You don’t necessarily need two years and legs of iron to get a good look at the Andes. You just need a sense of adventure, a little training, and a plane ticket to Quito, Ecuador, to tick off the Trek of the Condor, a five-day route between the Ecuadorian town of Papallacta and Cotopaxi National Park.
“There’s wild horses, 14,000-foot passes, different kinds of deer than we had ever seen before. It was amazing,” says Treinish, who traveled the route on his journey across the Andes. “There’s volcanic ash everywhere, and we were walking by peaks rising more than 16,000 feet.”
The trek is open to anyone with the training—or, perhaps a better word is courage—to walk at over 10,000 feet for several days. The landscape is harsh, marked by rain, fog, and wind, but its wildness is a large part of what makes it so undeniably striking. While walking on the páramo, the high-altitude grasslands, trekkers encounter villagers herding their animals as their ancestors have for centuries, lagoons dotted with birds, a glacier, and the looming peaks of some of the highest active volcanoes in South America.
Several outfitters offer guided treks on the Condor route, such as Ecuador Eco Adventure.
Gregg Treinish hiked the entire length of the Appalachian Trail and, over two years, some 7,800 miles of the Andes. But the accomplishment Treinish is arguably most proud of is founding Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation, an organization that connects adventurous travelers with scientific organizations in need of data in remote locales. So far, more than a thousand travelers have volunteered to collect samples and observations, from grizzly scat on the Continental Divide Trail to high-altitude plants on Mount Everest.
Gregg Trenish's Gear Pick: Great Food
“Good food is essential” on backpacking trips, says Treinish. “If it’s shorter than a week, then I’ll carry a block of cheese, salami, and jars of Nutella and peanut butter. If it’s longer, then I’ll take AlpineAire dehydrated foods.” His favorites? Western style tamale pie with beef and black bart chili with beans. “They also have pretty good desserts, like dehydrated strawberries, which I love.”