Beyond My Comfort Zone: Climbing in Pitumarca of Peru

By Marinel de Jesus

I’m no climber. In fact, having to scale a mountain in a vertical fashion is hardly my cup of tea. But having moved to Urubamba, Valle Sagrado in the Cusco side of the Andes in Peru, one can’t avoid the fact that this part of the world is teeming with numerous adventure sports. As a trekker, I have seen plenty to date and yet have more trails to explore.

I recently met a climber in my own little mountain town of Urubamba, Carlos, who spoke in detail about the life of the climbing industry. Days later, a local contact recommended I befriend another climber, Edu, who lived in Cusco.

On my very first conversation with Edu, I was invited to join a group of climbers to explore the Pitumarca area, which evolved over the years as a prime area for rock climbing. I decided to take advantage of the opportunity.

The journey there took us almost a full day. From Urubamba, Carlos and I took a local bus to Cusco from where we caught another bus to take us to the valley of Pitumarca. Once in the valley, we had to hire a taxi to take us to the camping/climbing area of Pitumarca. Carlos and I arrived in the late afternoon on a Friday with another person from the group. That night we met the rest of the group members, had a warm meal together and enjoyed gazing at the stars.

The next morning, a few of us decided to walk up the mountain across from our communal shelter. Our campsite was at 4100 meters and a few hundred meters of more climbing posed as a challenge for me, given that I have not been above 4000 meters in a while. As always, the mountain displayed its gorgeous features, from rocks protruding toward the sky as a way to lure climbers to an array of beautiful rolling hills amidst the valley down below. The vastness of these mountains never gets tiring.

A couple of hours later, the climbing sessions began. We were joined by a group of four others who arrived that morning from Cusco. By coincidence, the only female in that group turned out to be someone that I met back in 2017. Shandira is one of the very few female trekking guides in Cusco and she happens to lead my groups since the inception of my social enterprise, Peak Explorations. Talk about serendipity. I took advantage of the occasion to catch up with her as I had not seen her since our last trek in October of 2018.

On this adventure, I dreaded having to climb for the first time. I climbed for a brief moment just to get a feel for it. I easily found myself feeling pain in my fingers as I tried to maneuver myself up the rock. Climbing certainly felt different from hiking or backpacking, it activated muscles that I hardly use as a trekker.

I have not considered climbing as a supplement to my work as a trekker but based on my conversations with my new group of climbing friends, I’m starting to rethink the notion. Doing so will also help me alleviate my fear of heights which is intertwined specifically with climbing. So, why not? After all, my Cusco climbing friends excitedly invited me to join them to do bouldering as an introduction to the sport.

That night the stars were out again in full display. More conversations ensued regarding the climbing industry and life in general in the beautiful and magical Cusco region of Peru. My conversations with my new friends affirmed my suspicion that the climbing industry is in its infancy stage; therefore, its future is full of potential for any climber of any kind.

As a trekker, I’m glad I pushed my comfort zone to experience a new way of enjoying nature. I’m still fearful of climbing, no doubt. But little by little, with my new set of climbing friends, I’m sure I can learn to fear it less, and perhaps, even love it.

Quickly, I’m learning this fact: Anything is possible in the Andes mountains of Peru.

Photo credit: Carlos Duberly Cornejo Mares / KUNTUR DUB.