On the 17th Feb 2013, 15 volunteers/backpackers set of from Huanchaco at 7:30am to climb Cerro la Compaña (or the sleeping Gorrila, cos that’s what it looks like).
We didn’t take a guide, I don’t think they exist anyway, but we did have Osku, an ex volunteer who had climbed it with a group before. So we hopped on one motorbike and in two taxis. Yep, here you can fit 8 in one taxi, one at the front, four in the middle and three in the boot. The taxi ride was… interesting. Neither of the taxi drivers knew where they were going, so we went in the wrong direction for a good five minutes. We could see the mountain from Huanchaco, so it was obvious that we were driving away from it, but we didn’t know the roads so we just assumed you had to drive round the town or something… Luckily our “guide” on the motorbike found us and took us to the right track. Our driver was more than happy to take us as far up it as possible. Now if he’d had a 4×4 this would have been a breeze. Obviously he didn’t and every stone we heard or felt scrape the underneath of his car made us all cringe as if it was our own. He however didn’t react once, as if this was completely worth the few extra Soles he was going to make.
We started walking and the heat got us straight away. It was only early morning and according to the time the last group had done it in, we were going to be at the top at midday. Clever. As we walked up the sand I could see it much clearer, and it dawned on me this was not the type of mountain I was used to, a mix of rocks, paths and trees. This was just one big fat rock. Strangely one of the first thoughts in my head was that there was not a single bush to pee behind.
As the trail got steeper but less sandy I was getting worried about the ridiculous incline. Sometimes it’s lucky I’m not a fast thinker as I would have realized if I was finding the bottom 3rd steep I wasn’t going to like the top.
So like any responsible group of mountaineers we split off from each other, not knowing how many were in front or behind. But we persevered up, and I started noticing white spots on the ground. I followed them assuming they were makings, and if not, they were as good as any route I would choose. We eventually came to a point where some others had stopped. There was a steep climb from here to a peak, which I naively took as the top. My hopes were dashed when I was told there was a good hour to go. 5 or 6 had already started making their way up, as Cornelia (my Swedish volunteer friend) and I stared up at it wondering how brave we were feeling. A few days before we had been told that the girls from the last group hadn’t made it to the top, Foreste (my Canadian volunteer friend) Cornelia and I had decided we couldn’t let this happen again. Being stood at this point, turning around to see the drops on either side, I could see where they came from and was not at all interested in carrying on to say that the girls did it. Having said that I really wanted to get to the top, and I could see the excitement in Foreste’s eye at this prospect. There was no chance she wasn’t doing it. This 17 year old ex gymnast has no end of hidden talents This mountain was not even a challenge for her. Without her encouragements me and Cornelia would have gone nowhere. It was an “I will if you will” moment for me and Cornelia, so we went for it, Foreste leading the way.
As I nervously advanced looking for white spots and checking the stability of every rock before I put my weight on it, I looked up to see Foreste joyously hoping from rock to rock in her converse, pausing only to check we were ok and to admire the view. I was reassured to know I wasn’t the only nervous one, I could see Cornelia looking the same as me, but also in converse. I have to say I have never appreciated my walking shoes as much as that day.
We got to the next peak and I started to feel a bit better. As Foreste performed a handstand, I realized it was ok to stand up and admire the view. At the top of the next peek we could finally see the one we were aiming for. How did we know it was the right one? The boys were sat on the top most rock, the flag we had all signed that morning flying in the wind. At this sight Foreste happily jumped up and down shouting “Yay we’re so close, and then we can go SURFING!!!” as I was on all fours holding on for dear life.
It was all obviously worth it, the 360 view of the desert was like nothing I’d seen before. In the distance we could see on one side the city of Trujillo, and on the other our little town Huanchaco with the waves crashing on it’s beaches. After taking a few more pictures and applying sunscreen for the 100th time that day, we started the descent. Not before my crazy danish friend Mikkel suggested “let’s all take a big rock and carry it down cos we’re all crazy and we DON’T CARE!!!”