A few months back, we covered Tim and Kelsey Huber and their Land Cruiser “Goose,” which they live in and drive all over the western edges of the Americas. Check out their story and their build at the above link. The Hubers also maintain a website chronicling their adventures called Dirt Sunrise. Successes, failures, tips, mods, you name it, they cover it.
Recently they wrote about a drive up the slopes of Mt. Uturunku, a dormant volcano that reaches nearly 20,000 feet into the skies above Bolivia. There is a small, twisty road leading to about 19,000 feet, where an old sulfur mine once operated. Today, the road, which is just a pair of tire tracks on the steep volcanic shoulder, is used mostly for ferrying hikers who want a short route to the peak.
At that elevation, the thin oxygen is torture on a combustion engine, especially one straining to climb and climb and climb. The road twists and turns blindly, with wheels edging to the precipice of steep drop-offs. Ten percent grades are common. Oh, so are landslides. The Hubers threw their beloved Goose at the road because, well, it was there. Their short story about their trip up the road is below. -Ed
It was really more of an old mining trail than a road.
Looking up at Mt. Uturunku I was a bit nervous. Goose, our truck, had been good to us over the year and a half of travel so far, from Arizona to Canada and down to Bolivia. Going up this mountain wasn’t worth hurting him, and yet, it was somehow important to make it. I figured we’d never be able to drive so high ever again, so up we went.
Kelsey and I both popped a coca candy. I had my asthma inhaler handy but figured I’d try the natural remedy first. Neither of us had been above 17,000 feet in elevation before, and never above 16,500 feet in the truck.
As we approached the end of the road, the tire tracks disappeared and we decided to walk ahead to see what was around the corner. This was the last reasonable turnaround for the trucks leading hiking tours up here. The road ahead was about the width of our truck, but it looked safe. Well, safe enough to go a bit higher.
As I drove around the corner with Kelsey spotting to make sure I didn’t glance a tire on one of the boulders that rolled into the trail, starting something that may be very hard to get out of, I wondered if my hand-eye coordination was working okay. I felt funny; we both did out there.
I drove as high as I dared and looked ahead at the washed-out track. The road itself went no higher. Given where we were, we pulled the pin on this little adventure.
18,660 feet in elevation. That’ll do Goose, that’ll do.
This wasn’t the time to relax. We needed all of our brain cells on deck to turn this truck around. The last corner was so tight that backing down seemed like a worse idea than making a 20 point turn. Kelsey spotted and told me within inches of the edge when to stop. It may have been a 30 point turn. I felt like Austin Powers, but with death as punishment for any mistake, each time I pulled forward, I found that concentration was pretty easy to summon.
Finally, we were facing the right way. We waited until we made it down a few switchbacks before celebrating. We chugged water and popped another coca candy before proceeding. We didn’t want the long downhill to catch us out, but we did it.
Well, Goose did it, we just went along for the ride. Nice work Goose, old friend. What do you say we go visit Butch and Sundance’s supposed resting place next?