Ten jaw-dropping photos from Joey Schusler’s latest adventure in Bolivia’s Cordillera Real mountain range.
“The thing I love about bikepacking is the absolute freedom it affords you. Add a few like-minded friends to the mix and you have yourself a recipe for some good times in the mountains—simple as that.”
“While we had come to Bolivia for the first attempt at bikepacking the entirety of the Cordillera Real’s west side, we couldn’t help but say yes when our driver asked us if we wanted to do a couple of shuttle runs the day before heading out into the wild. Here, Carston Oliver drops a 6,500 ft (2,000m) descent below a shrouded Illampu Peak, starting the trip off on a good note.”
“Bikepacking is as much about connecting with nature, friends, and learning about yourself as it is about the actual riding. When you’re on your bike all day, you learn to enjoy the casual conversation while spinning up a doubletrack just as much as the ripping scree descent on the other side.”
“We all need more of this. More time spent outside. More time on two wheels. More time with great friends doing challenging things. It’s easy to find freedom in the mountains. “
“Common dilemma of a bikepacker: you almost immediately forget the struggles of the ascent once you point your wheels downhill, effectively getting you stuck in a cycle of intense suffering and overriding joy.”
“The northern end of our route has some pretty awesome riding, despite the often faint Lama trails we were following. We would just jump on one and see where it would take us—only looking at the map every few hours to set our bearing straight again.”
“When you willingly throw yourself into a multi-day bikepacking trip with an average route elevation of over 15,500 ft (4,750m) you’re going to need all the help you can get. Really quickly you learn what is essential, and what is excess. Having SRAM X01 Eagle’s wide range was perhaps the most valuable asset we had along this vastly underestimated route through the Bolivian Andes.”
“Bikepacking in uncharted territory with little beta can be frustrating at times, but it’s the constant decision making, reading the terrain, and sometimes just going with your gut instinct that makes an adventure feel true. Uncertainty brings joy when things all work out in the end.”
“Working hard has its perks. We ditched the bikepacking gear at the bottom and tagged the 17,500-ft Pico Austria on one of the bonus days of our 9-day Cordillera Real traverse. Four thousand feet of descending with views like this will always be a fond memory.”
“Sometimes the effort doesn’t pan out, but other times it does – you just have to go. While there may not have been exceptional trail for our entire 9 days traversing the Cordillera Real from north to south, we sure did find some gems like this 4,000-ft descent from the summit of Pico Austria to the alpine lakes below.”
All photos and words by Joey Schusler.