Monday, 19 November 2012

How HIGH can they ride on a motorcycle?

After the boys spent some time on Ojos planning their next move, the morning was full of final preparations which included attaching lots of stickers from many sponsors.  They have many hard core discussions at night around the dinner table and it's really interesting to listen in to what happens next.



My favorite visitor showed up... Hello Mr. Fox!

What they plan to do is hike and explore the best route for riding their motorcycles to a world record elevation.  There is no road to take them.  It's going to be a lot of hard work and they want to be as prepared as absolutely possible.



Even though I am staying back today, I've got the zoom lens on where one of them falls in nearly the same place I went down yesterday.  I don't feel so bad now! Here they are spinning the tires to get through the deep sand.


After the daily morning boiling of water for breakfast, a good clean of the dishes and then I'm free for a bit.  Nothing is better than getting into the truck!  The sun has been on it and it's warm enough inside I can take my winter coat off, even if just for a short time each day.  The truck stays parked here facing the morning sun.  It runs on diesel and it will not start up due to the cold until around 1 pm, even with the hood open to catch every bit of sun.  I need to start it everyday so the boys can charge camera batteries with an inverter they brought along.

Anyway, this day while reading a book I caught something out of the corner of my eye.  I looked in the rear view mirror and this big bird has landed in our camp!  I was so amazed.  I haven't seen a single bird since we left the camp at Tres Cruces nearly a week ago.  It's like a Charles Darwin moment, but unlike Charles, I carefully and quietly got my iphone camera and took a quick shot. So careful, I didn't want to turn around, so I'm using the rear view mirror.


The bird was poking around for scraps.  Seems like he and the fox know this is the place for scraps.  The bird also had little fear, just like the fox.  I moved enough that I rolled down the window, which would startle any little bird but he just kept scruffing around for any little morsel.

So.. it's boring in general, but it ended up being the excitement of my day! ;-)


In the meantime, Barton and Lukas are on a proper scouting trip.




At some point, Walter decides to return to camp and attempt driving the truck up to Camp Tejos.  They need more water and supplies they can keep in the hut up there.  I watched Walter spinning the tires in the sand for the longest time.  He'd try to get through, back up, try again, back up.. it was hard work but he eventually got through.


Late that afternoon, they all returned.. with a grand plan.



Another morning at Camp Atacama. The boys have a plan to rest today and then tomorrow morning, make the big push.  They all agree that it's getting necessary to get the job done sooner than later.  We are all getting weaker by default.

We got to bed early that night and set the alarms for 2 AM so we can be out of here by 3 AM.  They are guessing it could take 12 - 15 hours to ride the bike through sand and glaciers to the highest point.

I need to get water to boil.  It's not happening as quick as we'd like.  But I can NOT HELP but to laugh out loud and take a photo!!  My life at the moment is being on a frozen volcano in Chile with 3 men watching water boil in the middle of the night... gee whiz, I love my life! ;-))))


It FINALLY got hot and with their hand made funnels, we filled the bottles.


Now for the hike.  The only time I've been up there was on the motorcycle and I did not stay long.

Barton and Lukas hike ahead to get to the bike where they left it a couple days ago.  Walter and I walk more slowly behind.  I like to get up early in the morning and I like to walk fast, especially when I'm cold, but Walter was passing on the knowledge he got from Barton's experience.  You can NOT walk fast as much as you'd like to.  "Take slow and steady steps Sherri Jo...."

Each time I'd pick up my speed, he'd call me up on it.  And he was so right.  The higher we went, the weaker I got.  My heart is beating out of my chest from lack of oxygen. Why do Barton and Lukas make it look so easy!?!


It's hard work but it's really special at the same time.

This photo might be an accident and makes me laugh to see it, but it might also be the last shot of me alive! ;-/


Walter and I keep together the whole time, he is really good and it works well us climbing at the same pace.  In the distance we hear the bike start.  AMAZING!  Number one that they got to it so fast, because it's still dark, freezing cold and the Husaberg 570 starts on a mountain at 40% oxygen.  If knowing that doesn't sell Husaberg motorcycles in the future, I'm not sure what will.




Here they are.. we finally caught up.  Each time we got closer, they'd get on the bike and ride through a patch so fast.  As a hiker, its like "Ugh" ... but for the boys purpose, I'd say. "Go, go, go!!!!!!!!"






Sheez, and I was getting upset falling over in the sand.. Look at what these three have to face.






Ahhh... a break.  Sit down in the sun to let the feet and hands thaw out.  Barton wanted to check my feet.  I told him they are ok.  He asked how okay are they, can I feel them.  I said of course not, but I am walking on them so they must be fine.  He said that's not good enough and asked if he could push the pointy bit of my walking stick through my shoes and tell him when I feel something.  Nope.  But dag gone, Barton!  These are big boots and I have 3 layers of socks on, I doubt I'd feel anything.  He insisted I should feel something.

He told me to sit down and take my boots off now.  No way!  It's too cold up here, I want to keep them on!  He said, just so he can check my toes, then I can put them back on.  Oh well, besides the fact I was extra 'air-heady', which is saying something!  Plus I was talking in circles, he took that to be a sign.

Off came the boots, he was pinching and poking as much as he could, I didn't feel a thing.  Damn!  That is amazing!  They were very cold earlier so I was glad I couldn't feel the prickling pain of the cold, but I didn't realize they were on the verge of developing frost bite.

Barton was amazing and with his mountain guiding skills, put my bare feet under his shirt so they warm up on his chest.  He certainly knew what to do, and he did it fast.

