We had a good snow last night. I'm nervous as all heck as you can imagine. I don't consider myself qualified for this sort of thing. I did feel a ton better about it though, after riding Walter's bike to the base camp yesterday. Gee whiz, that was the craziest ride I have ever had on a motorcycle. And what was weird about it, I truly liked it! What a difference it is to ride a motorcycle not loaded with any gear in the sand, too fun!!
Now to add to my worrisome self, the snow is a drawback and I told them I'd rather wait until the snow melted (as it's doing already in the sunlight) and so I can see where I'm going or what I'm about to hit. As usual, what I think is the opposite of what I should think. They convince me that having snow is better and in fact, we better hurry before it melts... For real???????
They tell me the snow is colder making the soft rubble underneath it a bit more frozen. Hence, harder giving me more grip until the sun warms it up. I'm not sure I buy that theory. They may be right, but I think it's more just to get me on the bike and go rather than listening to all the excuses I come up with.
AND, Walter adjusted a couple things on this bike yesterday for me and he'd just assume have me finish using it so he can re-adjust the bike permanently back to where he wants it.
Right. I suit up.
The guys have been up this hill already. Walter's eye is much better (thank goodness). He and Lukas ride with me. With only three motorcycles, Barton opts to hike up being the mountain climber type of guy he is.
Walter does the best he can to explain to me what to do in certain scenarios, and says "try not to stop".
Just before that steep part, Walter stops. Why is he stopping, he just said don't stop?! So I stop along side him as he has something to say.. at an angle that didn't suit the one legged thing, and I fell right over just there! Damn! Great way to start a world record day!
Barton, who was walking, not riding, caught up to us already. They helped me pick up the bike from that dreadful angle. But if this is going to be Sherri Jo's world record, I can not have any help riding.
It was so difficult to get the bike out. I tried the same trick as yesterday, super throttle out of the sand. It had a mind of it's own, dragged me off track onto the hillside, a big stone that I hit with the front tire took me down again. Bugger!
The guys are yelling at me. "Don't worry about it SJ! Once you get past this bit it gets easier!" Yeah right...
I struggled and struggled in the beginning. I really thought this is going to be impossible for me. The air is so thin.. Today is the complete opposite to yesterday's experience. Why couldn't that ride have been to a world record elevation? ;-/
I got past the bad patch and right into another bad patch. It was an alternative route they suggested thinking it would be easier with less deep sand. Less or not, it was freakin' deep, and with the big hidden rocks grabbed the wheel and took me down. Dag gone it!!! The good news, falling over doesn't hurt a bit. I went down a total of 3 times. But they were right, once I got past that ridge, it was a fairly easy track.. thank goodness!!
Walter had me stop for a photo at where he feels he knows to be the highest elevation achieved by a woman before - at 5400 meters. He is always full of fun facts. When we traveled in Russia together, at each lunch stop I'd get a run down of everything we were seeing including statistics. I used to call him the Encyclopedia if I wasn't calling him my other favorite name, Captain Magadan.
Here's a heap more photos from the helmet cams...
The higher we went the harder the ground was, which is a good thing.
Yeah, this was like riding any other dirt road, not a problem at all, wink wink..
I see the trailer for Camp Tejos. This is a shack that is used by mountaineers in case of emergencies. But again, it's at 5,825 m (19,111 ft). You don't want to spend the night here if you don't have to. We are at 40% oxygen. It's so hard to breathe. My heart is pounding out of my chest just sitting here! I got the impression this is the goal destination, but it's not. There's more!
Carry on Sherri Jo!
We got to the point where I can't go any higher. The boys attempted it earlier, got stuck and know that when they come back, they have to bring a winch.
Goal destination complete. To my greatest surprise, I did it! The photos above and below are of the same high five, one coming from Walter's helmet cam and the other from Lukas at the same time. Walter pointed that out when he sent the photos over to me yesterday. Very cool.
Walter brought over the gps for an official elevation total. I laughed and said, "Aw, you might as well just call it 5900 meters." They both said straight away, take the 3! Take the 3! Okay then! 5903 meters!! (19,367 ft) When it comes to world records, every number counts! And as far as we know, it's around 500 meters higher than any other woman has recorded riding a motorcycle.
We stopped here to have a little rest and relish in a proper goal accomplished. I still feel a bit out of place. We are in this part of the world because these 3 boys have a dream of achieving a world record. I am only here to help. They are planning to go much higher than this, but it is such a huge gift from them to get me to do this to 5903 mt on what is officially their adventure using Walter's bike. I will never forget this..
Walter's idea to line the bikes up and take group self photo. They are amazing guys, and this is just so cool! Very proud to be here with them.
We went back down to the Tejos shelter to see if Barton is here yet. He is not, but I got to see Penitentes for the first time. I never even heard of these things before! Walter explained them to me. They are very close to the trailer and what an amazing work of natural art!
You gotta love Wikipedia, this is their description: "They take the form of tall thin blades of hardened snow, or ice, closely spaced with the blades oriented towards the general direction of the sun. Penitentes can be as tall as a person." Even in the world of global warming, they certainly can be "as tall" as a person! ;-/ ??
Barton finally arrives. That is a long hard walk up hill with minimal oxygen, but he's got a lot of experience with just that, so he did very well. However, there are only 3 motorcycles. I would be happy to walk back down to Camp Atacama and let Barton have a motorcycle to get back.
I started walking down Volcan Ojos del Salado (it's still weird to look at this place as being a volcano). A lot of hikers/climbers actually use little oxygen tanks at this level. We don't have oxygen, so the sooner I can get down to a lower level, the better. The boys are tough. They hung around Tejos and did what they could with the bikes as well as to come up with a plan for bringing gear for their own world record attempt that will take them not only higher, but through a glacier.
As I wandered down, I was so thirsty. About half way, I found a patch of snow and I just sat there melting snow in my mouth watching the world go by. How often in one's life can you sit on a mountain alone like this. It was bliss.