Blood and Dust in Chile

Feb 28, 2014
by Yeti Cycles  
Nate Hills getting acquainted with the Chilean anti grip soil on stage two day one of the Andes Pacifico enduro race.

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.

After 20 hours of travel from sub-zero temperatures in Colorado our first sunset encounter in Chile was much appreciated.

The Andes are no joke. The roads wind up and up and provide for some of the longest descents in the world. The Andes Pacifico had over 30 pickup trucks to transport racers between stages.

The Andes Pacifico started high up above the capitol city of Santiago tucked just below the Cerro Plomo glacier.

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. 

For most the lesion stages were the hardest part of the Andes Pacifico. With rugged loose terrain and scorching temperatures it s not any wonder.

Stage three on day two was perhaps the most fun stage of the entire Andes Pacifico for many riders.

Joey Schusler was charging within the top ten for the first two days of the Andes Pacifico before things went awry.

With big descents come big climbs. This was a common sight throughout the entire Andes Pacifico.

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…

Out with the old in with the new.

Nate Hills suffered a mechanical early on in the four day race but slowly worked his way back up the rankings.

This was our moving village for the four days during the Andes Pacifico. Each competitor was assigned to their own tent.

Above the clouds high up in the Andes.

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.

Nate Hills charging to the finish on day three of the Andes Pacifico.

Racing every stage blind resulted is some wild moments fighting to stay on course. Joey Schusler nearly ran into photographer Dave Trumpore in this shot.

The Chilean anti grip soil caught most competitors in the Andes Pacifico off guard at least once. Here Joey Schusler takes a high speed tumble on day one stage two.

It s important to stay on line here in the Chilean Andes. If not you might come home with some spiny souvenirs.

There was nothing but dust and not a drop of rain for the entire four day event.

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. 

Layer upon layer upon layer of mountains and we ended up racing over all of them.

Joey Schusler had a run in with a very sharp branch. Luckily Smith Optics team manager Mal Burda was nearby to help assist the situation.

The puncture in Joey Schusler s shin resulted in a ride to the hospital and 30 stitches.

Nate hammering it home on day four of a very challenging Andes Pacifico race.

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.

Once the race was over and beers were cracked open on the beach it was all smiles.

To start from way up high in one of the largest mountain ranges in the world and finish in an awesome beach town was an experience I m sure none of these people pictured will soon forget.

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. 

After the race Joey Schusler and Nate Hills headed south to Chill n where the terrain was quite the opposite from the Andes Pacifico route.

In Chill n the volcanic ash has created a surface to ride on that isn t rivaled by anything else the crew had ever experienced.

One last Chilean sunset for Nate Hills and Joey Schusler before heading back home and the cold of Colorado.

Story by: Joey Schusler
Riders: Joey Schusler, Nate Hills
Photos: Dave Trumpore, Joey Schusler, Gary Perkin, Claudio Olguin


  • 21 1
 What an adventure, I really enjoy reading this, even though Im from Chile, it feels like I was reading one of those great adventure located in exotic places and stuff. I realise how lucky I am because of what nature has give us.
  • 6 1
 Puta que es linda mi tierra! (Damn my homeland is beautiful!)
  • 14 0
 That looks like an epic trip!
  • 21 1
 crashing thumbnail caught my attention
  • 1 0
 that crash pic is epic
  • 16 5
 I dont know about you guys, but I never read any of the words.
  • 4 1
 All I read was the part about his shin...
  • 1 0
 All I got is Dam!
  • 8 0
 This whole collection of photos is stunning! What a trip!
  • 8 0
 that fly is lovin' the shit outa that blood..
  • 3 0
 Great article! I always chuckle a bit when I see those tent cities at such events. All I can imagine is one big anonymous fart-comp after lights out.
  • 5 0
 That's a happy fly!
  • 2 0
 Great article!; by far, the Andes was my best mtb school growing up in Chile and now i get to apply that knowledge and skills here in BC!
Keep up the good work!!
  • 1 0
 gotta say, chile, santiago - la parva, and more importantly the places between.. are some of the best, in the world. in the f*ckin' ....... world. great photo bit, didnt get to read. : ( (on bus for only so long)
  • 3 0
 I wish we all could ride at a place like this!
  • 1 0
 we I used to do hardcore freeride back in the day I wore a pair of soccer shin pads, they are light comfortable and protect shins/ankle bones
  • 3 0
 Look at all those PODs
  • 2 0
 We all know that feel of shredded shin.
  • 1 0
 Antigrip soil! Ha! Now for antigravitational jumps and slo-mo landers for cool effect.....Smile
  • 2 0
 Those photos.... damnn
  • 1 0
 @Mrpink51 buy a frame and put on whatever you feel like ;-)
  • 1 0
 Don't you dare make a noise in the tents.
  • 1 0
 Everything I see about Chile makes me want to go there more and more
  • 1 0
 Nice work Joey & Nate.
  • 1 1
 Would love to see a video.
  • 1 0
 I gotta get outta Reno.
  • 1 0
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