Pics and Story Martin Sammet
For 4 years Jogi and I have been building for ourselves and a small select circle of friends Pogo Snowboards. Our production engineering studies were drawing to a close, and through various internships and study projects, we had extensively dealt with the production of high-quality snowboards. In addition, we had just submitted our joint diploma thesis with the topic "edge tear resistance at snowboards and monoski" at our dear Professor Gohl. It was a cooperation project of the Swiss company Nidecker and Duret Ski in France. Nidecker built on Lake Geneva next table tennis tables, ladders and battens for windsurf sails, the technically and shapely most advances snowboards in the world, including for Hooger Booger and extremely cool Monoskis for Bebop from Chamonix.
Martin testing the new shape Lipstick which he developped for Nidecker
At Nidecker we were told at that time that in Wangen/ Allgäu the long-established company Sohler would sell its ski production machines as it wanted to concentrate on the core business of ventilation systems. Flight we took the Nidecker company car and went under the pretext "snowboard trip" on sightseeing tour. We found there exactly what we would need to produce high-quality snowboards in a slightly larger style than before. The whole for an apple and 2 eggs. This finally gave us the decision to start our own business right out of our studies so as not to have to develop any shock absorbers or assembly robots for Audi.
Starting to make more boards
Of course, such a powerful decision had to be adequately appreciated! In addition, we wanted to treat ourselves to a really crazy trip, before we would plunge completely into work. There was a lot of it ahead of us. The 400-year-old barn of my parents was to be turned into a cool production facility and the machines at Sohler were waiting to be picked up and converted into fancy snowboard building equipment.
So we put the globe in rotation and our finger got stuck in South America, more precisely in Peru. Of course there were mountains there, really fat ones, called Cordillera Blanca. In addition, there was just winter, as we would cross the equator. The highest mountain was called Huascaran, was 6890m high and of course never ridden on a snowboard. Who would come up with such a crazy idea? That sounded like a good story to bring our brand Pogo into conversation. Extra light touring boards in titanium construction we had just built.
We found a nice cheap fork flight to Caracas / Venezuela with return flight from La Paz in Bolivia. Why not a little bus trip through Colombia and Ecuador?
We packed our backpacks with the most necessary things: tent, sleeping bags, snowboards and a few clothes. The rest of the alpine equipment we wanted to borrow locally in Huaraz. Warm alpaca wool sweaters, hats etc. were sure to buy at a local market.
As soon as we landed in Caracas, the adventure started. We joined a small group of Indian-looking locals who had organized a bus transfer to Colombia for a small fee. Unfortunately, the bus took secret paths over the border, so we did not get an entry stamp in the passport, which should take revenge later.
Colombia was a really wild country back then. At regular intervals there were roadblocks of the army, which tried to get the drug mafia under control. Several times we heard shots at night, it felt like shooting the bus.
One of the army inspectors inspected my yellow-stained fingers from years of smoking hand rolled cigarettes. He let us get off the bus in the middle of nowhere and sent it away. He said we had Ganja with us, and if we did not hit $ 50, we'd go to jail. $ 50 was a lot of cash for us back then, which we wanted to invest in our young company. So we switched to stubborn, because we were aware of no guilt. In the end, we got on very well with the young soldiers, who quickly realized that we did not have much. They invited us to a round of Cervezas and talked a little bit about their everyday life. Then they drove us to the next town, where we grabbed the next bus to Ecuador.
Crossing the border to Ecuador now the missing stamp came into play. Without entry stamp no exit, was the tough point of view of the border officials, nothing to do. In the evening, having some drinks we met a guy. He said his cousin was working at customs and could solve our problem for $ 20. So that our journey could continue, we then pulled this option.
Ecuador is a fantastic country with high mountains, from which promising white peaks such as the 6310m high Chimborazo met us. The summit of Chimborazo is the furthest point of the earth's surface from the center of the earth. We also added it directly to our list of future projects.
The proportion of indigenous people in Ecuador is very high. We saw everywhere happy, smiling faces of simple people who have practically nothing The food was very simple and virtually free. But how delicious can be fried potatoes with homemade chilli sauce.
Jogi stopping the unknown soldier
Arrived in Peru, we first laid a few chill days on the beach. At the local carpenter we sawed a skimboard for each of us out of a plywood board and had lots of fun in the steep shorebreak. As we moved on, we gave the boards to the kids, who had celebrated every successful ride with us, and who had already shredded the boards and their bones during our breaks.
The local kids are digging the skimboards
Then we started straight to Cordillera Blanca, whose alpine center is Huaraz. At the local Indian market, we got warm clothes made of alpaca wool, as well as lots of nuts and dried fruits. In addition, dried coca leaves, as we had heard that the Indians chewed them to increase endurance during long marches in the mountains. In a climbing shop we inquired about the conditions, as well as the weather of the coming days, lent us crampons, rope, ice axes, a few ice screws, climbing harnesses and what else would you need for an alpine company.
The local market in Huaraz
Since the weather forecast was perfect, we also wanted to waste no more time and sat directly in a taxi colectivo to Musho, the starting point of our tour at 3000m altitude.
The friendly landlord provided us with the last really hearty dinner and breakfast with Huevos and Frijoles for a while and we started the hike. We followed all sorts of signposts and paths to find out in the late afternoon that we were hopelessly lost.
