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Getting over the hump: Kelowna wanderer offers silver lining to the unexpected

Every Wednesday, Gina Petrovich will be sharing her experiences of the world

Somewhere over the rainbow skies are grey. You thought I was going to say blue right? So did I. The opening lyrics to the classic song by Judy Garland seemed so fitting for my bucket-list hike to the summit of Vinicunca Mountain in Peru.

The first time a photo of Vinicunca, also known as Rainbow Mountain showed up on my Instagram feed, I knew I had to see it for myself. With seven vibrant colours painting the slopes, it was easy to feel skeptical and assume photoshop had its hand in painting the mountain like a rainbow.

Nestled high up in the Andes, Rainbow Mountain had only just recently been discovered and open for hikers brave enough to put themselves through the 21-kilometre round trip, not including the 2 a.m. pick-up and hour-hour drive.

At an altitude of 5,200 metres – which is half the cruising altitude of a commercial jet, this hike is no joke and many people can’t make the summit due to the lack of oxygen. There are horses available to rent to ease the strain, but the final push must be done on foot as it becomes too steep for a horse.

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RAINBOW MOUNTAIN TAKE 2! 8575 miles from home, 5200 meters above the sea level sits Vinincunca Mountain, Peru shown here 97 days apart (yes I went home and returned. ) The altitude and lack of oxygen proved this to be the hardest 13mile hike of my life both times. I will also say this proved to be one of the most beautiful rewarding hikes both times. WOW! Completely in awe over the surreal beauty of #rainbowmountain * while the snow hike was beautiful in other ways, I wasn't completely satisfied and had to make my way back to Peru to try again #adventureunfiltered . . #ginassolotraveladventures #cusco #peru #canadian #southamerica #wanderlust #adventure #livenow #nopainnogain #idratherbeoutside #potd #hike #passionpassport #welltraveled #igersperu #igersperu #vivalavida #vivaahora #mountains #mtnchicks #peoplewhohike #in2nature #werehikers #dreamchaser #andes #highaltitude #naturelovers#getoutstayout

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Along with me was experienced and knowledgeable guide Frank. We began at an altitude of 3,900 m and on this particular morning, it was very snowy — so much so that Frank suggested we turn around and try another day because the conditions would get treacherous and the mountain was not going to be visible. This wasn’t an ideal option for me as I was flying home the next day.

The higher we hiked the harder it got to breathe and despite all the cardio and strength training I did in preparation, I still had to stop to catch my breath every few minutes.

The snow stopped falling and the trail began to melt beneath my feet adding to the already challenging terrain. We passed hundreds of llamas and alpacas along the way. They stopped and watched as we trudged by.

While a light dusting of snow was not unusual, the amount covering the mountain this day was. Despite the lack of any colour other than grey and white, I still knew when I had arrived at the part of the mountain I had longed to set my eyes on. I kept staring at this familiar site as if willing the snow to blow away exposing the colourful minerals beneath. I disappointedly accepted that no amount of will would clear that mountain off for me to see.

The long journey down was not without some surreal landscape. The snow had melted off many of the surrounding mountains and exposed to me what looked like the face of another planet. Vibrant reds, and deep purples decorated this Andean canvas. Llamas grazing in the distance from a stream that seemed to flow uphill, leading to pools of water which mirrored the now blue sky. This was no longer a disappointment in my eyes, this was an example of adapting to circumstance and searching for that silver lining.

READ MORE: Kelowna wanderer offers insights on staying safe while travelling

READ MORE: Overcoming fear: Even Kelowna wanderers feel it too

Gina Petrovich is a Kelowna-based wanderer with a knack for adventure. She’s now sharing her adventures with the Capital News in a bi-monthly column.


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