THE OFFICIAL TOUR VIDEO...Enjoy!
The day started early. We wanted to get going early as the route was formidible and there was a high likelihood that we couldn't all make it to the other side. In fact, I didn't even call ahead and get hotel reservations. I was pretty certain we stood no chance.
The day's ride was not long in distance, but in difficulty, it was overload. I had done the route once before as I rode it solo. Looking back on it, I realize I am an idiot. I am working on a solo documentary project and this route was the culmination of the film. So I rode it solo, filmed it solo, and suffered all by myself. The film is in post production at the moment and will be coming out in the next few months, at least that is the plan.
As for the four of us, we had a plan to reach the pass at no later than 3pm. Any later and we would have to come back the way we came, defeated. All gassed up and ready to ride hard, we headed up the canyon to the trailhead.
The anticipation was high. Fernando Puga, who I just call Puga, told me that there is no option other than to reach the other side. He's a tough fella and a good rider. To put it in perspective, he is a bronze finisher in the 2017 Redbull Romaniacs. He is one of the top riders in Peru. He was determined.
His buddy, Duilio, who stands at about 6ft 4inches give or take a few inches, is a beast. He, also, had no intention to give up. We either made it or we made it. No other options.
In addition, there is Alex. He is my riding buddy from Cusco. This guy has a story to tell. I won't give it all away now, but he is as short as they come. I call him Chatito. That means "Shorty" in Spanish. He is starting the inning with a couple outs. His feet hardly can touch the ground when he mounts up on his KTM 300. However, the boy can ride.
The plan was to ride steady. No long stops. I was the only one who knew just how tough it would be. Alex had seen parts, but not very much of the trail. We began pounding through obstacle after obstacle. They just kept coming. Relentless, gut wrenching, head exploding obstacles that scream at you to quit. One by one, we conquered. I am not sure how many times the guys asked me if we were close, but it made me chuckle each time.
There were a number of "filters" that we would face on the climb to the 15,800ft pass. Each one posed its own set of problems. The technical part was enough to make one give up. However, add the altitude to that, and the will to continue dwindled to hardly anything.
It was a privilege to watch these guys battle the mental part of this journey. None of us had it in us to finish. However, there was something about the makeup of the team, that compounded the energy we had left, and turned it into a reserve for each other when we needed a little bit more boost. Somehow, we pushed through each obstacle to get closer to the top.
One of the obstacles, that is properly named for the biblical scripture painted in graffiti on the rock, is the Stairway to Heaven. The words say that the day of God is soon. Pretty much spot on. We spent an hour climbing 100 feet of elevation. There are 13 switchbacks, and enough rocks to build a quarry. Literally a one foot lunge forward on your bike was all one could do in most parts. It was a war. Each in their own battle, working their way to the top. The arrival at the top was met with a view of the upper valley, a long break to recover from the chaos, and a bunch of fluids and protein which would lead us to the next set of filters that would certainly break us down some more.
It seemed like forever, but we finally pushed through all of the obstacles to the pass with exception of the pass itself; a 15,300ft rock garden with an incline that makes me want to cry just thinking about it. One by one, we arrived at the top. Somehow, everyone made it.
I remember Puga asking about the downside of the mountain. He had this idea that it would be "just" a downhill. I chuckled again and informed him that we were not done with the filters. Just because its downhill, doesn't mean it's easy. After a short celebration on the top, our heads were ready to explode from the altitude. Air was light and nothing could get us off that mountain fast enough. Down we went.
The highest altitude area is full of rock. We had to navigate hundreds of steps and drops to bring us down toward the Cuncani Valley. With our tongues hanging out, we pounded down the edge of the canyon. Little by little, the air began to provide more oxygen as we reached the 14,000ft range. It's crazy to think that one would be happy to breath the thin air at that altitude, but when you compare to the pass, we were happy with 14k.
Before long, the hot springs that awaited our arrival was on the forefront of each of our minds. Cramping arms, legs that no longer wanted to properly stand on the pegs, and minds that were exhausted from the 7 hours of intense concentration were beginning to let each of us know that the day was just about over.
We reached the little community of Cuncani and found a new dirt road that had been cut, which we were happy to use to reach the hot springs. It wasn't long before we found ourselves pulling into the hotel and pool area, ditching our gear and plunging into the steaming mineral water to soothe our hammered bodies.
The ride was something only one could dream about, with the exception of the four of us. It's a privilege to be able to do this. Finishing a day of riding in this manner should always feel this good. I am so stoked to have shared and fought the trail with these guys. I can't wait to try the next impossible!
Stay tuned for the next adventure!