Starting to hike and fighting altitude sickness
In the middle of nowhere we found a hut of an Indian family. They offered us tea and invited us to a simple meal. There was even a shelter where we could spread our sleeping bags, so we did not have to pitch our tent. The next day, the head of the family put us on the right path. This was such a warm hospitality of people who had virtually nothing and talked to each other on Ketchua.
Finally on the right way it went steeply uphill. Jogi began to feel the altitude and tried to compensate for the signs with increased chewing of coca leaves. The backpacks made quite heavy by the snowboards and all the alpine equipment made a lot of effort, especially in the midday heat.
Just in time to set up the tent before dark, we reached the first camp spot at 4100 meters altitude. A group of Mexican mountaineers had already set up comfortably. They had chosen the more relaxed option and had the luggage transported by donkeys to the first camp. We kept that open for the way back.
They invited us to tea and we got along very well right from the start, especially with the pretty expedition member Maria.
First camp on the mountain
The next day we continued into steeper and more alpine terrain. Maria preferred to walk with us for a while, while her colleagues struck a straighter march. Jogi felt the height and we had not gotten used to the heavy luggage. When we arrived at dawn at dusk, but did not see any trace of Maria's friends, we were already a bit worried.
The next day we reached the glacier in the late morning. But what a sight, crevasses as far as the eye could see, and no sign of a viable path. We took a closer look at our map and came to the conclusion that we had followed an old path that was no longer practicable. Lost again, what a crap! The only benefit of the story was that Jogi, who was very sick of altitude sickness, was getting better and better with each step downhill.
Lost on the old trail
We easily found the spot where we were wrong. We were probably too busy admiring the incredible views. We hit the gas a bit and reached the camp at the foot of the glacier at 5200 meters in the late afternoon. Next to the camp there were some nice little powder fields. So we first fastened the snowboards and pulled a few lines.
Finally some powder to shred
The next day we went to the base camp for the summit, which was located at 5900m altitude. There we also met Maria's friends, who had just returned from the summit exhausted but happy. Of course, Maria wanted to reach the summit with us. Her friends provided us with food and gas cartridges for the stove, which we especially needed to melt water. Also our food supplies had been calculated very tight. We had already lost a few pounds and began to fantasize about fried chicken and freshly squeezed orange juice. The fact that we got lost twice was not exactly helpful.
During the construction of the tent, a fairly strong wind came up, which did not simplify matters. Unfortunately, my mattress, which was only burdened with a chunk of ice, was caught by the wind and blown straight into a huge crevasse. No chance to get there again.
Luckily the night was short, because we wanted to start at 3 o'clock in the morning towards the summit. I could not sleep on the hard cold ice. Getting up in the middle of the night was a relief. A cup of hot tea and a few nuts for each and it went off in the light of the headlamp. From now on, we only walked roped on, as some crevasses, bridges and steep sections had to be overcome. The light and the view, as the sun rose at dawn, was sheer madness.
However, the air became thinner with every step, more and more often there was the typical jerk on the rope, when again someone of the backers needed a break. Luckily we had melted the evening before properly water. The body did not seem to get enough of it because of the effort and the height. Maria was lucky, at least she did not have to carry a snowboard with her. We also had to be careful not to be pushed out of balance by the wind during the ice climbing, the boards offered plenty of attack surface.
The last stretch before the summit was endless. It was not quite as steep, but every step weighed heavily like lead. Then we had done it, and fell on our heavy backpacks. We felt we were closer to heaven. A few heavy dark gray violet clouds hung directly over our heads.
Getting down on tricky snow and ice
Now buckle up the boards and down with a few huge turns, we thought. Unfortunately it was not that easy. The snow was extremely difficult, a change of hard, ragged ice with tons of frozen balls. After 20 minutes carefully palpating, always with the ice axe in hand, ready to use it as a brake if the edge should not stop on the steep terrain. Then finally came a larger south-oriented section, where the snow was pretty firn and we could really enjoy our turns. When the journey was over, we waited for Mary to return the same way we had ascended.
By now the sun was so strong that it was hot like in the desert. We were a little worried that the snow from the glacier bridges would be too soft to go over it safely. But everything went well, we just wanted to get down from the mountain to eat something right and sleep properly. So it was decided to break off the camp immediately and run down to the first camp. Then another night in the tent on the hard ground and we strapped our luggage on donkey back and flew down into the valley.
What a festive meal we tortured our stomachs with, which had now shrunk to nut size. Beer, chicken, fries, eggs, cheese, we stuff ourselves full as if no tomorrow. When we looked in a mirror, we were shocked to find that our facial skin had aged by about 50 years. On our climb to the summit, we forgot to apply sunscreen as we somehow never saw the sun. Back in Huaraz we went to celebrate with Maria's friends.
The next day we took the bus to Cusco. We wanted to see the ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu.
The hiking trail was unfortunately not possible with our hurt feet. So we mingled with the tourist crowd and took the train.
The old Inca city Machu Picchu
An unforgettable experience was the train journey to almost 4000m altitude along the deep blue Lake Titicaca, the origin of the Inca culture and the potato cultivation. Then over the Altiplano plateau to La Paz in Bolivia, from where our plane went home. On the train were almost only Indian faces, as well as sheep, chickens and all manner of animals. Everything was shared and we were offered cheese that was so salty that Yogi would turn pale today if he remembered that he really had eaten it.
In the train along lake Titicaca to Bolivia
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