Unable to find any reports of cyclists making the ascent to Honda pass from Chacas via Juitush in the Parque Nacionale Huascaran, everyone simply ascends to glorious Punta Olimpica but we had giddy beer and chocolate bar red dashed map line fueled phantasms in our sights. Local intel was contradictory, one old timer in the plaza confidently assuring us that it’s at best a foot trekking path while another — head bobbing eyes closed brow furrowed — with equally assertive predictions that it could be done on a motorbike and that therefore, with a few staircase lifts, bicycles. Obviously we selected the facts we fancied.
Roadworks trucks howling along the short section before the unmarked steep mud between shacks turnoff, climb to a scarf over a river and sneaking quiet, rocky two track, a few puddle soft sections, light middle ring labor for the Larry 3.7’s. Juitush doesn’t exist beyond a cattle gate and the surreality of an infant and woman knitting smiling waving in the grass. Rain is a guest at lunch, and will make cameos through the afternoon, the track emphatically Ends. and we’re pushing heaving bending our backs up progressively more narrow valley V’s. Upward up, toward the pass heavy feet, fogging blow tumbling white streaks off the peaks blocking the view of the glacier. Slowing slow going, pushing pedaling 50 meter flat sections pushing, now crystal flecks on jacket sleeves now more defined snowflakes, gnarled trees, darkness looming in the fourth hour of the drag.
We don’t know how far we are from the pass, tomorrow will discover about a k and a half short, cautiously default to the safety of a bivouac, my phone gps says we’re a hundred feet shy of 15,000. Into our bags wind and snowfall and light all planing horizontal, Tom’s turn to cook dinner, champion. Later in tent fabric hummingbird rattle darkness I am at another block of chocolate, no place I’d rather be, but it’s a hard night at altitude and uncertainty. Lidded eyes bright clear morning, new day new harder bike wrestle to a two meter slot of a portal and we’re lungs startle filled not with relief but with the electrical storm 360 degree beauty of it. Daunting cold encourages the steep pick your way gingerly technical mountain bike descent, dismounting scree switchbacks ledgy slotted poor transition bottoms sections that I might try under helmeted full suspension unloaded circumstances.
After freefall we’re spat out onto something like but surely not a road, dozens of k jolting coast through a fantasy novel, cracked orange black rock walls, pastures, American RV sized ivory boulders, re entry to sticky sweat, wide eyed at people gritty village plaza again. Highway contact at Marcara 30 some odd k to go east with winds at our backs, raindrops on our faces to pizza and crepes and espressos in Huaraz.
This two day route involves a total of 5-7 hours of off-bike pushing including both sides of the pass, it’s flat out hard and branded in memory gorgeous. No food or, indeed, anything at Juitush or Rinconada. I’d do it again, as the euphoria punctures the misery just enough.