Climbing Misti Volcano, Altitude Sickness, & How Ski Poles Saved My Life



Climbing Misti Volcano, Altitude Sickness, & How Ski Poles Saved My Life


Ok, settle in ’cause this ones a doozy. Daniel and I had NO IDEA what we were getting into when we booked a two day trek to climb Misti Volcano. Climbing Misti Volcano is not for the faint of heart. The volcano sits only an hour outside of the city of Arequipa, Peru, so when I saw a sign for it in the tour agency I was like, “Why not?” Oh man. I can now give you so many reasons why not, but I’ll start from the beginning…



The Stats

Altitude: The peak reaches over 19,000 feet, which means the air had less than half of the oxygen than it does at sea level.

Time: We left Arequipa at 8 am, and returned at 3 pm the next day. Day one had 6 hours of hiking, and on day two we hiked for 13 hours.

Distance: The entire trek covered about 16 miles, most of them straight up or down. We also climbed 8,000 feet and descended another 8,000 on the trek.

Temperature: Temperatures ranged from 75 degrees Fahrenheit at their warmest at the base of the volcano down to 15 degrees at the coldest in high altitude. Pack layers.

Cost: Most tours cost about $70. This includes a ski jacket and ski pants, gloves and a hat, a tent, sleeping bag, mat, transportation, a guide, and dinner on the first night and breakfast on the second. You will need to pay extra for ski poles (absolutely necessary for the climb) and a tip for the guide, pack snacks and food for lunches both days and pack 5 liters of water per person. In total, we paid about $100 each for the trip.

Popularity: Climbing Misti Volcano is not a common tour. There were only four other people on the volcano with us during our 2 day hike

Difficulty: 12/10 I almost died multiple times. Not like, figurative died, but actual fall off the mountain died.


Day One – Base Camp at 15,000 ft.

Our trip began when we arrived at the tour agency in Arequipa at 8 am. All we had in our bags at that point were 7.5 liters of water each. Here, they gave us our ski jacket and pants, gloves and hat, sleeping bags, mats, and tent. Luckily we had planned to only hike in what we were wearing, because all of this and the water completely filled our packs. Keep in mind, there are no horses or porters so we were stuck carrying everything on our backs up the mountain. Even packing light, we still had at least 20 pounds each in our bags.

After we met our guide, we jumped in a car and drove an hour to the trailhead. We started climbing Misti Volcano at 11,000 ft. The trail began with a sloping incline, that steadily got steeper as we walked. The views were beautiful from the start, with the volcano rising in front of us, and the city of Arequipa laid out behind of us. We could also see the Pichu Pichu mountain range on the the right.



We walked for 6 hours on the first day. It was tough climbing 4,000 feet with our bags, but definitely manageable. The trail was clear from the start and required some rock climbing but nothing too strenuous. Finally, we arrived at our camp site at 4:30pm. Me, Daniel, and our guide were one of only two groups climbing Misti Volcano that day. We had the place to ourselves, and we set up our tent at 15,000 feet. The views were spectacular. We ate dinner as the sun set, and we could see the city of Arequipa sparkling below us. It was an absolutely amazing night that I will remember for the rest of my life.


Day Two – 1 am Wake Up Call

Day 2 of climbing Misti Volcano starts out with a 1 am wake up call. Yes, you read that right. So, this whole insane excursion that I’m about to relate occurs on about 4 hours of sleep. We woke up, put on our headlamps, grabbed our bags, and had a quick breakfast of tea, bread, and cheese. One great aspect of this volcano being so sparsely hiked is that we could safely leave everything at our campsite, and only had to carry a bottle of water each up the mountain. Lighter packs made all the difference. I’m confident I couldn’t have made the summit if I had the same weight as the day before.


Altitude Sickness

We set off in the dark and cold around 1:30am. Luckily, we had a full moon so the trail wasn’t too difficult to see. As we started climbing, though, I began to feel sick. Like, really sick. My head was pounding and dizzy, and my stomach was super nauseous. I had been to 17,000 feet before, but it didn’t matter. I wasn’t expecting to get hit with altitude sickness, but these were all the warning signs. I began freaking out internally, knowing that if I couldn’t complete the climb I would either be stuck waiting all night alone at our camp, or turn back with the guide and Daniel and ruin his chances of summiting.

