The Wandering Trio: Biking and Mountaineering in Peru – Part 1
Three recent graduates set out on a trip aimed to combine their passion for alpinism, experiencing new cultures, and biking into one adventure. This is not the first time these disciplines have been combined in the Peruvian Andes, but that didn’t make this any less difficult.
The team was made up of Kevin Trippe, Nathanial Iltis, and Pyper Dixon. Kevin and Pyper worked as ice climbing guides in Alaska, while Nathan was a frequent backcountry skier in Montana. Nathan is also the best biker in their group and the only one with any mechanical knowledge. He quickly became the resident bike mechanic. Pyper supplied the team with his prior knowledge of biking in foreign countries, as well as his stubbornness to see any foolhardy plan through to completion. Here are the guys, in their own words, recounting their exciting journey inside Peru.
From left to right: Pyper Dixon, Kevin Trippe, and Nathan Iltis
Initially we planned to climb several glaciated 6,000-meter peaks without any motorized help, but after looking at the elevation profile of our chosen route we realized the insanity of carrying our mountaineering gear on our road bikes. We flew into Lima, Peru on Sept 19, and sent our climbing packs ahead to Huaraz. Two weeks later we picked up our gear in Huaraz and climbed with the assistance of a few short taxi rides to the trailheads. This quickly changed the purity of a true human-powered trip, but we didn't stand much of a chance without the assistance. The trailheads were not easy to find without an experienced driver, and they were not safe places to store bikes.
Biking the first of many passes at 16,000 feet
The first part of this trip was the journey from Lima to Huaraz on our bicycles. The main highway from Lima to Huaraz runs north along the coast for 370 km before it cuts sharply and climbs 140km into the Andes. Instead of this route we decided to bike immediately from Lima into the mountains. Then we worked our way north towards Huaraz on a series of tiny, steep dirt roads. This different route increased our total distance to 620km. It also entailed approximately 46,000 feet of climbing. It took us 14 days, including a day and a half of rest: that´s 3,300 feet of climbing and descending everyday.
The combination of constant climbing, living at altitude, heavy bikes, and eating low quality food took a toll on our bodies. We each carried 30 lbs. of camping gear, food and water on our bikes and on many days we biked over 16,000 ft. passes, higher than any mountains we had ever climbed at that point. The air was thin so it slowed us down.
Kevin and Pyper patch tires at the campsite, with the Cordillera Huayhuash in the background.
Every day we awoke early to take advantage of the 12 hours of daylight. The success of a day was measured not by miles covered, but feet climbed. We used our Garmin fēnix 3 watches to track our altitude each day and by combining satellite images of the roads with TOPO maps we were able to determine the high points of the mountain passes we would bike through. At any point during the day we could also use the altimeter on our watches to calculate our rate of ascent and get an idea of how much climbing we had to the next pass. Our daily trials ranged from pushing bikes through un-rideable terrain, fixing bike parts that broke during the tumultuous downhill, and pausing during our most frustrating moments to film with the Garmin VIRB XE camera.
A common sight on our chosen route, a long switchbacking dirt road
By the time we reached Huaraz we had gone through all 30 of our bike tire patches. We rode in on slowly leaking tubes and had worn our brake pads down to the bare metal. Upon our arrival in Huaraz we met up with two fellow guides, Josh and Henry who were going to teach us how to climb high elevation. Stay tuned for next week’s blog and hear about part 2 of their journey from Huaraz to the Yanapaccha summit.
There are outdoor adventures all over the world and these three guys were lucky enough to experience one amazing trip. Stay tuned for Part 2 of their adventure in the following weeks and don’t forget to share with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and use #HaveNoLimits.
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