Cycling The Globe

A Cycle Touring Expedition Around The World

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Day 1298, Rincon Blanco – El Peñon: The Wall

Posted by Thomas Andersen Posted on Apr - 28 - 2014

Distance: 12.53 km
Ride time: 3:20:48
Average: 3.75 km/h!!!
Altitude: 3604 m
Total: 25688 km

I had envisioned a rather easy day climbing the 12 kilometers to Refugio El Peñon. That was not to be! Even though the night had been rather quiet, the Zonda wind quickly picked up as the sun rose. Furthermore I was now cycling on dirt, making progress even slower, lowering the speed to around 4 km/h.

Cycling like this for the first part of the day was slow, but still doable. Then, with 3 kilometers to go, it felt like I was hitting a wall – the altitude and lack of oxygen was now kicking in hard. My brain could see the road ahead, steep, but not steeper than it would normally be possible to cycle up with an acceptable speed. Now, however, the legs simply didn’t have more power as the lungs were screaming for oxygen. In several sections I had to push the bike. I knew I was about to feel the effects of the altitude sooner or later, but I was somewhat disappointed with myself that I was hit this hard this early on the mountain.

On the last kilometer things got even worse. I was now pushing the bike and resting every 50 meters to catch the breath. As I arrived at the refugio I just sat down and stared at the mountains still in front of me. I was thinking that if this was how it would be to cycle in altitude, the next days would be very hard. Even walking the 50 meters to get water from a pipeline felt like a major accomplishment.

There are several refugios on the route we are planning to take into the mountains. These robust stone structures were built in the 1850-70’s to give shelter to the travelers in this remote part of the Andes Mountains. I found it fascinating to imagine all the adventurous people who would have been spending a night here during those last 150 years.

A little later Petter arrived at El Peñon as well. We both agreed that this had been hard cycling. Some people had left a bit of food inside the refugio, so we spiced up our pasta meals with some welcome potatoes and onions – things that would be too heavy for us to carry on the bikes.

In the night we would feel the effects of the altitude as well. As we were laying down in our sleeping bags we felt comfortable enough, but we just couldn’t sleep. We knew it had to do with the fact that the heart beat goes down when you are sleeping. As we are already at an altitude with a lot less oxygen compared to sea level, the body is simply not too willing to sleep.

I had been looking forward to experience the effects of altitude for a long time (the highest I have ever been is 3800 m). Today I had felt on my own body what I had been reading other people explaining in countless books and articles over the years.

Categories: Argentina
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One Response so far.

  1. Martin says:

    True adventure Thomas!! Best 73.