Heavenly Hikes: Desiree Winkel’s Codillera Blanca climb

Heavenly Hikes: Desiree Winkel’s Codillera Blanca climb

Desiree Winkel is 55 years young. Known as personal trainer, medical trainer and organizer of team-building events in Sint Maarten, Desiree went in 2017 to Nepal to climb to the Basecamp of Mount Everest (altitude of 5,364 meters).

In her youth, she’s climbed with her father in Belgium, France, Switzerland and later did her rock climber instruction course in Belgium. It’s always been her desire to climb a 6000-meter mountain and in May 2021, she came close to reaching the summit of Island Peak in Nepal 6189m (20305ft). Due to high altitude sickness and safety concerns, she had to stop her climb at 5900m (19357ft).

Desiree is absolutely a thrill seeker when it comes to adventure. She has travelled through jungles of Borneo and Cambodia; she has gone bungee-jumping, paragliding, flying, helicopter rappelling and jumping. And now her goals are to reach seven summits before she turns 60. She is young at heart and is far from giving up and getting old.

Her adventures this year started in California where she did a course in rescue for Alpine climbing and Avalanches, Self-arrest and more. Her expedition of the first three summits will start next month.

Yanapaccha in Cordillera Blanca – Pisco – Chopicalqui

A climber’s natural intoxicant, the Andes of Peru are the highest, most glaciated tropical mountains in the world. The famed Cordillera Blanca (white range) contains stunning climbs proudly cherished by the mountaineering community. Peru has long been a climber’s magnet, as the challenges are vast, demanding, and ever-changing.

Yanapaccha is located very close to popular Pisco, but is much less known and less frequented by climbers than Pisco. It is a moderately difficult climb with some steep sections and a final slope of up to 65 deg. to the summit. Yanapaccha is a superb preparation peak for more technical and physically demanding climbing on Chopicalqui – YANAPACCHA 5460m (17913ft).

Pisco is a suitable climb for beginner climbers, but is also a rewarding climb for experienced climbers and it is an ideal preparation peak for the demanding Chopicalqui climb, providing extra acclimatization and strength. Most years, there is no technical climbing on Pisco, but there can be short steep sections, some hard ice to negotiate, or a crevasse to navigate around – PISCO 5753m (18875ft).

At 6354m, Chopicalqui is sometimes referred to as the “third peak of Huascarán”. It is a demanding peak to climb, with sections of steep & technical climbing, crevasses to negotiate around and route finding necessary. Previous experience of climbing on steep hard ice is highly recommended, and a high standard of fitness and strength is also necessary. Chopicalqui is NOT a suitable peak for beginner climbers – CHOPICALQUI 6354m (20847ft).

Desiree will leave Sint Maarten on May 2 to begin her adventure, flying via Miami to Lima, Peru, arriving on May 3. On May 4, she will get on the bus to Huaraz about eight hours’ travel. There, she will take a couple of “rest and acclimatization” days. She will start her climbs on May 9. During this period, she will have communication only with an inreach to let her family and close friends and sponsors know if she reached the summit.

She hopes to be back in Lima around May 24, when she will start posting her pictures on Facebook and Instagram. You can follow her on Facebook @ Desiree Winkel and Instagram @ fitness_desiree_Winkel.

Because this trip is rather costly, she found great sponsorship from Heineken 0.0, Roberto R. Maal DDS PA (dentist, USA) Go Sport SXM, Soggy Dollar SXM, Philipsburg Pharmacy and Haven SXM. Most sponsors will get a summit picture with their flag. Sint Maarten flag goes to the summit also.

The backpack Desiree carries is about 18kg. She trained for this adventure since July last year. Sponsors are still welcome – if not for this trip, it will be for one of the other mountains to be conquered of the seven summits she is planning to climb. Anyone interested in doing a big hiking expedition like Mount Everest basecamp or similar can contact Desiree, as she is planning to organize one and can take you to the mystery of the beautiful mountains.

Desiree: “Being 55 and soon 56 does not hold me back from having adventurous goals in my life. I have gratitude for every day I wake up – every day that I can breathe, walk, talk, feel and hear. Life is really what you make it. I am not just lucky; I work hard for what I want. And let me tell you, it so worth it!”

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