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Lost Nevados Lord Nerd Beta

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With the winter beginning to saturate the Pacific Northwest we went looking for any place not cold and not winterized, and Colombia wound up at the top of our list. Cursory research and confident speculation revealed that the country would be an alpine jungle paradise brimming with an unending supply of fresh fruit, “A”-level coffee, and miles upon miles of the road less traveled—and for the most part we were right. We were going to ride in Marquez’ land of Magical Realism, and we’d be cycling through centuries-old towns founded by empires and exploited by other empires. We’d pass through ancestral fincas serviced by serpentine roads in the midst of crumbling back into nature and down seldom-traveled cow paths lost to the mist of the cloud forest. Note to mention that our crew was tight! With all this at our disposal all we needed was a route.

Cycling is big in Colombia, and more than a few Colombians have moved up the ranks to challenge for podium positions at the highest of levels of bicycling competition. A competitive cyclist needs to be comfortable in the mountains. Whether you’re climbing or descending, being able to excel in steep terrain is an essential part of winning big bike races. It follows that to get good at this business, it helps to have mountains around to practice on. Colombia is great at mountains, it’s world-class. It geologically well-endowed with three main ranges (called Cordilleras) harboring peaks nearly 18,000 feet high, that branch out from the Andes in the southwest corner of Colombia and transect the entire country in three tight rolls of sky scraping rock. In between the cordilleras the elevation nearly drops to sea level. The mountains rise and fall like a set of waves rolling across the top of South America into the Pacific.

Amazing terrain with huge potential but Mars has amazing terrain too and we needed a route. After working with a friend of a friend who ran a local guide business it became very clear that what most people wanted out of a bike trip in Colombia is far different from what we wanted. Our rambling, self-supported, sleep-on-the-side-of-the-road, push/carry/drag your bike if needed approach to cycling has yet to really catch on with your typical Colombian cyclo-tourist.

“We wanted to ride our AWOLs on unseen backroads through washed out ravines, we wanted jungle and Joan Wilder, we wanted angry mountains and rowdy compañeros.”

Fortunately we had assembled a crack team to take part in this trip, and one of the many perks of assembling a crack team is that you also get a crack collection of crack team contacts.11other known perks include sharing tanning tips, coffee snobbery , riding bicycles, telling jokes, eating snacks, looking good in photos, etc. It’s a well known fact in the crack team world that crack team members keep extraordinary friends, some of whom will likely be crack-level operators themselves. Turns out Benedict had one such friend who just so happens to live in Bogotá for the past couple years. Andy Grabarek—aka @captain_agrab, aka Andy G, aka The Pusher, aka the Snow Man—happens to be a first rate rippah and is one down adventure hound. After a couple calls, it quickly became obvious that we (a) had our fixer and (b) we had to ride in Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados.

Los Nevados is centered around an active volcano named Nevado del Ruiz. This volcano is considered active active, like Tinder active, fedora and fancy wingtip active. Nevado del Ruiz is ready to party. Still the draw was obvious and as we began to look deeper into our volcano adventure we stumbled on a few disparate stories from a couple other intrepid adventure bikers who had circumnavigated the slopes of the volcano by traversing a long, closed mountain road high up on the volcano’s flank. Why is this road closed? Apparently the government in collusion with scientists thought that it wasn’t safe to be up on the volcano, cool opinion guys. All of our research pointed to a difficult passage, a little bit of law-breaking, and an all-time adventure. For the past couple months the volcano had been belching dark plumes of ash into the sky on a daily basis, but that didn’t deter us. We’ve made all kinds of stupid decisions in the past. In our mind there was no other option—we were going to ride the volcano. What’s more, we could spend the first two days of riding climbing Letras, which at 80 kilometers is famous for being the the longest sustained road climb in the world. Fully packed bikes riding at altitude? What better way to prepare for a couple days on a volcano?

In the end our plan was to take a van from Bogotá to Mariquita where the Letras climb begins. From there we’d ride over the mountains to Manizales, stock up on provisions and pedal into Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados. At some point we were going to need to sneak past a guard’s hut in the middle of the night as we made our way around the volcano before descending back into Mariquita. At some point the volcano wouldn’t erupt and rain fire and molten rock down on our bikes, ultra-lightweight gear, and our fab bodes. On paper it was great plan.

