The wind was howling about 40 miles per hour on Mount Kilimanjaro that day, Chase Boehringer said. ”We were struggling to breathe, let alone smile pretty for the camera. If you look closely, you'll see that my face is in serious agony from the below-freezing wind. Heck of a good view, though,” he said. Photo provided
Near the border of Argentina and Chile, the world's tallest active volcano stands waiting for its next contestant. Ojos del Salado has seen many men try to conquer its steep and icy summit on motorcycles and has sent them all home in defeat. Now the mountain has a new challenger and it may not be who you would expect ...
Chase Boehringer, 29, the next contender, has made it his mission to live life to the fullest. While the excursion he left for on Nov. 1 will take him to some of the most remote regions of South America, his journey had a much milder beginning.
Boehringer was raised on a ranch in the small rural community of Crow. Like many others who grow up in small towns, he got married young. At 19, Boehringer was married and had plans to settle down in Creswell. But when his short marriage ended in divorce Boehringer, then 22, fell apart.
”It was easily the darkest period of my life,” Boehringer said. ”I went through depression. I was suicidal.”
Working as a caregiver in Creswell, Boehringer was close to giving up on life. He decided to make a bucket list that would reflect his ”dream life.” The list featured 100 items, including running with the bulls in Spain – an item he never thought he would be able to do.
One day while at work at a client's home, Boehringer did the first item on his list that would change his outlook on life. He taught himself how to do a cartwheel, a maneuver that he had not been able to do in the past.
”It's not a big thing, but it's something in my head that I had always said, 'Oh, that's not for me' or 'I just can't do that.' And I did it,” Boehringer said.
Since then, Boehringer has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, ridden an elephant through the jungle and run with the bulls in Spain.
He has led a life that is full of adventure and exploration by becoming a ”travel hacker.” Boehringer's resourcefulness and determination have allowed him to accomplish the items on his bucket list for free or at extremely little cost to him.
It is this resourcefulness and determination that makes the small-town kid believe that he can accomplish a feat that some of the world's best motorcycle riders have failed to do. Combining his two passions of mountaineering and riding motorcycles, in a few days Boehringer will attempt to reach the summit of Ojos del Salado and break the world record for the highest altitude reached on a motorcycle. The whole ride is expected to take two weeks.
This endeavor comes with a multitude of hurdles. Boehringer has to get physically fit enough to withstand the grueling test that lies ahead.
He also has to obtain guides for the trip and permits for the climb – which he says cost about $10,000 alone – from the Chilean government. To afford the expedition, he has had to acquire sponsorship to help fund his equipment and other needs.
Boehringer reached out to every motorcycle company that he could think of: Harley-Davidson, Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha. Eventually, he found one manufacturer that was willing to take a chance on him. Suzuki, who sponsored the rider who currently holds the motorcycle altitude record, has provided Boehringer with a new 2020 RMZ 450 motocross bike to use.
Because of the elevation changes, Boehringer also needed some technology that would program the bike on-the-fly so it can run as efficiently at the base as it can at the summit.
Vortex, a company that develops custom ECUs (Control Digital Injection systems that control various ignition aspects) and ECUs (Electronic Control Units which control the running, memory and mapping) for motorcycles, set Boehringer up with a system that can change the tuning settings on the bike so that it has the correct air-to-fuel mixture in the changing terrain and altitude.
Aside from the bike, Boehringer needed gear that would keep his body warm and protected in the below-30-degree Fahrenheit weather. First Gear's heated motorcycle gear will be the barrier between Boehringer and the brutal mountain weather.
Boehringer has been training for the ride on his dad's 1983 Honda XR 500, a bike that he has grown up riding, but one that is very different from the one he will ultimately use for this feat. However, he will have a week to train on his custom RMZ 450 when he gets to Chile before the expedition starts.
One of the biggest challenges that Boehringer faces is altitude sickness. He said that at those heights each breath will be like breathing through a small straw.
To prepare for this, Boehringer has contacted Scott Carney, author of ”What Doesn't Kill Us,” who has taught him breathing techniques that will maximize oxygen exchange in the thin air. Additionally, Creswell Wellness Center has helped to fund the trip as one of Boehringer's main sponsors, and has provided supplements that will help keep him healthy in the mountains.
Boehringer and Creswell Wellness Center Owner Chelsea Pisani grew up together in Crow.
They kept in touch over the years and when the opportunity arose to help support Boehringer's dream, she jumped on it.
”I couldn't help but connect the dots between the mission of Creswell Wellness and his vision of attaining this amazing, challenging and fulfilling goal,” Pisani said. ”Providing him with the proper vitamins and supplements to stay healthy on the mountain was just a bonus.”
Boehringer's confidence in his gear and himself is his main motivation. He said, ”We have a great bike, I'm a good rider, we have great guides and, so far, the weather is good. So that's all I can really ask for.”
Though he only stands about 6 feet tall, Boehringer is preparing to go toe-to-toe with the 22,615-foot volcano – and a world record – with excitement, heart and determination.
Check back with The Chronicle for an update on Boehringer's advenutre.