Preparing to hike the demanding Inca Trail

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of January 15-21, 1998
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Preparing to hike the demanding Inca Trail

Preparing to hike the demanding Inca Trail
Question: My two adult sons and I are going to Peru in January and we're planning to hike the Inca Trail. I am interested in knowing if the forest fires during the fall of 1997 have affected this beautiful area. Do you have any up-to-date news?

Also, can you advise the best workout to prepare for the trek? I'm doing the incline treadmill, Stairmaster, Nautilus, and free weights for strength training. I am 59 years young and have wanted to do this trip for 20 years, but I don't want to hold up my group because I'm not in good physical condition.

Toby Mason
Chicago, IL

A hiker takes in Winaywayna, the
last major ruin on the Inca Trail

Adventure Adviser: Sadly, the forest fires did take their toll on Machu Picchu and the surrounding area. According to a January 4 article in the Houston Chronicle, archaeologists say the intense heat from the fire has cracked many of the stones that make up more than 300 buildings at the site.

Carbon residue from the fire has permanently blackened some low-lying structures, and the combination of burned foliage and heavy rains has triggered severe erosion, making some of the walkways and buildings unstable.

Botanists fear 30 of the plant species that live only in Machu Picchu may be gone forever. The solution, according to site directors, is to temporarily restrict access to the site until the structural problems are fixed.

As far as your workout routine goes, it sounds like you'll be in far better shape than your sons. You may want to buy a copy of Outside's February 1998 issue featuring Mark Allen's fitness package titled "We Won't Let Him Hurt You."

My only other suggestion is to drink a lot of water before and during the trip. Traveling to altitude is very tricky. Some people are completely susceptible to altitude sickness and others are not — I'd prepare for the worst and hope for the best!

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