//The high­est kayak on earth

Adventure - - Contents -

Dan Bull en­ters the Guin­ness World Record books

Ad­ven­turer and ex­plorer Dan Bull has taken out one of the most sought-af­ter ti­tles in the field of ex­treme ad­ven­ture, achiev­ing ‘The High­est Kayak on Earth’, near the sum­mit of the world’s high­est vol­cano, Ojos del Sal­ado. And he has been recog­nised by Guin­ness World Records for his achieve­ment. Dan achieved the new world record for ‘The High­est Al­ti­tude Kayak’ at an al­ti­tude of 5,707 m, cov­er­ing a dis­tance of over 2.5 km and us­ing his ice axe to pull him­self and his kayak along the sur­face of the frozen lake to break the ice and pre­pare a kayak­ing lane. “I wanted to com­bine my pas­sion for heights with my love of wa­ter and pur­sue my dream of break­ing a new world record,” Bull ex­plained. On a re­cent climb, stand­ing alone on top of the world's high­est vol­cano, Bull spot­ted a small frozen lake just near the sum­mit. “I was yet to sur­vive the de­scent back down the vol­cano, but some­how I was al­ready dream­ing of my next ad­ven­ture,” he said. Only barely sur­viv­ing the solo de­scent, he re­turned again this year - this time with his kayak - fly­ing back to San­ti­ago, Chile, then on­wards to the min­ing town of Copi­apó in the Ata­cama Desert (the site of the 2010 Chilean min­ing ac­ci­dent, where 33 men were trapped un­der­ground for 69 days) to be­gin his ap­proach. The un­named lake, since ver­i­fied as one of the high­est bod­ies of wa­ter in the world, sits on the east­ern flanks of the world’s high­est vol­cano, strad­dling the bor­ders of Chile and Ar­gentina. Ojos del Sal­ado, a stra­to­vol­cano whose name roughly trans­lates to "Eyes of the Salty One” from its na­tive Span­ish, comes from the enor­mous de­posits of salt that, in the form of la­goons or 'eyes', ap­pear in its glaciers. It is the high­est moun­tain in Chile and the sec­ond high­est moun­tain out­side the Hi­malaya. In ad­di­tion to the ex­treme high al­ti­tude, the sum­mit tow­ers 6,893 me­tres tall, the hu­mid­ity can be as low as 2%. De­spite the ex­tremely dry con­di­tions, snow storms can strike at any time, cov­er­ing the sur­round­ing area with a few feet of snow. The lake is lo­cated in the high­est re­gions of the Ata­cama desert in the An­des, just be­neath the sum­mit. “The sur­round­ing en­vi­ron­ment is not un­like what you might imag­ine wit­ness­ing if you were stand­ing on Mars, or per­haps the moon,” Bull said. Speak­ing of which, more peo­ple have stood on the moon than have reached this lake, let alone stepped foot in it. Bull achieved the record with­out the use of sup­ple­men­tal oxy­gen, which would've been al­lowed un­der Guin­ness World Records rules. The de­ci­sion to do so was not taken lightly. “I’ve spent a fair amount of time at al­ti­tude, so I’m aware of the risks, but also of the re­wards and the self-sat­is­fac­tion that comes from tack­ling such a chal­lenge as in­de­pen­dently as pos­si­ble.” Bull is the cur­rent World Record holder for be­ing the "Youngest Per­son to Climb the High­est Moun­tain and the High­est Vol­cano on each con­ti­nent" (known as the 7 Sum­mits & 7 Vol­canic Sum­mits). He also com­pleted a suc­cess­ful un­guided as­cent of Mount Ever­est in his 20s. "Hu­man be­ings sim­ply aren't built to func­tion, let alone sur­vive, at the cruis­ing al­ti­tude of a com­mer­cial air­plane,” Bull ex­plained. "Your body is lit­er­ally dy­ing with each step you take." At the al­ti­tude of his new kayak­ing world record, there is less than 50% of the oxy­gen than at sea level. "It's like climb­ing stairs and hold­ing two out of every three breaths. You’re ab­so­lutely ex­hausted. And then you’ve still got to get in the kayak and go for a pad­dle." At sea level the air is thick and car­ries plenty of oxy­gen around the body. As you as­cend, the at­mos­phere thins, there's less oxy­gen avail­able for your body, and your or­gans be­gin starv­ing for oxy­gen. Headaches, short­ness of breath, cough­ing, gen­eral weak­ness and con­fu­sion en­sues. “Al­ti­tude sick­ness can be­come fa­tal very quickly, so you have to al­ways be mind­ful and lis­ten to your body, but at the same time, keep push­ing your­self to the limit. It's a fine bal­ance be­tween suc­cess and fail­ure, where fail­ure can mean you don’t re­turn home."

