In the winter of 2014, I set out for the Peruvian Andes with my great friends and trusted adventure partners, Thomas Woodson and Sam Seward. The trip was fueled by the ever evolving need to make each adventure bigger and more thrilling than the last. We went in search of high alpine single track in vast landscapes; places where bikes are not commonplace. Our goal was to circumnavigate one of the most wonderful and wicked mountain ranges in the world–Cordillera Huayhuash–by bicycle.
Our adventure was to be fully self-supported—a daunting thought at first. Our packs would have to carry the weight of camera gear, spare bike parts, our nightly shelter, food for nine days, and many other little bits needed to pull off an adventure into the unknown. While all very experienced mountain bikers, this was our first endeavor into the world of bike packing. We were up for the huge weeklong challenge and eager to get to the trail.
January is the rainy season for the high mountains of Peru, thus the wilderness would wear a desolate coat, void of tourists, or really anyone for that matter. The route that we planned for had only been completed once before by bicycle. Why? As Thomas Woodson puts it, riding a bicycle in this terrain is “like pushing a wheelbarrow up a staircase while trying to breath through a drinking straw.” Going down may have been easier on the lungs, but was often extremely dangerous.
Some of the lines we rode most certainly must have been first descents by anyone. We pointed our tires down rocky couloirs and 16,000-foot passes, watched sunrise below the tallest mountains in Peru, and slept eerily close to the many glaciers where the story of Touching the Void took place. We kicked soccer balls with locals in the streets and clinked a few beers after one of the most challenging weeks of our lives. The weather was relentless, and while not everything went to plan (you’ll have to see the video for all the details), we came out alive and in good spirits, despite some close calls.
- Nat Geo Expeditions