However, when you’re in Peru, do as the locals do. Luckily Daniel had thought ahead and brought a bag of coca leaves on the climb. Coca leaves are the dried leaves from cocaine plants, and they’re used to combat altitude sickness and give energy. I took a handful of the leaves and chewed them up even though they have the most bitter, disgusting taste and I almost threw them up right there on the side of the volcano. Thank God I didn’t though, because they did exactly what they’re supposed to do. Immediately, my headache disappeared and my stomach felt fine. I pushed the chewed up leaves into my lower lip and sucked on them for the next thirty minutes. They solved my problems and I didn’t have any more trouble with altitude sickness after that.



Certain Death

I’m not being dramatic here when I say Daniel and I almost died multiple times while climbing Misti Volcano. The first couple hours on day two were fine. We were making good time and feeling up to the challenge. We watched the full moon turn orange, then red, and finally sink behind the mountains in a display rivaling any sunset. The night got darker, the stars got brighter, and the temperatures got colder. Even in my ski coat and pants, I was freezing and my hands were numb. However, I was still enjoying the climb. But when the sun came up, everything changed.

Four hours into our hike it was light again, and I could see just. how. high. we were on the volcano. I could also see that below us on the sides of the trail were sheer drops, running thousands of feet down the volcano with only super sharp rocks to break them up. I was sleep deprived and the air was thin. Not great conditions to be in when a strong gust of wind or a single misstep can mean the difference between life and death. We still had hours of climbing ahead of us, and no choice but to keep going.

As we climbed, the trail seemed to disappear below our feet. There were times we had to put our ski poles aside and climb up boulders and rock piles on our hands and knees. As we got closer to the top, we began reaching patches of ice and snow. I’m not exaggerating when I say at one point, I was climbing a sheer rock wall covered in snow and ice with a 5,000 foot drop below me… and no ropes or equipment. I was terrified. I was fighting back tears and telling myself over and over in my mind something our scuba instructor told us on our first day of diving classes: “If you panic, you die.”

Somehow, by the grace of God, I made it up that rock face intact. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of the dangers on our trek. On the final push to the crater, we crossed a path of gravel and sand. It was thin, slippery, and sideways on the edge of the mountain side. I was taking the tiniest, most careful steps of my life, and slamming my ski poles into the sand and dirt as deep as they would go. The only solution was to keep walking, swallow your fear, and don’t look down.


The Summit

Our small group finally, finally, reached the top of Misti Volcano’s crater at 8:30 that morning. We sat down to rest and enjoy the beautiful view of Arequipa and the surrounding valleys. I was dizzy and had absolutely no appetite, but I forced myself to eat a sandwich and some peanuts, because we still had a long day ahead of us, including making the final push to the summit.

From the large crater, it’s still a 45 minute climb to the highest point on the volcano, where a 1,500 year old cross marks the summit at 19,110 feet. We walked up on the gravel and sand trails along the mountainside, avoiding the places where snow and ice still covered the ground. As we climbed higher, we could see inside Misti’s still active central crater. The smell of sulfer was strong, and smoke rose in puffs from her inner core.

Finally, we reached the summit. Now that I’m safe here on solid ground, I can almost say the climb was worth it. We had 360 degree views for miles into every direction. The city of Arequipa, the large salt mines, the Picchu Picchu and Chachani mountain ranges, Misti’s craters, and Peru’s many green valleys and lakes spread out below us. It was absolutely stunning and by far the best view I have ever seen in my life.



Ski Poles, I Love You

All too soon, though, it was time to begin our descent. At this point, my energy was completely depleted, and I was worried because we still had hours of hiking ahead of us. I have to say, as we climbed down from the summit back to the base of the crater, I was the most scared I have ever been in my life. We were on the slipperiest slope, covered in gravel and sand. We were slipping and sliding down it as we descended, and I firmly believe if I hadn’t had my ski poles for balance I would have slipped and fallen… right off the edge of the volcano. I think the tour agency was irresponsible for allowing us to climb the volcano at all, but they were downright malicious to not include or at least insist that we purchase ski poles for the hike. The ski poles really were the only reason I didn’t slide off the path and down 7,000 feet to the base of the volcano. If you are somehow still planning on doing this hike absolutely DO NOT attempt it without them.