De­spite the risks, Bull is mo­ti­vated by the life-and-death strug­gle at ex­treme high al­ti­tude. “What I've re­alised is that I feel most alive – and ap­pre­ci­ate life more – when in ex­treme en­vi­ron­ments. The more ex­treme, the greater per­spec­tive I get. It makes me aware of how small and in­con­se­quen­tial my life is. It puts things into per­spec­tive.” Ex­e­cut­ing the High­est Kayak on Earth wasn't the only chal­lenge Bull faced. “As I climbed to­ward the lake, I ex­pe­ri­enced the worst snow seen on the vol­cano in two decades. I was trapped in­side my tent, high on the moun­tain, for 3 days, sur­viv­ing gale force winds up to 140 km/h and wind chill down to -45°C,” he said. In ad­di­tion to the ex­treme weather con­di­tions, he had to bat­tle with car­ry­ing his cus­tomised kayak up the moun­tain on top of his usual moun­taineer­ing and sur­vival gear, weigh­ing in ex­cess of 50 kg. "I bought an off-the-shelf hy­brid in­flat­able, fold­able kayak and cus­tomised it, tweak­ing it where nec­es­sary, get­ting rid of any nonessen­tial items. It orig­i­nally weighed around 20kg. When you add the pad­dles, pump, all your usual moun­taineer­ing gear, com­mu­ni­ca­tions de­vices, cam­eras, food and wa­ter, your pack starts to get pretty heavy. I’m sure I felt my spine com­press a few cen­time­tres un­der all that weight." The wa­ter tem­per­a­ture was just on freez­ing at 0.1°C. The lake was freez­ing over as he watched from the shore­line and it was es­ti­mated that the lake would be in­ac­ces­si­ble within a cou­ple of days. “Wa­ter froze in­stantly as it splashed onto my gear. I knew that if I fell in, I’d prac­ti­cally be snap frozen.” he said. "I didn't like the idea of be­com­ing a per­ma­nent ice block, so it was a good mo­ti­va­tor to re­tain bal­ance as I pad­dled". Pad­dling for over an hour in this in­hos­pitable en­vi­ron­ment, Bull ac­knowl­edges that it was very much a men­tal bat­tle to­ward the end. “I was spurring my­self on in­ter­nally, but I also had my sup­port team cheer­ing me on in Span­ish from the shore­line. This def­i­nitely helped get me over the line." "Ex­hausted af­ter com­plet­ing the pad­dle and get­ting out of the wa­ter mostly un­scathed, it would've been the eas­i­est thing to just leave my gear and the kayak be­hind and get off the moun­tain", ex­plained Bull. “But it was im­por­tant for me to leave noth­ing be­hind but foot­prints.” They man­aged to re­cover the kayak and bring it back to base camp. The suc­cess has taken its toll. “I've torn a ten­don in my el­bow which still needs fix­ing, I've lost some sen­sa­tion in the tips of my toes and I feel like my back is yet to fully re­cover from the com­pres­sion. But I'm happy that my body is still in one piece." In terms of what's next? Bull ex­plains that whilst he’s ac­tu­ally very con­tent be­ing back at sea level, he’s con­sid­er­ing whether to head back to the lake and have a shot at the Swim­ming World Record. "I'm not a swim­mer, so I'd have to un­der­take a ded­i­cated train­ing regime. I'm not fully con­vinced it's a great idea. I've done a lot of things peo­ple would con­sider fool­hardy, but this would take the cake. Rather than adding lay­ers as you do when climb­ing higher, I'd be tak­ing ev­ery­thing off and then div­ing into sub­zero wa­ters. That's if I can crack open the layer of ice that guards the lake through­out most of the year. It'd be pretty epic!" You can check out Bull's lat­est ad­ven­tures and dis­cover if he de­cides to take a dip in the high­est lake on Earth at www.DanielBull.com

ABOVE: Daniel break­ing through the ice RIGHT: Cel­e­brat­ing the High­est Kayak­ing World Record af­ter cov­er­ing a dis­tance of over 2.5km

ABOVE: All fin­gers in tact, although a lit­tle frost­nip on the toes LEFT: Search­ing for the lake

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