Around mile 65, my thighs were turning to jello. It was day 7 of my 100-mile trek through Peru's Cordillera Huayhuash and about an hour earlier I had hit a high point in my life – literally – when I crossed San Antonio Pass at an elevation of 16,568 feet (5,050 meters) above sea level. And now I was stumbling along after my guide, Wilder, as he floated effortlessly down the 2,000-foot, trail-less hillside to the valley floor below. Peruvians don't seem to believe in switchbacks even on their steepest slopes, and with every downward step it felt like I was doing a one-legged squat. With the quaking in my quads threatening to reach a catastrophic level I sucked in a lungful of the thin Andean air and distracted myself with the scenery ahead.
Truth be told, that was the easy part. Everywhere I looked, the landscape was gobsmacking. These were easily the most majestic and beautiful mountains I had ever laid eyes on. And yet, only a few years earlier I had never even heard of them.
Back in 2011, I was in the early days of my full-time career as a photographer and in order to scratch out a living I was...