Aguas Calientes is the entry-town of Machu Picchu, and that means a lot of tourists going by. Souvenir stalls, expensive restaurants and upscale hotels are booming in this little town. I simply had to get away from this madness.
I arrived Aguas Calientes by an early morning train from Cuzco and had to wrestle my way out of the train station and towards my pre-booked guesthouse in the fairly cheap neighborhood opposite the train station. The first thing I had to do, was to head over to the booking office and buy myself a ticket for the next day to Machu Picchu. But after that I had plenty of time to kill in Aguas Calientes, so I decided on a hike away from the crowds.
I read in my Lonely Planet Guide that Putucusi (2590m) is a nice hike near Aguas Calientes (2040m). But what I didn't know was that floods in 2011 have wiped out the 100 ft vertical ladder section of the climb, making an ascent fairly difficult and exposed.
I walked a few hundred meters out of town, along the railway track, before I headed up a distinct trail to the right. After an easy start, I came to the almost vertical section. Wow, am I really going up there? The floods had washed out most of the ladders, so now it seemed like a "via ferrata" to get up there. I used the steel wire actively to haul myself up the near-vertical slabs. Without the ladders to stand in, it was really exposed, so I can understand why tourists don't do this hike nowadays.
After the initial crux it was fairly easy but still a couple of steep sections and indeed very slippery. I speeded to the summit in 45 minutes. The top had nice views of Machu Picchu as well as Aguas Calientes. I rested on the summit for a long while, breathing the fresh air and taking in the scenery stretching all the way to the lowlands of Peru (Amazonas). Eventually I had to get down again and when I came to the vertical section I had butterflies in my stomach. I managed to climb down safely, and below me stood a group of 4 tourists watching me in horror. One of them climbed up the steep section, while the 3 others decided to turn around.
Back in Aguas Calientes I got myself a dinner, checked my e-mail and eventually went back to the hotel to get some sleep before the early wake up call next morning, when I was going to see the sunrise on Machu Picchu.
Putucusi at EveryTrail