Salcantay (Nevado Salcantay) or Salkantay (Nevado Salkantay), Sallqantay in Quechua is the highest peak of the Willkapampa mountain range, part of the Peruvian Andes. It is located in the Cusco Region, about 60 km (40 mi) west-northwest of the city of Cusco. It is the 38th highest peak in the Andes, and the twelfth highest in Peru. However, as a range highpoint in deeply incised terrain, it is the second most topographically prominent peak in the country, after Huascarán.

Overview & mountaineering history


Salcantay is a large, steep peak with great vertical relief, particularly above the low valleys to the north, which are tributaries of the Amazon River.

Salcantay was first climbed in 1952 by a French-American expedition comprising Fred D. Ayres, David Michael, Jr., John C. Oberlin, W. V. Graham Matthews, Austen F. Riggs, George Irving Bell, Claude Kogan, M. Bernard Pierre, and Jean Guillemin. All except Oberlin, Riggs, and Guillemin made the summit. Two years later Fritz Kasparek fell through a cornice near the summit on the NE ridge.

On June 17, 2013 Nathan Heald (USA), Thomas Ryan (USA), and Luis Crispin (Peru) made the summit at 10:30am after 9 hours of climbing from a high camp at 5,500mts. on the NE ridge. This makes Crispin the first Peruvian climber to summit the mountain. The team took a reading of 6,279mts., S 13° 20.027’, W 72° 32.596’, on a GPS device. On July 31, 2013 a second team led by Nathan Heald (USA), consisting of James Lissy (USA) and Edwin Espinoza Sotelo (Peru)make the summit by the NE ridge. Due to glacial retreat, the route is now calculated to be graded D on the French adjectival scale. This makes Heald the only person to have summited the mountain twice.

The standard route on the mountain is the Northeast ridge. Accessing the route typically involves three days of travel from Cusco. The climb involves about 1,800 m (5,900 ft) of vertical gain, on glacier, snow, ice, and some rock.

The name Salkantay is from sallqa, a Quechua word meaning wild, uncivilized, savage, or invincible, and was recorded as early as 1583. The name is thus often translated as "Savage Mountain".

Directly to the north of Salkantay lies Machu Picchu, which is at the end of a ridge that extends down from this mountain. Viewed from Machu Picchu's main sundial, the Southern Cross is above Salkantay's summit when at its highest point in the sky during the rainy season. The Incas associated this alignment with concepts of rain and fertility, and considered Salkantay to be one of the principal deities controlling weather and fertility in the region west of Cuzco.

Salcantay Trek


Salcantay's proximity to Machu Picchu makes trekking around it an attractive alternative to the oversubscribed Inca Trail. There are three possible routes starting from Mollepata. 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.
  • Another 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.

See also

  • Kiswar or Padreyuq
  • List of mountains in Peru, all peaks above 6,000 meters


Sources consulted
  • Biggar, John (2005). The Andes: a guide for climbers. Scotland: Andes Publishing. p. 112. ISBN 0-9536087-2-7. 
  • Encarta/Spanish (2007). "Cordillera Vilcabamba". Enciclopedia Microsoft (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2007-11-23. Retrieved 2007-08-18. Su máxima elevación es el pico Salcantay o Sarkantay (6.271 m) [...] 
  • Encarta/Spanish (2007). "Salcantay". Enciclopedia Microsoft (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 2007-11-27. Retrieved 2007-08-18. [...] constituye una de las principales elevaciones de la cordillera de Vilcabamba, [...] Alcanza una altitud de 6.271 metros. 
  • Ferranti, Jonathan de (compiler); et al. (2005). "Peru ultra-Prominences". Peaklist.org. Retrieved 2007-08-18.  CS1 maint: Explicit use of et al. (link)
  • Instituto Nacional de Estadística e Informática, Perú (2005). Perú: Compendio Estadístico 2005 (in Spanish). Lima: INEI. p. 22.  â€" Also stored at List of mountains in Peru.
  • Peakbagger (2007). "Salcantay, Peru". Peakbagger.com. Retrieved 2007-08-18. 
  • Rachowiecki, Rob (1991). Peru: a travel survival kit. Hawthorn, Australia: Lonely Planet Publications. p. 206. ISBN 0-86442-095-1. 

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