Climbing El Misti is a thrilling adventure if you like to trek, hike, or climb mountains. It is not a technical climb, but with that said, it isn't an easy climb no matter what anyone tells you, even if you are in shape. The altitude is nothing to mess with and the infamous "saroche" or altitude sickness can affect anyone without warning whether you are an experienced climber or not. There is a great website sponsored by the International Society for Mountain Medicine that explains all about altitude sickness and signs and symptoms and treatments to prevent it and what to do if you actually get it. Here is a link to their website Altitude Sickness.
El Misti is actually a volcano that is still active but hasn't erupted since 1784. To put things in perspective on how tall this mountain is, Mount Kilamanjaro in Africa is 5895m (19340 ft) at its summit and Mount Everest in Nepal is 8850m (29,035 ft). Misti is 5822m (19,101 ft). Per my husband, it is a glorious experience to reach the top of Misti despite the 2 grueling days of hiking that make you question "Why the heck am I doing this on my vacation?" To explain how difficult it is to reach the top, my husband was only 2 of the 4 of our group that was actually able to reach the top, and of the other person who reached the top, my husband basically helped push him up the mountain. At the summit you will find a crater (remember Misti is a volcano) and a beautiful metal cross and the most stunning views of the nearby mountain ranges (Chachani) that make you question whether you are standing in heaven. My husband said they went so high up that they walked higher than some clouds. With all that said, the most important thing you can do is make sure you go with an experienced guide and company. We went with Incaventura and our guide was Herman. Here is a link to their website Incaventura.
Equipment: -good backpack (you will be carrying this yourself for an entire day so make sure it fits)
-sleeping bag (one that is able to tolerate temps as low as 20 degrees F in April)
-good waterproof hiking boots (there is snow at summit)
-4 liters of water per person
-2 pairs of wool socks (cotton kills hiking)
-thermal underwear (thank god I had mine)
-good hiking khakis with plenty of pockets
-underarmor bra and panties or underwear for guys (keeps the sweat off of you)
-long sleeve shirt
-fleece sweater (Denali from North Face worked perfect)
-short sleeve tee
-chapstick or lip balm
-hat to cover your head from the blazing sun
-good warm gloves (our fingers were freezing mostly)
-camera (for the brilliant shots you will see and to prove you reached the top)
-ipod (helps with the ascent to get your mind off things)
-good head lamp (the second day you start hiking at 2 am)
-tylenol or motrin for headache/aches and pains
-diamox if you are taking it to prevent altitude sickness
-most tour companies will provide a tent (and crampons if needed) but if you can carry the weight, bring your own
-meals, fuel, stove and dishware should be provided by your tour company
-winter cap (make sure it covers your ears)
-winter coat (a ski coat works perfectly)
-moleskin for blisters (make sure you also have scissors to cut it)
-plenty of determination
Just so you know what you are getting into before you plan your next excursion to El Misti, know that the trip takes 2 days. The first day you will spend hiking up the base of the mountain, which is challenging at times but mostly a very nice leisurely trek. You leave at about 8 am and reach base camp at about 5pm. At base camp, in April anyway, you will find that once the sun goes down, the temperature significantly drops to the point that it is just bone chilling cold. At our base camp the temperature was around 30 degrees F. At base camp you will help your guide pitch your tent and you will eat dinner. The night in the tent is awful. You basically get no sleep because of the altitude and you will most likely than not be sleeping on a slope with many rocks and your tent will get very damp (why I recommend you bring your own good equipment).
The second day you will start your hike in very cold temps at 2 am. This is where the trek becomes quite strenuous. Not only are you exhausted from the previous day's hike, and extremely tired from the lack of sleep, you have to deal with the cold and very steep climbs. You will climb a bit and then you will reach an area where your guide will ask your group whether or not you think you can continue on. If you think you can't then stop! Your guide will return you to the base camp to wait out the rest of the group. I kept going and I reached about 17,000 ft where there I found I was completely spent and could hike no longer. So instead of waiting in a nice tent at base camp, I had to spend 4 hours on the side of a mountain, hutched under a makeshift shelter by my guide while I waited for the others in our group to reach the summit. Thank God for my Ipod.
Once you reach the summit, you then hike back down the entire mountain. This is much quicker as a significant portion of it you hike down the opposite side of the mountain from which you came which is volcanic ash. The final part is a hike over rocky terrain to reach your jeep that takes you home.
I suggest 3 hikes of 1 day around Arequipa, with different landscapes and difficulty levels.
Tiabaya-El Huayco. Hike through the green fields along the Rio Chili. Low difficulty.
Chiguata-Yumina. Follow the gorge of the Rio Andamayo in the river bed up to the cultivated terraces of Yumina. Moderate difficulty.
Pocsi-Yarabamba. Hike down the gorge of Rio Polobaya through the picturesque villages of Sogay and Polobaya. Moderate to high difficulty
By car, you wander through the surroundings of Arequipa, making stops at the main spots of interest such as the square and church of Cayma, mirador of Yanahuara and Sachaca, Sabandía watermill, Mansión del Fundador, inca terraces of Yumina and village of Characato (3-4 hours) .
With volcanoes surrounding Arequipa, why not give climbing one a go? There is the majestic El Misti at 5825 meters. There are guided climbs or you can hike a 4 WD to bring you up to 3300m for about $50. Cachani at over 6000 meters requires ice ax and crampons and unless very experienced, a good guide! We didn't have the time or money and opted for a "climb" down into the Colca Canyon, another great option close to Aqreuipa.
Enjoy the feeling of biking freely through the fields, a few hours or the whole day. You can rent a bike
Ride a horse for 2 or 3 hours through the agricultural terraces of Yumina, built under the reign of the Inca Mayta Capac and still in use today