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Story by: Joey Schusler

Riders: Joey Schusler, Nate Hills

Photos: Dave Trumpore, Joey Schusler, Gary Perkin, Claudio Olguin

The 2014 enduro season opener for myself and fellow Yeti Cycles Ambassador Nate Hills may have been the most demanding, intense, and adventurous event either of us have ever done. We embarked on our journey to South America with the intent to compete in the Andes Pacifico Enduro and then continue on after the event to explore the endless rugged peaks of the Andes.

The Andes Pacifico Enduro started high above the ski area of La Parva, tucked underneath the massive Cerro Plomo glacier. Just getting there was an adventure in itself. After 20 hours of flying time and airport layovers we arrived in Santiago met by race transport, a sketchy camionetta that needed a bump start to get going. As we drove up into the Andes in what seemed like a near vertical maze of windy switchbacks we quickly left the congestion of Santiago behind and the rugged terrain began to reveal itself. I found myself immersed in a moon like landscape perched high in the Andes, with temperatures well over 100 degrees fahrenheit, even at 10,000ft. A stark contrast to the short days and cold temps we left behind in Colorado as winter was in full effect. Spanning the course of four arduous days, the race covered nearly the entire width of the country ending on the shores of the Pacific ocean in the beach town of Maitencillo. Both Nate and I were excited to see what the Andes had in store for us.

Racing day after day was surreal. Each day brought a whirlwind adventure complete with helicopters buzzing overhead, views of towering peaks, brutal daytime temps; not to mention the eight to ten hours of racing all to be ridden completely blind. The Chilean ""antigrip soil"" as the locals have named it, was incredibly dry and loose. Many out-of-towners had trouble adapting, in some cases with disastrous results, myself included. Due to expansive and unknown terrain the entire race felt more like one big adventure, as the typical attack style race pace gave way to just surviving each stage. Thankfully after each brutal stage we were immediately greeted with delicious food and wine, along with all of our amenities in a personal tent. The tents of 80 plus competitors were lined in rows creating a make shift city of tired, happy, and slightly tipsy (thanks to Eduardo's wine label for sponsoring the event) bike racers. I could get used to this…

Day three of the race proved to be the most intense day of the entire trip. I was racing the first stage of the day when I came around a corner, got a bit off line, and got jabbed by a stick in the shin. When I looked down and saw the wound I immediately knew I was out of the race. Eight hours, an ambulance ride, two cute latin nurses, and 30 stitches later I was all fixed up. For me the race was over, but I was not out for the rest of the trip. I knew I could push through the pain and still have a great time. Upon my return, the racing long over, I came back to find Nate along with the other competitors chillin' on the beach enjoying some cervezas. His race was hindered by a wheel failure in day one but none of that frustration could be seen on his face as he enjoyed another Chilean sunset.

The following day, after a long night at the disco our crew nursed their hangovers and packed up as we hit the road south to the mountain resort of Nevados de Chillán. As we drove the landscape changed drastically, starting in a full blown desert and arriving in a thick forrest of mysterious trees. The best part of the adventure had only begun.

We knew our time in this amazing area was limited and with endless trails to explore we almost felt overwhelmed! Each new line we rode was so awe-inspiring that it would be a shame to miss any of the goods. After a brief poolside siesta and some fresh jugo de frambuesa, it was time for the daily evening riding session. The goal of the trip was to get photos and videos for an upcoming Smith Optics project to be released later this spring. Every night the sunsets were wild and beyond anything that Colorado has to offer. As the sun dropped over the horizon of the ocean, the light would fire off and we would be in an hour long photo shoot frenzy. Top it off with a few pisco sours and the day couldn't get any better.

I can't think of a better way to start the year than with an adventure such as this. All it took was a taste of summer to make me hungry for more of those warm evenings spent riding single track with friends. One thing that is apparent to me after this trip is that there are endless adventures out there to be had, and the Andes are one the most incredible places on earth for mountain biking. Stay tuned for the entire Smith Optics film later this spring, and thanks to all those involved with such an incredible trip.

For more information on the event check out the promotional video below:

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