“Did it account for altitude, humidity, humility, food poisoning, semi trucks, park rangers, shaolin temples, or three feet of ash? No it did not. Does that make it bad plan? No that makes it a great plan.”

Official Lost Nevados Poster Artwork by K-Ligraphic / Carlos Guauta
LOST NEVADOS CREW MEMBER #1: Patrick Newell - aka @ultratradition, aka Coach, aka Slim, aka The Texan.
LOST NEVADOS CREW MEMBER #2: Kyle von Hoetzendorff - aka @newantarctica, aka Sandals, aka the Hushin’ Prussian, aka vonvon.
LOST NEVADOS CREW MEMBER #3: Andy Grabarek - aka @captai_agrab, aka Andy G, aka The Pusher, aka the Snow Man.
LOST NEVADOS CREW MEMBER #4: Benedict Wheeler - aka Poppi, aka @ultraromance, aka Johnny, aka Bene, aka Cyber Shark Shark Shark, aka Boltar.
LOST NEVADOS CREW MEMBER #5: Erik Nohlin - aka @hellhommus, aka The Dark Princes, aka The Black Lord, aka The Swede.
LOST NEVADOS CREW MEMBER #6: Cole Maness - aka @coelmaness aka Calves, aka Stache, aka Tom Hardy.
LOST NEVADOS CREW MEMBER #7: Daniel Pasley - aka @yonderjournal, aka Blue Bear, aka The Shutter, aka Oso Azul.

Nine FYIs

  1. For the most part Colombia is jungle-hot—but not in the mountains. In the mountains there is snow. So you’ll need to pack a variety of clothing.
  2. Water is readily available on this route. Definitely get bottles from the store when possible, though. Filter at your own risk.
  3. Provisions are available in towns along this route.
  4. Sunscreen is not readily available in Colombia. But the sun is! Be sure to buy sunscreen before your trip.
  5. There are no toilet seats in Colombia. While this is not 100% true, it’s true enough that you shouldn’t count on a comfortable squat. Come prepared to hover.
  6. Eat the chicken. If you eat chicken, it’s good here.
  7. Colombia never stops going uphill. This is more a feeling than a fact.
  8. All the good coffee leaves the country. So the coffee you drink in Colombia is usually the instant kind that was once beans from Colombia but traveled to Jersey or Buffalo or Duluth to be processed into coffee crystals and then shipped back to Colombia. The world is a twisted place.
  9. Campañeros = Rednecks. FYI.

Specialized AWOL

This is the rig for conquering anything from dirt roads in remote National Parques to the longest climb in the world to the streets of Bogotá.
01
PROTO Specialized Handlebar Bag

Fully seam-sealed to keep that sleeping bag dry as tinder. Hard mounts prevent rubbing against your headtube. Play your cards right and you might be able to use the bag as a pillow.

02
PROTO Specialized Top Tube Bag

Room for your wallet, phone, camera and all those coins Colombians don't seem to have a use for. Has a nifty side pouch for your precious items like your Zune or vape. Keeps your sweat out.

03
PROTO Specialized Seat Bag

Massive, duffle-like capacity. Put anything you want in here, go for it, you've got the space! Want to bring a TV? Go for it. Lash whatever else you want to the top for easy access.

04
PROTO Specialized Frame Bag

Put food here: it's perfect for your bars, your gels, your bloks, your nuts, your fruit, your jerky, your instant coffee. Gloves and wet wipes too!

05
SRAM 1x11 Drivetrain

TOOOOOO EASY! Has the range of an arctice tern. Ne plus ultra.

06
Specialized AWOL Comp

ALL BLACK. Adventure-Do-Anything capabilities. Climbs like Willy Wonka's elevator. Descends like a queen meeting her subjects: graceful. Also. TUBELESS. GET IT THROUGH YOUR SKULL.

Colombian Flavor

Some specialized modifications and items are called for, beyond the standard complement of game-changing Specialized equipment.
01
Half a Painting

Two unicorns in the background talking shit about another unicorn showboating in a river. At least that's my guess, as you can see it appears some sort of samurai didn’t much care for it.

02
Handkerchief

Circumnavigates Cole's head in order to keep his top floor sweat from dripping into his eyes. Blue and white color scheme matches a summer sky filled with tribal clouds.

03
Oatmeal Can

Adds extra storage. Great in theory, bad in practice—completely lacks the fortitude for rough gravel roads; it's still great for holding oats in your cupboard, though.

