Director Peter Anderson recently returned from spending nearly a month guiding treks in the Peruvian Andes; here is his report:
The first trek was International Mountain Guides’ (IMG) Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu. While any trek in the Andes is packed with up a and down as you climb from valley to valley, the Salkantay trek is especially arduous due to crossing a mountain pass at about 15,000 feet. We were breathing hard and moving slow! This was my first time getting to explore the Salkantay region…magnificent!
Our second trek with a separate group of guests was our classic Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu. While this was my fourth time doing this trek, the sights continue to be awe inspiring and the challenging days quite rewarding. Being on both trips gave me a much better perspective of the depth, size and vastness of the Andes. Additionally, I had the pleasure of working with Juan De La Cruz, our Peruvian guide for both treks. His work ethic, calm demeanor and wealth of knowledge made my job as trip leader easy and enjoyable, creating two seamlessly run treks.
However, the point of this blog is not about the treks, but really about what it means to be a responsible and prepared guide. After all, safety from start to finish is paramount as an outdoor leader. Juan exemplified this perfectly. Every day he was prepared and during our guide briefings he was always thinking and planning for contingency plans for everything from a high altitude emergency to a trekker just being overly exhausted.
On one of the first nights, at approximately 12,000 feet, I checked our group’s oxygen saturations (with a pulse oximeter that estimates the percentage of oxygen in one’s blood). Shortly afterward, Juan pulled me aside to ask about the device, why I was using it, how it helps make guiding decisions, and if it were possible for him to obtain one (they are hard to find and expensive in Peru). It is this curiosity and desire to provide better and safer service to our clientele that makes a good guide truly great.
I was able to have a trekker in the next group bring one down that SOI obtained for Juan. During some down time on our next trek, I taught him how to use it in conjunction with other assessment findings. Every day he carried it around his neck and took the time to practice using it on our whole group at a range of altitudes from 7,000 feet to nearly 14,000 feet to better understand its use, application, and the expected variability when changing altitudes on a daily basis. I was proud that he was so interested and that Sentinel Outdoor was able to provide the device and necessary education to help reach our goal of making better prepared guides for safer outdoor leadership. But, again, I was particularly proud of Juan’s desire to learn and grow as a professional. The drive to learn and improve is what it is all about – from guiding around the globe, to a paramedic on the ambulance, to being the best trauma surgeon around!