The Descent

We reached the crater and began our descent down the volcano at 10:30am. At this point we had already been hiking for nine hours. In comparison to climbing Misti Volcano, though, getting down was a breeze. It took us 15 hours of hiking over 2 days to reach the summit of Misti, but only 4 hours to get down. How? By sliding down the scree.

A scree is a mass of loose dirt and stones that cover the side of a mountain. Misti is a volcano, so a portion of her side is covered in black volcanic sand. We literally jumped off the top of the crater, 8,000 feet off the ground, and onto the sheer mountainside into the thick sand.

Everyone had their own way of managing the scree. Our guide chose to run down it, but I preferred a skiing method. After some trial and error (and a couple falls) I figured out how to move my feet exactly as if I was skiing under the sand, and used my ski poles as, well… ski poles. We went down the mountain in this way for over an hour until we got back to camp. Here, it was time to clean up, pack up, and remove our warmest layers before we continued down to the bottom. Once we were done, we hopped back into the scree again for another hour of sliding down the mountain.

Finally, we reached the sloping walking trails at the base that led back to the trailhead. Each step was like torture and I have never felt more exhausted. We reached our car at 2:30 pm, after hiking for a total of 13 hours that day.


Home Sweet Home

What more can I say? It was an hour drive back to Arequipa, with us finally feeling like we could laugh and joke about the experience after getting our feet back on flat land. We returned our gear to the tour agency, got some tacos, and headed home. I passed out at 6pm and slept for 13 hours to recover from the whole ordeal.

Am I happy we climbed Misti Volcano? Yes. It was the most difficult physical accomplishment of my life, and something I really do feel proud of. Would I recommend it to a friend? Hell no! Unless you are an experienced hiker or truly have no fear of heights, death, or the unknown, stay far away from this trek! There are plenty of less life threatening choices to do in Arequipa, like visiting Colca Canyon or Lake Titicaca, so do yourself a favor and skip this one.

All my love,



by Sep 5, 2017

The Perfect Day Trip to Boulder, Colorado

North America


The Perfect Day Trip to Boulder, Colorado

My one year wedding anniversary is coming up, and with it I’ve found myself reminiscing on my wedding and my absolutely perfect honeymoon. Daniel and I had a fall wedding (of course, it’s the best season of the year). Afterwards, we flew out to Denver, Colorado for our six day honeymoon ’cause all inclusive resorts just aren’t really our thing. A day in Rocky Mountain National Park was the main draw for us, but all of the small towns, hiking, parks, and breweries in Colorado are amazing. There is so much around Denver to see and do. One of my favorite excursions from the city was our day trip to Boulder, Colorado.

Boulder is known for being a college town, and definitely has a major hippy/artsy vibe going on. It is only an hour drive from Denver, so we decided to check it out. Here are my tips for having a PERFECT day trip to Boulder, Colorado.


Day Trip to Boulder: Our Itinerary

Daniel and I started our day trip to Boulder with a late brunch at Snooze cafe. The breakfast food was phenomenal and super filling. I had the eggs benedict on hash browns (yum) and Daniel had a mixed platter with different flavored pancakes, like sweet potato and apple pie. Seriously delicious!



After we were stuffed to the brim, we decided to check out downtown Boulder. The main strip has tons of amazing cafes, bakeries, restaurants, breweries, and shops selling handmade art, foods, drinks, and other interesting things. Parts of it are closed off to traffic too, making it super communal. It had a great atmosphere even on a November weekday, so I can only imagine what the vibe is like on summers and weekends. Wandering down the cobblestone streets and through the little shops was one of my favorite parts of our day trip to Boulder.


Next, we left downtown and drove just up the street to visit the University of Colorado, Boulder campus. Maybe this is just a quirk of mine, but I love visiting college campuses in new cities when I can. They’re always manicured to perfection and boasting beautiful buildings and happy students. It’s hard not to feel as carefree as they are when exploring a new campus! UC Boulder is no exception, and we had a great time walking through the green space and enjoying the views of the city and surrounding mountainsides.