04
Floor

Blood, specifically human murder blood, is so difficult to clean up. Even on tile. Was it the Samurai? Our inquiries only lead to more questions.

Packing List

Food

  • ITEM QUANTITY SUGGESTED
  • Dehydrated Meals 1/day Mountain House (Mexican Rice & Chicken is good! Pro-Pak if possible.)
  • Granola 2 packs/day Individually packaged from the States
  • Bar #1 2/day Clif Mojo
  • Bar #2 2/day Clif Kit's Organic
  • GORP 3oz/day Bulk aisle
  • Jerky 3oz/day Hot & Spicy or Mango
  • Candy 3oz/day Haribo Gummy Bears
  • Chips 2oz/day Try out the local flavors! We stuck with salt... and don't forget to crush those chips!
  • Flour Tortillas 10/week Largo taco size
  • Extra Sharp Cheddar 8oz Tillamook
  • Salami 1 log Artisanal
  • Coffee 3/day Stumptown
Packing List

Clothing

  • ITEM QUANTITY SUGGESTED
  • Bibshort 1 Specialized SWAT
  • Overshorts 1 Mission Workshop The Traverse
  • Gloves 1 Specialized BG Ridge
  • Cycling Cap 1 MFS Karan Singh (but maybe Erik forgot his so you give it to him)
  • Socks 2 Specialized wool
  • Shoes 1 Prototype Specialized Yonder Boot
  • Helmet 1 Specialized Airnet
  • Shell 1 Mission Workshop The Meridian
  • Puffy 1 Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer
  • T-Shirt 1 Mission Workshop Linear Merino
  • Hat 1 Poler (Floppy) Arrowhead Cap
  • Underwear 2 Icebreaker
  • Baselayers 1 set Icebreaker
  • Camp Shoes 1 Slides (we're always looking for something better, but slides have yet to be bested)
  • Glove Liners 1 Wool
  • Camp Shirt 1 Poler #VIBE
  • Camp Shorts 1 Mission Workshop The SIgnal
  • All-Over One-Piece Field Suit 1 Snow Peak (also, peep dat Mosquito Suit)
Packing List

Gear

  • ITEM QUANTITY SUGGESTED
  • Seat Bag 1 Specialized Burra Burra
  • Frame Bag 1 Specialized Burra Burra
  • Handlebar Bag 1 Specialized Burra Burra
  • Top Tube Bag 1 Specialized Burra Burra
  • Backpack 1 Mission Workshop Hauser
  • Bottle Cags 3 Two on the fork, one on the downtube
  • Bottles 3 Hit that home library
  • Minitool 1 Specialized EMT PRO MTB
  • Patch Kit 1 R-E-M-A
  • Tubes 2 Specialized... fresh ones
  • Tire Levers 2 Whatever's in the tool box
  • Pump 1 Specialized Air Tool Flex
  • Spare Parts 1 Chainring bolts, bailing wire, spokes, pliers, brake pads, nuts & bolts, tire boots, zipties, etc.
  • Tent 1 Snow Peak Lagos (can be set up fly-first to keep dry!)
  • Sleeping Bag 1 Mountain Hardwear Phantom 30°
  • Stuff Sacks Lots Sea to Summit eVAC
  • Sleeping Pad 1 Therm-a-Rest NeoAir X-Lite
  • Multitool 1 SOG
  • Headlamp 1 Snow Peak Mola
  • Spork 1 Snow Peak Ti #sporklife
  • Cup 1 Snow Peak Ti
  • Bandana 1 Yonder
  • Oral Care 1 Dentist recommended
  • Book 1 The Collected Works of Gabriel García Márquez
  • Water Filter 1 MSR Sweetwater
  • Lighter 1 Bic
  • Sunscreen 1 Max SPF
  • Sunglasses 1 Your favorite Oakleys
  • Repair Kit 1 Home-assembled (w/ needle+thread, sleeping pad patches, etc.)
  • Sharpie 1 Wrap it in Gorilla Tape
  • Wet Wipes 1 Soft pack
  • Soap 1 Dr. Bronner's
  • Stove 1/2people MSR Whisperlite International
  • Fuel Canisters 1 GASOLINA!
  • Cord 50ft Paracord
  • First Aid Kit 1/2people Homemade