Los Diez (Los 10): Ty to Tackle 10 Classic Routes in the Andes

March 5, 2021

Chaski founder Tyler Andrews has taken on some big FKT challenges in the last few years. Here he announces his plans to tackle 10 big routes in the South American Andes, starting with a speed attempt on 22,615 ft. Ojos del Salado Volcano.I need goals that scare me.

I thrive off of the moments of uncertainty, the razor’s edge between success and failure, satisfaction and disappointment, risk and reward. Sometimes, these big, intimidating goals turn out to be complete disasters, be it an overly aggressive race-plan or a literally life-or-death situation in the mountains; but, this past year has taught me that, while these situations might be terrifying at the moment, it’s where I find the most personal satisfaction and whence I experience true growth, no matter the outcome.

Ojos Del Salado

With that in mind, I’m excited to announce Los Diez (Los 10), a project about which I’ve been day-dreaming for months: to tackle 10 iconic routes in the South American Andes, accompanied by some of the true local legends in each area.

We’ll be starting with one of the most intimidating routes on the list: the speed record for ascent and descent of Ojos del Salado. At 6,893m (22,615 ft) Ojos is the tallest volcano on Earth and the second tallest mountain in the Americas (really the second tallest mountain outside of the Himalaya/Karakoram).

We’ll be making the attempt in mid-to-late-February and will be posting regular updates along the way.

Read on for info about the project as a whole (including the current 10 routes we have planned) as well as more specifics about the first route on Ojos del Salado.

The Project

The idea for Los 10 came about after I joined the staff as a regional editor for Central/South America. I was surprised to see how few Andean routes (not a single route in Bolivia!) were in the database despite the number of badass, local mountain/ultra/trail athletes I knew that train and race in the mountains of Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, and more. In talking with Peter Bawkins and Buzz Burrell (the site’s founders and godfathers of the FKT movement) and coordinating with many friends in the athlete community across South America, we put together a list of 10 diverse routes that we thought we might be able to (aggressively) accomplish in one calendar year. Some of these routes already have established and competitive FKTs, while some are renowned hiking or trail-running routes, but don’t have any publicized speed records.

Our goal is to put up marks that are competitive and will encourage both local and foreign interest in the FKT movement, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Without further adieu, here’s the list.

  1. Ojos del Salado Ascent/Descent - 57km (35 miles), 2700m vert, Max Altitude 6,893m (22,615 ft) - Chile - Route Map
  2. Pichincha Traverse - 30km (18 miles), 2700m vert, max altitude 4,770m (15,650 ft) - Ecuador - Route Map
  3. Quilotoa Traverse - 50km (31 miles), 2700m vert, max altitude 3,870m (12,696 ft)  - Ecuador* - Route Map
  4. Santa Cruz Route - 44km (27 miles), 1600m vert, 4,780m (15,680 ft) - Peru* - Route Map
  5. Huayhuash Circuit - 120km (74 miles), 6300m vert, max altitude, 5000 m (16,404 ft),- Peru - Route Map
  6. Colca Canyon Circuit - 38km (24 miles), 2300m vert, max altitude 3.370m (11,000 ft) - Peru* - Route Map
  7. El Choro Route - 49km (30 miles), 1700m vert, max altitude 4,690m (15,300 ft)  - Bolivia* - Route Map
  8. Illampu Circuit - 118km (73 miles), 8700m vert, max altitude 5,000m (16,400 ft) - Bolivia* - Route Map
  9. Dientes de Navarino Circuit - 48km (30 miles), 2600m vert max altitude 900m (2,900 ft)- Chile - Route Map
  10. Huemul Circuit - 72km (44 miles), 3200m (10,500 ft) vert, max altitude 1400m (4,600 ft) - Argentina - Route Map

*No known FKT

Note - we reserve the right to change, add to, subtract from, or generally dicky around with this list as much as we like given that this project is just for us and given the general “up-in-the-air” state of the world, travel, etc.

Huayhuash Circuit in Peru
Huayhuash Circuit in Peru

Ojos del Salado FKT Attempt

I’m not gonna lie -- it would be a lot cooler if I had crushed the Project Carbon X2 100km as I begin this, but, well, here we are.

My eye has been on Ojos (hey! Who gets the pun?!) for years as I’ve honed my mountaineering chops in the snow-capped peaks of the Andes. Far less visited than its overshadowing 7-summitter sister, Aconcagua, a few hundred miles to the South, Ojos appealed to my love for “off the beaten path” adventure and, from a physical perspective, struck me as a perfect way to test myself at extremely high altitude on very non-technical terrain.

I’ve performed (relatively) well at altitude since my first trip to Quito in 2007 and have since been as high as 6,450m (21,450 ft) at the summit of Coropuna in Peru. Ojos presents a new challenge: an almost-7,000m (22,900 ft) peak and a long (57km - 35 miles) speed attempt that’s likely to take at least 20 hours round trip.

The route we’ll follow begins at the Refugio Claudio Lucero at an altitude of 4500m (14,760 ft) and follows a dirt road and then hiking trail up to base camp at 5100m (16,730 ft), followed by a high camp at 5800m (19,000 ft) before another vertical kilometer leads to the summit ridge, with one final scrambly section just before the top. Unlike most peaks over 6000m (19,600 ft), Ojos is unique in that it has no permanent snow-cap (due to its location in the unbelievably dry Atacama desert) and thus presents a relatively low danger for a mountain of its size.

The current FKT sits at 21 hours, 21 minutes by Etienne Loisel from 2019. (Note - there’s also a shorter, pure ascent route from base camp to the summit only; this mark is 4 hours 18 minutes by Luis Ovalle Rodriguez from 2019).

Our plan is to acclimatize first in Quito, Ecuador, and in Cotopaxi National Park before heading to the high Atacama for a handful of ascents over 6,000m (19,600 ft), before finally making a multi-day attempted ascent on Ojos to scope out the route and plan logistics, before a final a 1-day FKT attempt.

I’d planned to make this attempt along with Ecuadorian friend and pro-trail runner Joaquin Lopez (6th at UTMB, 2019), but unfortunately, he’s recovering from a recent injury and so this first attempt will likely be a solo effort, crewed and supported by my good friend and Chaski OG Scott Penfield (who’s planning to accompany me on the acclimatization and scouting summits).

Tyler and Scott training for Los 10 Project

To say this mark is intimidating (and different from what I’ve been doing) would be a drastic understatement. Simply reaching the summit of a twenty-two thousand-foot mountain would be an accomplishment; to do so in record time -- I honestly have no idea how it’s going to go.

What I do know is that this feels like the good kind of scary: the scary that gets me out of bed in the morning and fired up to train and push myself. And that’s exactly the motivation that I need right now. Here we come, carajo.

— Tyler Andrews

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