Returning to Mt. Salkantay
The Andes Mountains were the backdrop of my childhood in Chile. As a teen I had conquered a few peaks above 15,000 feet, and by age 23 I broke a world record for snowboarding Ojos del Salado, the highest volcano in the world -23,000 feet-.
In my early twenties I was sponsored to snowboard the towering Wasatch range in Utah. And at the top of my sports career I was invited to heli-snowboard the extreme ridges of Valdez in Alaska.
Snowboarding and mountaineering seemed to be my life’s path.
In the mean time, Alberto Villoldo had chosen three sacred mountains for the Four Winds journeys to Perú: Ausangate, Salkantay and Pachatusan. The first one is the grandfather; the one that inspires us to look at our dreams and who helps us manifest those. Salkantay holds a wild energy and feels like the untamable feminine. It connects you with your raw self and helps you channel your pure potential. Pachatusan literally means the “axis of the world” and at the top it feels like you are in a holy landscape polarized by masculine and feminine energies.
The first time I went to Peru with The Four Winds twelve years ago, I was signed up for Ausangate. I had read in one of Alberto’s books how he kissed the bottom of a glacier at a sacred lagoon and how that gave him power. Immediately I knew that I wanted to do that, and also be one of the only two students he would allow to hike through a dangerous moraine to perform a ceremony by a powerful ‘huaca’ at the belly of the glacier.
I had met Alberto a year prior. After sharing about each other’s mountain adventures I wanted to show him what I could do.
There were about sixty students and I on this expedition and half of them were signed up for Ausangate and the other half to Salkantay. Everyday we would go on different hikes to sacred sites in preparation for the holy mountain. Everyday Alberto and I would find a moment in our walks to speak in Spanish just for fun. Without noticing it, my heart felt warmer towards him each day and my excitement about the possibility of becoming a heroine in Ausangate grew each moment.
This is why I was shocked when the night before our departure, without much of an explanation, Alberto said to me: “I want you to go to Salkantay instead of Ausangate.”
In that moment I felt weakness in my knees and a ball of red heat expand from my solar plexus until my face was completely red. My dream bubble had been burst and I became terribly upset. After all I had signed up for Ausangate!
The next morning in our bus ride to Salkantay, there was a lake that was completely still. In that moment the waters became a mirror and made me look beyond my anger. I realized that I was inundated with sadness and pain because I wanted to go to Ausangate above all to be close to Alberto. How could he send me to Salkantay instead? Were we not becoming good friends? I sobbed silently in the back of the bus for the rest of the ride.
Three hours later when we got off the bus and it was time to start walking I noticed that the people with me seemed old and out of shape, compared to the athletes I was accustomed to hike with. Though I knew that it would be a physically demanding expedition I thought it would be a piece of cake in contrast to my companions.
By the second day we made it close to the glacier and that night it snowed at our camp. It felt like one of the coldest and saddest nights of my life and I was relieved to see the sunrise.
The third day we would cross the 17,500 feet pass and as I had done the previous days I strived to be in the lead. But for some ‘strange’ reason I was having a hard time keeping up. Nevertheless I made it with the others to our campground in the other side and to our evening ceremonies with the Q’ero shamans.
Again I did not sleep much and before dawn I was wide awake with terrible cramps and diarrhea. I was so dehydrated and weak that I could no longer walk. After crawling out of my tent to relieve my bodily needs, I found myself on hands and knees, my fingers digging into the Earth with an overwhelming sense of surrender which I had never known before. Then in my tears came an unexpected prayer to Mother Earth from the depths of my being. I pleaded to Her to give me the opportunity to walk the mountain with Alberto, but not before I was ready.
Almost a year later back home my phone rang and it was Alberto calling to tell me he would be coming to teach in my hometown. I was not surprise that he called me, but I was shocked of how soon he called. I thought I would have to wait at least five years if not ten years to be spiritually mature for our rendezvous in the mountains.
Since then I have journeyed many times with Alberto to Mt. Ausangate, and I lead our journeys there with his blessing. Yes! I did kiss the glacier at the bottom of the Female Jaguar Lagoon and experienced tremendous power. And yes! I did hike the dangerous moraine to witness a ceremony very few Westerners have witnessed. And, yes! We held our wedding ceremony seven years later with the blessings of Earth Mother.
I did not conquer Salkantay as I had conquered many mountains in my youth. This time the mountain conquered me.
Never again I have gone to climb a mountain. Pilgrimage is my only way now. Every step is a prayer as I commune with the mountain, with Earth, with Spirit.
Salkantay was wild, messy and humbling. During night I heard the roar of the avalanches. Its name means the one that cannot be domesticated. It is raw energy, and it unleashed my pure potential.
I am so excited, curious, happy and open-hearted to go back to Salkantay for the first time after all these years to lead a group for the Four Winds.
If you feel called to explore your undomesticated wild feminine, join me this coming July.