Sports Zone

Riding to the top

Chase Boehringer and his team group up for a photo in the shadows of Ojos del Salado. The green Kawasaki was a replacement bike that the team ended up renting from a local motorcycle shop after their Suzuki had mechanical issues. His two guides were past Chilean national champion enduro racers and his mechanic is one of the top Kawasaki technicians in Chile. Photo provided

Ojos Del Salado, Chile – What do you do when it seems like everything that can go wrong does go wrong?
According to Chase Boehringer, you have to get resourceful.
Earlier this month, Boehringer, 29, claimed a world record for the highest altitude reached on a stock, unassisted motorcycle.
The excursion was unlike anything he had attempted previously. After months of preparation, training and traveling, Boehringer came face-to-face with ”the most challenging experience that I have chosen to do.”
Boehringer grew up riding dirt bikes with his father, though his latest expedition was nothing like riding his dad’s 1983 Honda XR 500 around their ranch in Crow.
From the first day he was in Chile, Boehringer encountered danger and issues that would jeopardize the trip.
He was entering a nationwide political protest that saw thousands of angry people taking to the streets, specifically to the government’s Office of the Environment – the building where he had to go to obtain his permit for the expedition at the last minute before the trip was scheduled to begin.
After sitting in the office all day, the officials began leaving for the weekend. Boehringer convinced an official to bear with him and get his permit issues taken care of.
Hours after the building had closed, he emerged with the permit in his hands, he said, having had to sneak out the back of the building to avoid the mob of protesters.
A small victory after a long week of worrying, he said.
And then Boehringer was on his way to attempt to reach the highest altitude ever on a motorcycle.
But just as one issue was resolved, another began.
Boehringer said his highly modified Suzuki RMZ 450 would not start at the base of the volcano. After hours of wrenching and working, the team of three (Boehringer and his two guides) figured out that the ECU – the electrical brain of the motorcycle – was keeping it from starting.
Devastated, the trio went eight hours away to Copiapo, Chile to fix the issue.
When no fix could be found, Boehringer said he rented a Kawasaki KX 450 dirt bike and called in a Kawasaki specialist from Santiago, Chile.
All was fine … for now. The four men headed back up the mountain. The weather was ideal, the bike was running well and they were in good spirits.
But after riding a while, the new bike started to run poorly in the thin air. When the mechanic had no fix for the problem, Boehringer said he sprung up and exclaimed, ”I’m going old-school”; he used a zip tie to limit the fuel that was going into the motor, allowing it to run better in the high altitude.
Yet, at the 5,800-meter mark the bike would not work anymore. With two broken motorcycles, Boehringer racked his brain to come up with a solution. They returned to base camp and developed a new idea, he said.
They put the stock ECU back on the Suzuki. It fired right up. Then they put everything back to stock on the Suzuki, from the tires to the exhaust.
The new plan was to break the world record for a stock motorcycle, since their modifications were actually interfering with the bike’s abilities on the volcano. With the stock Suzuki running poorly, but running nonetheless, they pressed on up the mountain inch by inch.
At 19,000 feet, Boehringer’s luck again turned south. A massive snowstorm was visible in the distance and bearing down on Ojos del Salado.
”The clouds that were up there were as big as the mountain,” he said. ”They were so huge.”
Considering a book that he had read titled ”Into Thin Air,” by Jon Krakauer about the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, Boehringer knew they didn’t have long until the storm would make the mountain too dangerous to continue.
Boehringer made it to about 5,890 meters before his motorcycle and body could not make it any further up Ojos del Salado’s icy, sandy and rocky slopes – 500 meters shy of his original goal.
The nine-day expedition came to an end.
After the trip, he was physically and emotionally drained.
”I was so intensely focused that when I left I didn’t want to think about it at all,” Boehringer said. ”I didn’t want to look at my content. I didn’t want to talk to people. I made one video and I sent it to like 10 people in my life that are close to me that wanted to know if I am alive, and then I turned my phone off.”
Boehringer credits part of his success to the training and supplements that he received.
Creswell Wellness Center supplied him with vitamin B and other pills. ”It genuinely helped,” Boehringer said. ”I have climbed a lot of mountains and done this kind of stuff at altitude and I have never felt better.”
In the midst of all the issues he encountered, Boehringer’s resilience and resourcefulness are what he is most proud of.
”I think resourcefulness is the biggest lesson in this – understanding that it’s never a lack of resources, it’s a lack of resourcefulness that is our challenge,” Boehringer said. ”This has just been a master class in that.”



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