Australian adventurer and explorer Dan Bull has staked a bold claim in the world of extreme adventure feats, notching ‘The Highest Kayak on Earth,’ near the summit of the world’s highest volcano, Ojos del Salado. And he has been recognized by Guinness World Records for his achievement.
Bull achieved the altitude-based record at a height of 18,724 feet (5,707 meters), covering a distance of over 1.5 miles (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 experience at high altitude with my love of water and pursue my dream of breaking a new world record,” Bull explained.
Bull achieved the record without the use of an oxygen mask or breathing apparatus, which would’ve been allowed under Guinness World Records rules.
The water temperature was just on freezing at 34 degrees (.1 Celsius). “Water froze instantly as it splashed onto my gear. I knew that if I fell in, I’d be dead very quickly,” Bull said.
Ojos del Salado is the highest mountain in Chile and the second highest mountain outside the Himalaya. In addition to the extreme high altitude, the humidity can be as low as 2 percent. Despite the extremely dry conditions, snow storms can strike at any time, covering the surrounding area with a few feet of snow.
“As I climbed toward the summit of the highest volcano in the world, I experienced the worst snow seen in two decades. I was trapped inside my tent, high on the mountain, for three days, surviving gale-force winds up to 140 km/h and wind chill down to -45°C,” said Bull.
In addition, he had to battle with carrying his customized kayak up the mountain on top of his usual mountaineering and survival gear, weighing in excess of 110 pounds (50 kg).
Bull is also the current World Record holder for the Youngest Person to Climb the Highest Mountain and the Highest Volcano on each continent (known as the 7 Summits & 7 Volcanic Summits), as well as being the first Aussie to achieve the feat. Still, we had a few questions for Bull, below.
What’s the story with your choice of kayak for the trip? What kind of boat did you use and what kind of modifications did you have to make for your adventure?
There were plenty of challenges before even starting to paddle. Ojos del Salado is the second highest mountain outside the Himalaya. The high altitude adds to the challenge of hauling heavy weight across rugged terrain. And the weight was one of the biggest obstacles, having to battle with carrying my kayak up the mountain on top of the usual mountaineering and survival gear, weighing in excess of 50 kg (110 pounds) all up!
So to make it feasible, I had to reduce weight wherever possible. I took a hybrid inflatable/foldable kayak, which weighed roughly 20 kg (45 pounds) and reduced the weight by removing some parts that may have provided some structure to the frame but which contributed to the weight, as well as all the non-essential bells and whistles.
How far were you able to paddle in ice-free water?
One end of the lake allowed me to get the kayak into the water. However about 80 percent of the length of the lake was frozen over. So I forged a way through, expanding the paddling area, which took considerable time. I then paddled the official, non-stop 2.5 km (1.5 miles), taking around 45 minutes, in ice-free water.
All Photos by Canoe & Kayak Magazine.
More Paddle Sports Content From ASN