Afterwards, we decided to head out to the famous flatiron mountains, which somehow looking back I failed to get a photo of (I am so ashamed). They’re very unique looking and look like they we’re sliced in half. Definitely a must see on your day trip to Boulder! There are also hiking trails around the mountains, but it was too late in the afternoon for us to start one so unfortunately we had to give it a pass.



The flatirons are right near Flagstaff Road, one of Boulder’s well known scenic drives. We took it up into the mountains for awesome views of Boulder, the valley, the flatirons, and surrounding peaks. The lookouts along the drive offer some amazing views and photo ops, especially as the sun started to set.



As evening set in, we returned to Boulder. For dinner, we hit up Riff’s Urban Fare for their amazing cocktail hour. It’s on the main strip in the heart of downtown, so we sat by the large windows watching the world go by. I splurged on the salmon, which was amazing, but they also had four, five, and six dollar plates to pair with their selection of $6 happy hour cocktails for a lighter option or shared dinner.



If you’re spending the night in Boulder, there are also tons of craft beer breweries to check out in the small town. If you’re not spending the night, Denver is only a one hour drive away, and has it’s own beer scene to tempt you 😉 Either way, a day trip to Boulder is a must do when you visit Colorado, and was one of my favorite days of my honeymoon! Don’t miss it!


All my love,



Have you been to Boulder? What did I miss on this must see list? Comment below to connect, and don’t forget to sign up to get updates to receive to your inbox!





by Aug 31, 2017

Rocky Mountain National Park Photo Diary

North America


Rocky Mountain National Park Photo Diary

Did you know Daniel and I went to Colorado for our honeymoon? Yep, the flights were only $26 so it was a no brainer! When we arrived in Denver, Rocky Mountain National Park was our first stop. The park was only a two hour drive from the city, and is definitely one of the most stunning places I have EVER been in the United States. If you haven’t planned a trip to hike and camp in Rocky Mountain National Park yet, check out my photo diary and definitely add it to your bucket list!













by Aug 30, 2017

Cusco Budget Breakdown: Two Months in the City



Cusco Budget Breakdown: Two Months in the City

Money makes the world go round. If you’re like me, a LOT of your travel plans are based more on costs of living and flight prices instead of dream destinations. Lucky for us, Cusco is both cheap and absolutely amazing.

Daniel and I lived in the city for two months, during July and August 2017. Here is our detailed Cusco budget breakdown.


There is so much to see and do outside of Cusco. Because of that, we never flew to another city during our two month stay. Instead we only took day trips, and one five day trek to Machu Picchu. We work during the week and travel on weekends but we were still able to see a lot. Keep in mind only transportation and entrance fees are listed here, because each tour either provided meals in the cost or we packed our own. Here’s my Cusco budget breakdown for all of our travel during our two month stay in the city.

Temple of the Moon: It’s possible to walk to the temple from the city center and entrance is free. We only paid $11 per person for two optional horseback rides.

Rainbow Mountain: This day trip to Mount Vinicunca, one of Cusco’s most popular tourist destinations, included transportation, breakfast, lunch, and entrance into the park for only $21 each.

Huchuy Qosqo: The hike to these ruins is definitely off the beaten path. We paid $30 for a guide, but with my directions, you can visit it on your own. We also paid $14 for transportation for three, and $7 pp to enter the ruins.

Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu: The Salkantay Trek was far and away our largest travel expense. With all the costs added up, I estimate we spent $260 pp for the 5 day trip. However, this did include accommodation, food, transport, guides, and entrance to Machu Picchu.

Kinsa Cocha, Pisac’s Three Lakes: This little known day trip to Pisac’s three lakes was one of my favorites. The hike is free and there are no entrance fees, so we only had to pay $40 total for taxis and transport.

Tourist Ticket: There are different options for the tourist ticket. We chose the most expensive 10 day ticket with 16 museums and ruins on it. It cost $41 each. We spread the destinations across two weekends because it included entrance to all of the sites listed below.

Sacred Valley Tour: Our day trip to the Sacred Valley was done through a tour agency. The trip included lunch, a guide, and transport to the Maras Moray ruins, Chinchero ruins, Ollantaytambo, and Pisac. All of these are on the tourist ticket and did not require any extra entrance fees. We paid $21 each for the tour, and an extra $3 each for entrance into the salt mines.

