As indicated in the title above, this is part 2 of my last trip away before our baby is born. (read part 1 here)
After spending a couple of days rock climbing at Hatun Machay, I dropped down into Huaraz, the largest town in the mountain range.
Huaraz is an interesting place. It isn’t much to look at. Some would even call it ugly, although I wouldn’t go that far. It is mainly used as a launch point to explore the surrounding mountains. When I first saw it last May my impression was, “Wow, I wouldn’t want to spend a lot of time here.” Now that I know it better I’m wishing we would have posted up in an apartment and really hung out. A lesson for the future.
My good buds (Hugo, Robert, and Royce) came up from Lima to do a mountain bike trip. Remember these guys? They took me on what was “Perhaps the best mountain biking trail in the world” (remember here) a couple of weeks ago.
I hooked up with them for another day of riding. I was feeling stoked… even a little cocky. I had survived the previous 35 mile epic adventure and was fired up to get some more.
Our mission was a down hill ride past the beautiful and famous high mountain lake, Llanganuco.
Just getting to the lake requires driving straight up from the valley floor to around 12,000 feet. It’s an absolutely incredible location. One of the most pristine I’ve seen in Peru.
We drove past the lake and continued to climb another crazy mountain road. We were getting way the hell up there, and I started to wonder what these guys were getting me into. They assured me, based on my performance the previous trip, that I would be fine. I took that with a grain of salt.
As we climbed we enjoyed un-f’ing real views of Lago Llanganuco. In the photo below you can see the road on the right side of the lake.
It seems like every time I do one of these trips I find myself saying, “Man, this is the best drive I’ve ever done!” But this one was actually top-top-top of the list. We continued to climb a gnarly series of switch backs, and I felt the air getting thin. I knew the snow capped mountains around us were well over 20,000 feet, and it seemed like we were getting damn close.
I tried to convince the boys that the best way to adjust to the altitude was to do some wind sprints. No takers. We were all feeling a little light headed.
Finally we arrived at the top of the pass. I thought biking down the road would be gnarly enough for me. Then they pointed out the actual trail. Gulp.
Off in the distance, on a slope that was so much more insanely steep than this photo makes it out to be, was a zig-zag mountain bike trail. Can you see it?
Here it is a little more zoomed out and you can see how close we are to the summits.
Our starting altitude, 15,483 feet. Damn. That’s the highest I’ve been in the Andes. It was actually the highest I’ve been since the last time I was in the Himalayas. Too late to change my mind, I knew I was in for a hell of a ride.
Breathing was difficult at a stand still. The altitude was hurting everyone. Remember, just a couple days earlier we were all at sea level in Lima. We were all eager to start the decent.
I discovered that pumping up a bike tire gave me the equivalent of doing a nitrous hit. I quickly volunteered to top off everyone’s tires.
Everyone geared up, and we were ready to rock.
As we took off down the trail I quickly realized that I was in over my head. If you consider a semi-vertical rock cliff to be a good biking trail, then you’d love this. Hugo certainly did.
I played it very conservative. You see, Stevie has me on injury probation. That means that I’m not allowed, under any circumstance, to get hurt. She says she doesn’t want me to steal her thunder…this is her time to be pampered. In the last 5 years she has endured my many surgeries, broken feet, 6 months pushing a wheelchair, a sternum fractured completely in half, 5 months of bad ears, a liver injury, a ceiling fan attack, countless cuts, one near drowning… I could go on, but you get the point. I knew that if I came home with a broken bone a couple of weeks before she went into labor, I’d be on my own.
Trails like that aren’t easy on the tires. Below Robert and Royce change a flat. Great view of the road in the background.
More of the same…
As we got closer to the lake, the trail eased up. The views were absolutely spectacular.
We had lunch at the lake, and then continued on a trail that went down toward the valley floor.
We all bonked before we actually made it back to the valley. The truck picked us up and we headed back to Huaraz for beers.
I guess we had more than a few, because somehow I ended up leaving with two cases. A good investment I suppose.
Although the trail was over my head, I have to say that this was probably one of my best mountain biking days ever, simply because of the challange and location. Plus the great crew. Epic.
It was a fun few days, but heading back to Lima the next day all I could think about was Stevie and the baby. I spent the whole drive home reading my pregnancy coaching book. I’m fired up. I’m stoked.
Lets do this baby thing! I’m ready!