We waited... I did my best to hold back tears.  And he ordered me down the mountain to the emergency shack at Tejos. That's what it's there for. I have never been a mountain climber or up this high in my life outside of a large airplane.  I suppose some proper training would have done me some good, but that wasn't going to happen while I have been on the move traveling on my motorcycle for over 2 years. It is what it is...


I'm a bit embarrassed, but at the same time, I am so glad that I will not slow the boys down from reaching their goal.  That is the last thing I want, so one last photo with Walter and Barton before I start walking down alone.


So important that I follow exactly the tracks we just made.  It could be so easy to get lost up here especially with the brain not operating at full speed.  However I was clear enough to take in the beauty and wanted to take some photos along the way.





There it is and what a relief.  I found the rangers track and then it's easy cruise back to the truck parked at Tejos..




I was so happy to get in that truck.  I tried to force some of these energy gel things in my mouth as I knew part of the problem is from me not eating.  And while I was still gasping for air, any bit of air, I was going in and out of consciousness for an hour or two. Not really sure, I don't wear a watch, so maybe it was only 10 minutes. But I could tell it was a while by the shadow of the sun inside the truck and when I was aware of it, I'd move so I could be in the sun as much as possible.

Up the hill, this is what the guys are up to. 





Congratulations to the Husaberg Adventure Team for their World Record!!!!  6361 mt (20,869 ft) high in the sky.  That is incredible!!! WELL DONE!!!!!



While in the truck I heard a noise. There is no noise up there, so the tiniest sound would cause me to look around.  I see one of the guys walking on the track toward me.  I jumped out of the truck.  Who is it?  What's wrong?

It was Walter!  He told me the great news of their achievement! Earlier than expected even! He was very weak as well. He said, "Thank God your here!"  I asked, what did he mean.  (I remember thinking, you just achieved this major goal in your life and you're worried about me?) He saw some walking track's that diverted away from our path and thought I may have walked the wrong way and could be lost.

I did my best to walk with my feet directly on the tracks left behind by the motorcycle tires.  But quite honestly, I'd space it sometimes and lose the track. You wouldn't think this is possible as the tracks are very clear.

Lukas and Barton are bringing the bike back together but Walter came down sooner as he was having trouble breathing. 

He sat with me in the truck for a bit.  I told him we need to get off this mountain, I think it is killing us.  He agreed, and then went into the Tejos trailer to lay down on one of their little mattresses.


About an hour later, I hear the motorcycle.  Thank goodness! 


From here the photographs stopped.  It's still afternoon but the boys have been working at extreme elevation and extreme physical ability to achieve their goal since 2 AM.  Needless-to-say once they got together again at Tejos, sat down for a moment to rest, it was quite an emotional moment for them.  They DID it!

I personally am in awe. What these guys did was beyond Amazing. Hard core. Superhumans on a motorcycle.  It's incredible to have a front row seat as I watch three men push themselves far beyond what I would have thought a human or a motorcycle could do. I know how many months and how many dollars they put into this project.  I watched them work everyday on the bikes as well as logistics. What they did going up to 6361 meters WITHOUT oxygen is a feat in itself even if they only walked.  But they did more than that.  They carried a lot of heavy gear on their backs, and RODE A MOTORCYCLE to that level to achieve a well-deserved world record. Congratulations to the Husaberg Adventure Team... job VERY well done!!!!!

Now, another reason for no photos, we have a bit of a medical issue that needs to be addressed immediately.  Young Walter's breathing at this level has a strong sound of liquid in his lungs.  Barton gave me very firm instructions that this is HAPE and to get him down to Camp Murray ASAP.

High altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) is a life-threatening form of non-cardiogenic pulmonary edema (fluid accumulation in the lungs) that occurs in otherwise healthy mountaineers at altitudes typically above 2,500 meters (8,200 ft).  Although what makes some people susceptible to HAPE is not currently known. HAPE remains the major cause of death related to high-altitude exposure with a high mortality in absence of adequate emergency treatmentWikipedia.

That was actually quite scary.  I didn't like that sound.  Back to Camp Atacama, we quickly threw some of Walter's gear into the back, and I packed up some of my gear I would need to stay warm for the night and jumped in the truck for the long sandy ride down to Murray.  Listening to Walter, he is in fairly good spirits and continuously assures me that he's had this before.  He feels he knows the liquid will be gone by morning.

Long story short, got him upstairs at Murray and into his sleeping bag as soon as we could manage.  I stayed in the same room in the silent dark for hours listening for any signs of getting worse or better.  I would guess about 3 hours later, I could tell the gurgling sound was easing up.. Only a bit, but it was enough of a sign that I could hopefully have a little nap myself.  Somehow my brain allowed me to sleep lightly (which is not normal for me, usually quite a heavy sleeper). Any little move that man made, I'd wake up and just listen.

But very good news, by the time the sun came up, the liquid was mostly gone.  He was right.  I worried too much as usual, but I was just happy he improved so quickly.

We had to wait until the sun warmed up the truck enough so we could start the engine and go back to Camp Atacama to pack up the rest of the gear and our tents.

Lukas and Barton were there having a leisurely morning off! ;-)  Much deserved!!!  
Even I had to have a little sit down to take it all in.  This was it.. Mission completed (nearly).  Pack up, get down for one more night at Camp Murray and then we're outta here!  We have all been carrying on about which meal we want first when we get back to civilization.  Looking forward to a good meal... so much looking forward to being able to breathe!!!



Adios Camp Atacama. Adios Ojos del Salado... Thanks for a lot of incredible memories..

1 comment:

  1. Truly epic stuff! Glad to hear Walter's okay. Of course, I knew that already since I'm following one of his ride reports on ADVRider.com that he's currently working on, but you know what I mean. Thanks again for taking us along on the adventure!

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