Wharton sophomore Ryan Torres scaled Ojos del Salado — the highest volcano in the world—on a bicycle over winter break.
Torres completed the 11-day endeavor on Dec. 25, having reached the altitude of 6,286 meters on the eighth day of his adventure, Dec. 21. Torres reached the new altitude with his blood oxygen at 37% — one-third of an individual's regular oxygen levels.
His journey began in the Atacama Desert in South America, where he biked through the desert for four days straight.
“I started from a small town in northern Chile, called Copiapo, in the desert. I set up from there on the bike with water, food, and gear, and then started making my way towards the Andes mountain range," Torres said. "The biggest challenge in this phase was going through the very high temperatures — there's no breeze whatsoever, and the sun just goes straight at you."
Torres reached the base camp — which sits at an altitude of 4,500 meters — on the fourth day, and began the second phase of his journey through the cold. At this point, he had a blood oxygen reading of below 70% and a resting heart rate of 120 bpm.
“My brain was not receiving enough oxygen and so my sense of coordination was impaired," Torres said. “As far as overall effort goes, I spent like 5% of my total effort in the desert and 95% of it on the mountain because even though it was less distance, my body, my brain, and my muscles did not receive enough oxygen”.
Spending about a day to acclimate to the altitude, he then set out on the next leg of the journey, traveling from 4,500 meters to 5,200 meters, through knee-deep ash at sub-zero temperatures.
“That was actually the worst day of my life. I had to put all the gear and food on my bike and then just start biking up," Torres said. "I was alone on a mountain; I didn't know what would happen. I was following a trail that I wasn't sure was [going to] be the correct trail."
At 5,200 meters, Torres met up with a French expedition that provided him with food for the night as he was too exhausted from the exertion to cook. The next day, he made his way to the last camp at 5,800 meters where he rested at Tejos refuge, the highest mountain hut in the world.
From there, Torres continued the journey upward, reaching a final altitude of 6,286 meters.
After the fall 2021 semester, Torres walked from Locust Walk to New York City, and later again in June he cycled across America from Jacksonville, Fla. to San Diego on a 29-day journey that covered 2,500 miles.
One of the main goals that Torres set to achieve from his journey was to raise funds by setting up a crowdfunding page for World Bicycle Relief, an organization that aims to empower individuals to “gain access to education, healthcare and economic opportunities through life-changing bicycles," as stated on their website.