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Reaching new peaks - The Traveling Alphabet

Reaching new peaks

Decker was crying he was so tired. He was doing everything possible to hold it together and not just lay down on the ground. We were almost at the summit of the 15,000-foot peak at which point our hike would be downhill into lunch. I took his small daypack and then wondered if we pushed him too far.


15,000 Feet

A few months earlier while hiking up Guatemala’s Volcan Pacaya, a fellow hiker suggested that our kids could hike the Inca Trail. The kids immediately said, “We want to do that.” So, we researched the options and feasibility. While the Inca was full, we found the similar, and less crowded, Lares Valley Hike to be a good alternative. We told the kids it would be hard but they still said, “We wanna do it.” “Are you sure?” we asked. “Yes!”


We arrived in Cusco, Peru five days before the hike so we could acclimate to the 11,000-foot elevation and prepare for even higher . While friends and family back home were dealing with 110-degree temperatures, we were buying additional layers as we expected (and got) below freezing nights.


Our four-day adventure into the Andes looked like this:


Day 1

  • 5:00 a.m. shuttle pick-up for a 3-hour drive to the trail head
  • 7.8-mile hike with gradual incline of 1,400 feet and camp at 12,795 feet.

Day 2

  • 8-mile hike with steep ascent to 15,000-foot pass then drop into the valley at 12,350 feet

Day 3

  • 6.2-mile hike on gradual downhill to 8,900 feet
  • Arrive in hotel at 10:00 p.m. after several hours in a shuttle and a visit to the Salt Mines

Day 4

  • 3:30 a.m. wake-up call for bus ride to experience sun rise over Machu Pichu
  • Hike around the Incan city
  • Train back to town and in hotel about 6:00 p.m.
  • Decker asleep by 6:01 p.m.

Emotional Ups and Downs

Students ages 4 – 11 in one class

We experienced a variety of emotions during these four days. As all of us reached the 15,000-foot summit, Colin had an emotional “Wow” as he saw his first glacier on the surrounding Andean mountain peak. I too was impressed with its beauty. Audrey arrived at the pass in tears overwhelmed with happiness because of what she and her three boys just accomplished together. It’s not unlike the feeling of crossing a finish line of an Ironman. We also experienced lows when the boys were reaching exhaustion they had never seen. But, they persevered.


And, sadness as we visited a local village school. This small remote village had 7 children (ages 4 – 11) who were all in the same one-room school house. I’ve been to many ‘fabricated’ local village visits designed for tourists but this was real. It was authentic. And as Colin said, “It was sad.” Sad because, “they just don’t have many school supplies.” We had packed in some to give to the teacher and those seven students. The smiles on their face was our reward.


Machu Pichu

While Machu Pichu is a magical place and we were fortunate to see the sun rise over the surrounding mountains and shine on this tiny village, we were also exhausted. In all its beauty, it was hard to truly enjoy this 600-year old village built for the Inca royalty and 400 residents. But, walking in the gate and seeing this town for the first time will forever be imprinted on my brain.


How far is too far…

…is a question Audrey and I often ask ourselves. Whether it is climbing through a cave in Guatemala, watching the boys go off a cliff in a paraglider, or hiking over 15,000 feet mountain pass, our boys continue to accomplish more than we could imagine.


Jumping for Joy

We knew this hike would be difficult but they made the decision to go. They must see what both of us do by pushing ourselves and challenging our limits. After a completing this adventurous hike and getting a good night’s sleep, I asked both kids if they were glad they did it. Not surprisingly they said, “Yes.” I guess they understand my favorite quote, “There is nothing more rewarding than accomplishing something you were too crazy to start in the first place.


Of course, it all came with a price as Colin got a little too used to having a porter carry all his gear. When I asked him to grab me some more jam at breakfast the other morning he said, “What do I look like, your porter?


Highlights of Peru

  • Paragliding over Lima
  • Sandboarding in the desert
  • Reaching the 15,000 foot summit in the Andes on the Lares Valley Hike
  • Experiencing the full moon shining over the Andean snow-covered peaks
  • Hanging out in Cusco
  • Watching the sun rise over Machu Pichu
  • Eating ceviche with locals


  • Seeing Decker crying from sheer exhaustion
  • Bundling up in our down jackets because of no heat in many of our accommodations
  • Enduring Incredibly bad pizza after visiting Machu Pichu


For those of you who liked my last post about the Boobies, stay tuned as we next head to Lake Titicaca.


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Bryan Gillette

Bryan Gillette is the founder and principal consultant for Summiting Group focusing on Leadership and Organizational Development. He has traveled extensively for both work and personal reasons visiting almost 60 countries and 40 United States. He is an avid runner and cyclist and ran 200 miles around Lake Tahoe in 76 hours as well as cycled across the United States. He recently spent one year traveling the world with his family.

This Post Has 3 Comments
  1. My porter in Uganda on the gorilla trek held my hand the entire time. He pulled me up and over and pushed me down the ravine to meet the Daddy Silverback. I cried up and I cried down and I cried at the rock in the village where we met our driver to bring us back to the lodge. It was a day trip; and, I was not the youngest in the group. You held Decker’s hand, right? Hugs to Decker and Colin, too!

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