Sacsayhuaman: Sacsayhuaman is the first in a line of four ruins. Sacsayhuaman is within walking distance from Cusco and all the ruins are included in the tourist ticket. We only paid $5 for transportation.

Tipon and Piquillacta: These ruins are farther from Cusco and some of the least visited on the tourist ticket. We paid $4.25 each for transport to them.

Pisac: The Pisac Ruins are included in many Sacred Valley tours, but we chose to visit them on a separate day trip. They are included in the tourist ticket we purchased, so we only paid $10 for transportation.

One great thing about living in Cusco is that there is so much to see and do around the city that we never had to go far. This definitely kept our travel costs down while we lived here. In total, Daniel and I spent $900 of our Cusco budget on travel for all of our weekend activities, day trips, and our 5 day trek to Machu Picchu during our two month stay in Cusco.

Living Expenses

Furnished Apartment Rental: We found our apartment on AirBnb. It is a 2 bed/1 bath furnished apartment and is a 15 minute walk from the city center. We paid $424 a month for the place, which includes internet and utilities in the price. It’s definitely not the nicest apartment, but it’s clean and the location is great, which is all I can really ask for!

Grocery Budget: Our grocery budget hasn’t changed much from my last report in my Colombia budget breakdown. We’re still paying about $100 a week for groceries, the only difference is that the choices and value has gone down since we moved here. This budget reflects cooking most meals in our apartment and eating out for lunches and dinners on the weekends.

Eating Out: Definitely my biggest vice! We probably eat out way too much. I estimate that Daniel and I spend around $5 to $10 each on meals in the lower end restaurants and cafes in Cusco’s city center. In total, we usually spend about $200 a month for 5 or 6 meals out a week together.

Drinking: Alcohol is more expensive in Peru than it was in Colombia, and there are also more craft beer options to tempt me here. The local beer in Cusco is called Cusquena. It usually costs $3 per bottle in a bar, or $6 for a six pack in store. Craft beers are usually $3 or $4 in store and $5 or $6 in the bars and breweries. Wine is $5 and up for a bottle in the local markets, and rum and other liquors can be cheap too, maybe $3 for a small bottle. We mix and match between drinking in our apartment, in bars and clubs, and splurging on craft beers. In total, we spend about $200 a month on alcohol here.

Laundry: Our apartment doesn’t have a washing machine. If you live near the city center, though, there are a lot of little shops and hostels that will wash, dry, and fold laundry cheaply. We pay 50 cents per pound of clothes when we wash, which comes out to about $20/month for two people.

Phone: I use Sprint’s international plan and pay $30/month for unlimited international calls and texts, and 1gb of data. Daniel is a chump and just uses my phone.

Healthcare: I’m still on my parents healthcare for two more months (yikes!) so we only have to pay for one health insurance plan. Daniel’s travel insurance protects him everywhere except the US for $33/month.

Visa: If it’s free, it’s for me. In Peru, Americans can enter the country free and get a 6 month visa stamp at the airport for no extra cost.

In total, our living expenses for two months roughly add up to $1,300 a month for a couple living, eating, and drinking in the center of the city.

GRAND TOTAL: $1,750 per month

When we moved from Medellin to Cusco, the cost of food and alcohol went up, but our rent went down, and the cost of travel definitely decreased because we spent our weekends exploring nearby day trips instead of flying to new cities.

Keep in mind, our Cusco budget is not for everyone. We lower our costs by renting “long term” (most places give monthly discounts), cooking meals at home, and limiting our trips to the weekends instead of traveling every day. Still, this Cusco budget breakdown is definitely a great start for any backpacker or traveler planning a trip to Peru!

All my love,



by Aug 28, 2017

Kinsa Cocha: Pisac’s Three Lakes



Kinsa Cocha: Pisac’s Three Lakes

If you have extra time in Peru, visiting Kinsa Cocha and Pisac’s three lakes is a perfect day trip. The lakes are easy to get to. Like Huchuy Qosqo and Llaullipata, they’re also totally off the tourist radar, which means that even though we visited on a weekend in high season, Daniel and I were the ONLY ones on the trail. The best part about the lakes is that you can get dropped off right at the first one, which means you can hike as much or as little as you want. They also lie in a valley, so the trek is flat and easy for all ages. Interested? Check out my experience at Kinsa Cocha, Pisac’s three lakes!



