Wharton second-year student and endurance athlete Ryan Torres, who planned to cycle the world’s tallest volcano to raise funds for World Bicycle Relief, an international nonprofit dedicated to improving access to cycling around the world.
Undertaken upon a prototype provided by Why Cycles and Revel Bikes, Torres utilized the bike’s titanium frame and enormous tires to power through to the top of the 22,000-foot-tall Ojos del Salado volcano, the peak of which is perched at the crown of Patagonia. While Torres embarked on his trip with his cycling partner and fellow endurance athlete, Leo Teneblat, Leo dropped out due to a medical emergency as they rode across Chile’s Atacama Desert, which meant that twenty-year-old Torres finished the ascent up Ojos del Salados by himself.
“The conditions of the desert are very extreme; like, 110–115-degree Fahrenheit days without a breeze of air. It’s the driest desert in the world, the visceral truth of which emerges when you cough and realize that sand is in your lungs,” says Torres. “Our minds were haunted by thoughts of dehydration, constantly; and for good reason, too. On the fourth day of our expedition, Leo had a medical emergency and needed a doctor’s attention immediately. He was rescued, evacuated to the nearest hospital after a four-hour car ride out of the desert.”
“But, despite the fact I was now alone, I felt fine; so I pushed. I finished biking the desert and got to base camp at Ojos del Salados. It was just the start of the summer season, so there was nobody in the mountains. I climbed the whole volcano alone. The previous record holder had a bike, a crew, and a pickup truck. Here, I was carrying all of my gear on the bike by myself, which increased the workload exponentially. But I decided to keep pushing on.”
Back at Wharton, Torres reflects on his studies at Wharton and his plans for the future. “Education is a continuous process that goes beyond the four years at Wharton, a way of seeing the world beyond the books you read and classes you take. One of the reasons I love Wharton is because the School truly places value on experiences, and where education lies in those experiences. Learning how to make decisions under extreme duress is just as valuable of an education as classroom learning. They complement each other. An employer doesn’t just need someone who can crank out balance sheets, but they also want someone who can make critical decisions in complicated situations. They want someone who can persevere in the face of adversity.”
“In terms of future plans, the extreme physical and mental deprivations I faced on the mountain have given me a clearer perspective on what I want to do with my life,” he says. “I have decided to embark on more ambitious expeditions to keep challenging myself and to explore the world and the natural beauty it has to offer.”
This story is by Devon Chodzin and Grace Meredith. Read more at Wharton Stories.