A Short Walk to the Edge of Life

How My Simple Adventure Became a Dance with Death--and Taught Me What Really Matters

A Short Walk to the Edge of Life book cover
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Chronicling the failures and miracles of a remarkable physical and spiritual passage, A Short Walk to the Edge of Life is the gripping, true story of a man who had to come to the end of himself before he could find his way home.

How could he possibly make it out alive?

It was supposed to be a simple day hike. Scott Hubbartt was a military veteran with years of survival training. Everyone who knew him considered him an expert adventurer.

But Scott’s trek into the treacherous backcountry canyons of the Peruvian Andes turned into a desperate fight to survive after he became hopelessly lost. As his eight-hour hike lengthened into days, Scott faced dehydration, hunger, and exhaustion. And that’s when his true journey began.


Praise for A Short Walk to the Edge of Life

“Think Robert Frost meets The Worst-Case Scenario handbook. Reading A Short Walk to the Edge of Life took me on the worst possible ‘road not taken,’ and even though I feel beaten up and drained emotionally, my spirits are lifted. Indeed, his journey has made all the difference.”
—Eric Blehm, New York Times best-selling author of Fearless

“I feel and understand the writer’s suffering as he clung to life in a most rugged environment. While Scott Hubbartt expresses disappointments, he still was willing to pursue the ideal point of his destination. As a Holocaust survivor, I can relate his determination to mine. In my own way I, too, walked to the edge of life. When people are in a peril of life, Scott Hubbartt’s book A Short Walk to the Edge of Life could serve them well in reaching their attainable goals. I strongly endorse this book.”
—Boris Kacel, author of From Hell to Redemption

“A true story that makes a compelling read. Scott Hubbartt tells it as it happened. A real-life experience and a refreshing change from the mundane.”
—Norman Brackenridge, volunteer in humanitarian endeavors worldwide

“This is a gripping, real-life account of retired air force veteran Scott Hubbartt, who set off on foot for what he thought would be a simple day hike. Instead, the trek became a near-death experience. Readers will find his telling of the journey—and its unexpected and dramatic detour—is as entertaining as it is profound. You are drawn into the story, feeling as if you are walking with Scott along the treacherous slopes of the Andes or tasting the last drops of life-giving water when his very survival is in doubt. Along with witnessing his courage, you will share in Scott’s epiphany
about faith and love and will celebrate his rescue and recommitment to the things that matter most in life. This is a must-read story that will entertain and inspire with each turn of the page!”
—Larry K. Grundhauser, Brigadier General, US Air Force (Retired)

“What was meant to be a short walk in the Peruvian puna turned out to be a four-day battle of survival for Scott Hubbartt in which he not only faced the edge of physical endurance in the most difficult conditions but also touched the depths of a man’s solitary struggle, both emotionally and spiritually. In this precarious moment, Hubbartt gathered all his strength, hope, and confidence, while turning to higher and divine wisdom. His touching and powerful story is a plea for faith, humility, and gratefulness.”
—Erika Schuh, author, traveler, and international volunteer


And So It Begins

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
—James 1:5–6

Wednesday, 2 November 2011, 1950 Hours,
Casa Barrera, Trujillo, Perú
(8º 06’37.05” S, 79º 01’19.36” W—Elevation 130’)

Journal note that I left at my bedside in the Barrera house the day before my departure:

2 Nov. 2011, 1950 hours—Trujillo

On the eve of my long-awaited adventure to Cerro Pingullo in the western Andes. I am searching for the hamlet of Chepén and Las Minas Casualidad, which are mentioned in my wife’s grandfather’s [Felipe’s] will.

As a gringo in Peru, I am an anomaly. A stranger. I have many handicaps—the inability to fluently speak the language not the least of them. Still, I go. There are more intrepid souls, but I figure myself about middle of the road. Still, I go into the unknown in the lower Altiplano of the middle-western Andes. My destination tomorrow is Salpo. From there I hope to explore Carabamba and the hamlet of Chepén. In a day or two I will attempt the descent to Poroto.

Felipe did it, who knows how many times. I want to tell my grandchildren about his exploits from firsthand experience.
They say I’m crazy. That’s OK. I’m just curious and determined.


I’m just a regular guy. I balance bills, pay a mortgage, and try to be the best father I can be to my three grown daughters as well as an acceptable husband to the perfect wife. But in a nutshell, during a week of November 2011, I messed up big time.

This is my story.

It all started when I went for a walk in the Peruvian puna, which some call the Altiplano and others the Alto Pampa. It’s the high desert region of the Andes mountains characterized by dry, barren, windswept, and rocky terrain—where only the hardiest of living things can exist. It was supposed to be an eight- to ten-mile hike along what I expected
would be an established, easy-to-follow trail. Instead, I became hopelessly lost and almost died.

After my fifteen visits to Peru, many people regarded me as a kind of expert on travel in that country. I was often complimented on my tales about my adventures in this wonderful land, which is twice the size of Texas. But that’s the danger of flattery: over time you start to believe it. It has been many months since my little expedition, and I am still
trying to fully appreciate the gift I was given—more than life itself, which we too often take for granted. I now know that God has at least two plans for my life: One is that I was supposed to survive in that desert. Second, I am to share my story with anyone who will listen.

From the Trade Paperback edition.