except for the poor guy who broke his ankle, but that's another story). It is very rewarding to make it to day four and see MP. It was a goal when I turned 30 and I made it. Go for it, you'll be glad you did. (But I wouldn't do it twice!!) HA!
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Old Sep 21st, 2009, 07:50 AM
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I did the trip in August. I am 65 and in good shape. But the stairs (thousands) are tough since they are high, narrow, an odd shaped. I was successful beacuse I work out at least 1 1/2 hours per day. Take Diamox for the altitude it really helped.

David J
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Old Sep 21st, 2009, 03:13 PM
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Did you Inca Trail-ers go with a group hike or did you have your own guide? What recommendations would you make for group or private guide, including cost considerations, etc.
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Old Sep 21st, 2009, 05:12 PM
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The Inca Trail is doable for most people of average fitness. That's not to say it's easy and Day 2 really clobbered me. But it is the experience of a lifetime and I'm glad I did it. If you click my name you can read about it in my trip report at the bottom of my profile page.

atravelynn, a guide is required for hiking the Inca Trail and it seems like most everyone on the trail was with some type of group. That's because you are not just using a guide, you also have cooks and people to set up your tent and carry gear for you. I used GAP Adventures and the Inca Trail portion of the trip was very well managed.
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Old Sep 21st, 2009, 06:37 PM
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Inka trail is moderate in difficulty

What helps most is taking Diamox(acetazolamide)

to prevent altitude illness #1 cause of trail poop out

some cardiovascualar on a stair climber

for a couple of months before helped me out and

the proper footgear choice light GORETEX hikers

was also most important.

www.andeantravel.com good info and best providers

Good Luck totally fun with proper prep...
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Old Sep 22nd, 2009, 09:14 AM
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Definitely give yourself time to acclimate to the altitude and see how you will respond before you do the hike. We were in Cuzco before we were supposed to do the Inca trail and my 18 yr old very fit athletic and lean son got very sick from the altitude, ended up in the hospital on oxygen and steroids and got pneumonia. Obviously we didn't do the hike (glad we had trip insurance that paid us back for the Llamapath fees, hospitalization, and all other missed and lost amtounts). I was sure glad that he got sick in Cuzco and not on the trail.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2009, 04:35 PM
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Thank you all!! Very helpful!!
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Old Sep 22nd, 2009, 10:22 PM
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I hiked the Inca Trail. I worked out on the Stairmaster for about 3 months for 1 hour a day before I went. I am also a skier so I knew altitude would not be a problem for me. Some of the people on the hike with me did get sick from the altitude. It was very tough but I would encourage you to start working out & go for it!

The first day on the trail was just a half day. The second day we hiked through Dead Woman Pass. Going through Dead Woman Pass we gained 4,000 ft in elevation. That is the equivalent to hiking out of the Grand Canyon.

After Dead Woman Pass we hiked down, down, down then up, up, up through the second pass. Finally down, down, down & then up, up, up through the third pass.

Then the final walk up to Huinay Huanya & then the 72 steps up to the Intipunku & then down into Machu Picchu.

I used Wilderness Travel. Our group stayed in the Scantaury Lodge at Machu Picchu. WT also provided the group with brand new North Face tents.

On my hike there was an elderly (60s or 70s)couple from California. They were Sierra Club members & did a lot of hiking. They did fine on the Trail.
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Old Sep 24th, 2009, 08:04 PM
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Came back from the Inca Trail and it was the hardest thing I've had to do thus far. I'm 28 and not in the best of shape. I had a really hard time with the altitude and would get out of breath quickly. Day 2 is very difficult and we were roughly two hours behind our other group (well, me really. My husband just stayed at my pace). It was 6 hours of climbing up and 2 hours of climbing down. The climbing down is not easy either.

It was very difficult for me, but it was something I'll remember for the rest of my life. Just do it!
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Old Sep 25th, 2009, 12:33 AM
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I planned to do the trail, however I got a bad cold which made it impossible. I consequently had to choose another way to get to Machu Picchu. I went by a minivan, I don't recommend to choose this option, the roads up there are really scary. On the way back you go trough the darkness of night on narrow roads with ravines on one side.
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Old Sep 25th, 2009, 07:39 AM
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savvyTom, why didn't you just take the bus up to MP?
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Old Sep 25th, 2009, 05:46 PM
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Thanks for the info!
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Old Oct 13th, 2009, 05:38 PM
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If you've been thinking and thinking about it then you should just DO IT.

I just completed it last month. The first two days, especially the second day, was rough for me. I was affected by the altitude, had heavy breathing when climbing and had way too much stuff in my backpack. I was often the last person to camp by 1-2 hours. That was the bad part, because I wouldn't get much time to rest and enjoy the scenary before it was time for the group to pick up again. Surprisingly though on the third day I was faster than a couple of people who were passing me on the first two days Despite difficulties I had on the trail, the overall experience was totally amazing for me. I hiked with a great group of people and PeruTrek and their guides did an excellant job. Other posters on this board have emphasized the need to pack as lightly as possible and I can't stress that enough, especially if you're not already an active hiker.


(My only mini-complaint as a camera-clicking-happy-tourist was that I had to sit and listen to the guide give mini lectures when I was really anxious to take pictures since the weather condition was often changing so rapidly. Often by the time the guide finished talking, fog would completely planketed most of the scenary and it was worthless then to snap anything.)
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Old Oct 13th, 2009, 05:41 PM
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I passed a group on women in their 60s, I think, on the way up to Dead Woman's Pass. When I saw them again on third day, one of them said, "What's the point of all this? Next time I'll just take the train." LOL. Somehow I think they're all very pleased right now that they've completed the trek.
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Old Oct 16th, 2009, 01:13 PM
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Axel - Who were your tour guides on PeruTreks? I think you might have gone the week after me.
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