Salkantay General Information
Nevado Salkantay is the high point of the Cordillera Vilcabamba in the Department of Cusco, Peru. It is the highest mountain in the area of Machu Picchu and is the most Sacred Mountain in the Land of the Incas.
The name is derived from the Qechua "Sallqa", which means savage or invincible. This is due to the frequent avalanches that rip down the mountain and storms that rise to engulf the peak from the High Amazon Jungle in the north.
The best time to climb Salkantay is from May to September. Depending on the route, it should be tried at different times in those months. For example, the Ridge is easier to attempt earlier in the season with more snow, but later on it becomes more technical as the glacier melts later in the season. A wall or other direct route should be attempted later in the season after the avalaches have had time to fall.
Since the first ascent in 1952 Salkantay has been climbed on the South, East and North sides of the mountain. The west face and ridge still are unclimbed as of 2014. To date there have been 21 successful climbs of the mountain.
In recent years the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu has become a popular alternative to the Inca Trail to get to the archeological complex of Machu Picchu. In fact it has become so busy that in the high season (May-September) there are up to 250 tourists that take this trail every day. With them comes the obvious impact on the area like garbage and noise which will diminish the experience of anyone looking for a trail that is "off the beaten path". It is not the remote trail anymore that the agencies selling the trek would have you believe. The route to the Base Camp on the NE ridge also is an alternative Inca Trail that used to be traveled before a landslide went down the Ahobamba Valley North of Salkantay in 1998. Today this trail is known as the Salkantay Base Camp Trek, it has been rebuilt and it offers a much more rewarding experience for the would be traveler to trek to Machu Picchu.
Salcantay's proximity to Machu Picchu makes trekking around it it attractive as an alternative to the oversubscribed Inca Trail. There are three possible routes starting from Mollepampa. All three begin with a day of approach, heading north along a dirt road. Then they diverge: The longest route, heads north to the base of the mountain, then turns right, following the east side of the mountain, then heads northeast to eventually join the Inca Trail itself at Wayllabamba. This route takes 4 days to reach the Inca Trail, then another 2 days to reach Machu Picchu. The most common route used by trekking companies heads north, then west around the west side of the mountain, over Salcantay Pass at 4600m. It continues as far as the village of La Playa, where buses usually make the connection to Santa Teresa. From here, trekkers walk to the Hydroelectric project then either train or walk to Aguas Calientes, at the base of Machu Picchu. This route takes 4 days in total. A more satisfying variation on this route turns right before reaching La Playa, over a ridge and arriving directly at Aguas Calientes two days later. This route takes 6 days in total.