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6 Tips to Survive Dead Woman’s Pass on the Inca Trail

June 19, 2014|Posted in: Inca Trail, Peru

daed woman's pass inca trail

If you hike the Inca Trail, you must summit Dead Woman’s pass on the way to Machu Picchu. You summit this legendary pass on the second day of the 4-day Inca Trail hike or on the third day of the 5-day Inca Trail hike.

Dead Woman’s pass, Warmiwañusca in Quechua – the ancient language of the Inca, rises 14,000 heart-pounding feet. Rugged stone steps stretch endlessly up along the side of the mountain.

The good news is that the pass got its name because the silhouette of the mountain resembles a supine woman, not because you’ll be a dead woman (or man) by the time you reach the top.

Follow these six tips to conquer Dead Woman’s pass without unnecessary suffering.

1) Prepare. The best preparation for hiking is hiking. I hiked every Saturday for five months on progressively harder trails. Another member of our Inca Trail group walked 6 miles everyday without fail for even longer.

2) Acclimatize. Most tour companies recommend that you spend two full days in Cusco adjusting to the altitude before you embark on the Inca Trail. Do it. Even though two days doesn’t seem like much, it can really make a difference in your ability to handle the higher altitudes you’ll encounter along the Inca Trail.

3) Drink. Dehydration is one of the most common causes of altitude sickness. So, try to remember to drink plenty of water on your way to the summit.

4) Count. I counted 50 steps and then stopped to breathe on my way up the mountain. I found this was more efficient than hiking until I dropped and then panting like a dog on a hot summer’s day until I got my breathing under control.

5) Exhale. I know this seems counterintuitive when you are struggling to suck as much air into your oxygen-deprived lungs as possible, but it works. Exhaling hard allows you to breathe in more deeply. It is called pressure breathing.

6) Don’t freak out. I think there is this tendency on Dead Woman’s pass to believe that everyone in your group is hiking faster than you are and that you are holding everyone back. If you freak out, you’ll push yourself to hike too fast and then you’ll exhaust yourself. Remember, Dead Woman’s pass is not the end of the Inca Trail. You still have a long way to go. Slow and steady really does win the race in this situation. So, try to relax and maintain a steady pace.


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