Chicon: Gazing Towards an Endless Horizon

The promotional video for the Chicon trek:

One of the things I’ve come to love most about my life in Urubamba is its dual quality. I live in a small, insular community and yet I learn and see new things everyday. I feel rooted here but have the opportunity to extend outward all the time. I am constantly reminded just how big the world is.

And nothing gave me as intense a feeling as arriving at Chicon’s peak. The decision to go wasn’t made with grace, but rather with ambivalent grumbling. In the two years I’ve been here my lungs have never quite settled in given the altitude, which can make hiking quite difficult. But when I realized that the 2 year anniversary of my arrival in Peru fell on the dates we would be climbing Chicon, I resolved to go whether my lungs liked it or not. I focused, and did my best to prepare, convinced it was for naught.

And as we climbed that first day, I studied the internal landscape as much as the harsh one we scaled. That in the time I had been here and the challenges I had faced, I really have learned a lot of things. That little by little I seem to be gaining patience and the ability to take things step by step instead of expecting a complete outcome. That to focus on the goal and how to accomplish it was much more productive than pondering can or can’t. To take each ridge as it comes, never taking for granted that it will be the last.

And yet, even being able to see these things in myself and the changes my time in Peru had wrought, it wasn’t the most profound experience of the trek. During my time here a common topic is the environmental changes in the valley – the receding snow on the mountains surrounding us. To me, this has been something to ponder in the abstract. Though distressing, I’ve not witnessed the changes myself. And even on the second day, when our guides pointed out where the snow had been the last time they had come to Chicon, 3 hours or so below our final destination, it didn’t really click. We climbed on, scaling the last portion – peaks, valleys and cliff faces of loose rocks. And still, to touch snow we needed to scale the rocks around the mountain lake the glacier towered above.

And there, the glacier was melting. Torrents of water were coming down at an alarming rate. It was more for me than seeing hundreds of news articles over the years about climate change or any Inconvenient Truth could have done. It is one thing to learn about something that seems so huge as to be unfathomable and it is quite another to witness a direct result. Elated to have made it, my emotions were tempered by the weight of how big and beyond me the world can be – a sobering realization of the profound, perhaps irreversible changes taking place as we speak. There was awe and a feeling of privilege that I was seeing something that others may never get to see again.

Urubamba’s water supply comes from the very peaks we climbed that day and it is not uncommon for the water to run out on dry season days. It’s an important reminder that despite the seemingly unending flow from the tap in developed countries, the supply is finite. The question posed as we gazed at the glacier, the “heart of Chicon” just above it, was “What will happen to Urubamba when the snow is gone for good?”

Our mini-documentary about the trek!!