How To Get There

Pisac is a nearby tourist town in the Sacred Valley, so getting to the starting point of Pisac’s three lakes hike is easy. First, take a collectivo from Cusco to Pisac. Collectivos are shared vans, and cost only 4 soles/ $1.25 per person. They leave often and you can catch them anytime at the top of Puputi street. From there, it is a 45 minute drive to the town of Pisac. Once you arrive in Pisac, walk down the main street and, I promise, taxi drivers on the side of the road will stop you and ask where you need to go. Tell them you’re heading to the Kinsa Cocha Laguna and negotiate a price. It’s important to negotiate a round trip price and have your driver wait for you at the lakes. They are far off the beaten path and you won’t be able to catch a ride back home. We paid 115 soles / $35 usd for the entire trip, which was about 5 hours from start to finish. When you negotiate your price, make sure it’s to visit the Kinsa Cocha lake AND the Blue Lake (Laguna Azul). The third lake is about 3 km down the road from the first.


Lakes One and Two

Your driver will drop you at the first of Pisac’s thee lakes. Agree to a time with your driver for how long you want to hike (we chose three hours). From here, there are trails going around both sides  of the lake and you can choose your route. We decided to cross the bridge and begin our hike on the left side of the Kinsa Cocha lake. We walked along the lake for about 30 minutes, and then came to the area where the first lake connects with the second. Afterwards, we came out into a field with a large herd of alpacas! So cute! It was great to just sit and watch them graze for a bit before continuing.



After passing the first two lakes, Daniel and I walked further into the valley. I felt tiny and awed walking with the mountains rising up on both sides of me. It was such a beautiful hike. We walked to the end of the valley, then climbed up on the left side to walk back on the trails high above the green valley, overlooking the lakes in the distance as we returned toward them.



After we ate a picnic back near the alpaca field, we crossed to the other side of the valley. Now, we were climbing up the side of the mountains. Here the trail returns on the opposite side of the lakes than we had started out on. This time, though, we were walking high above them with a gorgeous view of the mountains, valley, lakes, and fields spread out below us. It was breathtaking. Our walk to the end of the valley and back, with time for a picnic, took three hours in total.


Lake Three

Once we returned to our taxi, he drove us 10 minutes more down the road to the third lake. It is possible to hike to this lake instead of walk, but it requires a steep and long walk up the mountainside. If you choose to walk, then when you arrive at the first lake, take the trail on the right side of the lake. Walk past the first two lakes, and eventually on your right you’ll see a dip between two peaks high above you. The trail goes up on switchbacks here. You’ll climb up the side of the mountain and get a view of the third lake once you reach the top. From here, you can walk down to the lake and return to your taxi on the road, or you can circle around the peak and back to the first lake to return.

However, I’m lazy and prefer to avoid strenuous uphill hikes when I can! That’s why we chose to take our taxi instead. Our driver dropped us off at the second lake, and we climbed up on the hillside to snap a few pics. The first two lakes and the first valley were more beautiful in my opinion, and you don’t need a lot of time at the third lake. After about 15 minutes, we headed back to the taxi and we returned to Pisac. The drive was 45 minutes down dirt roads, but the views were beautiful.



Exploring Pisac

We got back to Pisac in the late afternoon. It’s such a cute little town, so definitely make time to explore it, check out the large market, and grab a bite to eat in the local shops and cafes. Once you’re done chilling after the hike, just grab a collective back to Cusco where you got dropped off. 45 minutes later you’ll be back in the city, ready to relax after a beautiful day!



Seriously, a day trip to Pisac’s three lakes is stunning. They’re pretty cheap and easy to get to, and you’ll be able to enjoy them in peace and quiet, away from Cusco’s tourists. If you have an extra day or two in the city, I highly recommend a hike and a picnic at Pisac’s three lakes!

All my love,


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by Aug 28, 2017

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