In 2018, to advertise Tesla, Elon Musk launched a Roadster into space. In 1973, when space aspirations were premature, Bultaco decided to “launch” six Sherpa 350s on top of the world: up the Himalayas! Some people have climbed those 8000 m alone. Others as part of an expedition. Our philosophy however is better represented by a third way to do it: on Sherpas. Not the local guides, but Bultaco’s trial bikes! The achievement would be impossible nowadays, as the path is forbidden to motor driven vehicles. Fifty years ago, however, a Catalan expedition attempted this epic voyage. You may ask yourself why. To which question Luís Solé Guillaume, photographer and cameraman of the expedition, easily answered “because it is there”. He sadly disappeared in 2019, as he approached 101 years of age.
IT’S A CRAZY IDEA: LET’S DO IT!
It all started with Ramon Garcia Nieto and his friends in the Real Moto Club de Catalunya. They first came up with the ludicrous idea, and subsequently convinced a few sponsors such as Fujicolor, Pirelli and Varon Dandy to help them out. The team was then put together: Ramón Garcia Nieto was the organizer, Gerard Pascual the doctor, Jaume Samsó Piug the mechanic, Dimas Veiga (Seat press office) and, as a guide, Rafael Puig Bultó. Yes, the very founder of the Bultaco brand. Last but not least, L.S. Guillaume, expert adventurer who at the time was already 55 years old! Getting hold of the motorbikes at Bultaco was a piece of cake. Once all the bureaucracy was done with, everything was ready. In November 1973, a flight departed for Lukla.
FUEL, SNOW AND PASSION: LEAVE THE MAIN ROAD!
After a few connecting flights, the expedition reached the Solukhumbu district, 450 meters above sea level. They proceeded to prepare their camping equipment, and got on the saddle of their Sherpa 350s after having met their guides. Their number plates were sequentially numbered (B-0001Y to B0006Y). On the 8th November 1973 they set off at ten in the morning to reach the top of mount Imja, just South East of Mt. Everest.
Day after day they rode their Sherpas up the mountain, sometimes having to pull them with ropes while pushing each other and falling. They fell a lot, obviously. They reached the Tengboche monastery, the highest Buddhist place of worship, feeling cold and bruised. Furthermore, they then kept going, upwards, till ice and snow became ubiquitous (with temperatures reaching nighttime lows of -18ºC). At 14.05 on the 16th November they tiredly looked at each other, even more broken than their Bultacos which had been blocked by newly fallen snow: at 5156 meters they decided that they had come close enough to the sky. They then took a week to return to the base camp, walking alongside their motorbikes, too tired to ride them. After a few days of rest, they left Kathmandu to return home, where they arrived on 3rd January 1974. The echoes of their achievement inspired others on similar adventures: one was that of the Igualada Moto Club which reached 5.800 m on Mt Kilimanjaro, also with T350 Sherpas. Thanks to Guillaume and Veiga’s work, we can now relive this amazing adventure, through a documentary called Moto Himalaya 73 and the book Himalaya, namasté. Brave, original, passionate or simply mad… we all feel a little like their heirs. What was that about space?