The Inca Trail is a 4-day, 26-mile odyssey that involves summiting two 14,000-foot mountains. Not everyone who starts this epic adventure is able to finish it.
In fact, when I hiked the Inca Trail in May 2011, one member of our group sprained her ankle. So, what happens if you get hurt or sick or decide that the trail is too difficult?
If you get hurt or sick before you summit the 14,000-foot Dead Woman’s Pass, your guide can hire a horse to take you back to the start of the Inca Trail. From there you can travel back to Cusco to recover. This is exactly what happened to Mary Lou. She sprained her ankle right at the start of the second day. She recuperated in Cusco and then rendezvoused with the group at Machu Picchu a few days later.
If your accident or injury occurs after Dead Woman’s Pass, one of the porters will carry you to a location where you can take a cab, bus, or ambulance to safety. Condor, the strongest porter in our group, had the task of literally piggybacking injured or sick guests off the trail. Thankfully, we didn’t have any other injuries or illnesses that necessitated a rescue.
If you aren’t feeling well on the trail, be aware that the Peruvian government requires that all companies carry first aid kits, including oxygen to deal with severe altitude sickness. Guides are also required to have first aid training. Some guides have even been certified as Wilderness First Responders. As a result of these requirements, few people are unable to make it to Machu Picchu due to injury or illness.
If the Inca Trail is too difficult for you to complete, it is best to make this determination before you summit Dead Woman’s Pass. Once you summit the pass, you cannot turn back—your guide will shepherd you over the trail to its end at the Sun Gate in Machu Picchu.
There are no refunds if you are unable to finish the Inca Trail. In fact, you will incur extra expenses: hiring a horse to take you back to the start of the trail (if that option is available), returning to Cusco, staying at a hotel in Cusco, and buying food. Of course, continuing to hike if you are injured, sick, or unprepared can be a miserable experience.Not everyone who starts the Inca Trail is able to finish it. So, what happens if you get hurt or sick or decide that the trail is too difficult?