walking with the giants

litup

There’s something about it. Mt Everest; that fascinates. Captures the imagination: The tallest mountain in the world… But so what? Why is it so compelling that, to date 250-some people have died trying to climb it, and over 40,000 people a year trek in the mountain’s shadow? What is it about “the tallest” that commands such interest? Not that I’m immune: after out abortive Annapurna circuit attempt, Matt and l agreed that there was but one thing to do with the rest of his time in Nepal.

So, head to Everest we did. Or at least the general vicinity. Thanks to our new friend Mads of Himalayan Trails, who has 15 years of exploratory mountain biking and adventure travel guiding experience, this time we were much better informed. We left most of our gear in Kathmandu (it turns out we should have left more — anything we left with our bikes while walking was thoroughly ransacked — fortunately nothing too irreplaceable or important was taken) as the solukumbu area is liberally populated with ‘tea houses. Combination lodge/restaurants which range from the decidedly rustic to 5 star. There is actually a 5 star hotel with a private airstrip and view of Everest, or so l’m told. After one last falafel we rode out of town. Strangely our trip toward the tallest mountain in the world started on smooth(ish) pavement which ran gently downhill! Along the Sunkoshi river.
Most of the roads on our route were under construction. Three or four different road projects, each with slightly different equipment and methodology. All engaged in transforming a muddy rutted jeep track into paved road. Mostly by hand — breaking rocks with sledge-hammers: turning boulders into gravel, and cobbles into building blocks for retaining walls; sweeping the road clear of pebbles with bundles of sticks; and boiling tar in 55-gallon drums over open fires. Forcing a single lane highway through improbably steep terrain. All this construction motivated at least in part, because this route is the supply-line to the everest region, and accordingly all the propane, keroscene, toilet paper beer and coffee, not to mention food, and building materials for lodges under construction pass this way. Continue reading…

trekking towards mt. Everest

wrongway

many thanks to matt for all the lovely photos

Everest bound

everest

pocket computer update

After a few days of rest and bike repair in the company of our new friend Mads of Himilayan Trails; we are off the bikes(!) and headed towards the tallest mountain in the world.  Our steeds are waiting in the town of Ringmou, which was as close to basecamp as we could reasonably ride them.  We’re the talk (laughing stock?) of the crowded trail; what with my bare feet, and Matt’s hobo-pole (rather than back pack).  Proper update to follow, when I can find a real keyboard to compose on….

Hubris (part 2)

SAMSUNG

(bike canyoneering)

Two thousand meters of elevation drop sounds like a dream come true for downhill mtn biking, but not when the trail is so steep and loose and exposed that you can barely walk down parts of it. The first thousand meters or so of drop was scree of mixed sizes, some of which l could ‘ski’ down with both wheels locked up, sliding on the edge of complete loss of control. l was rather excited when l slid my way to a halt at the gradient change l had been slowly approaching, but my misguided enthusiasm quickly gave way to something akin to despair: a lot of it would have been rideable for short sections, but bashing over miles of densely scattered loose rocks the size of your head was just too much effort to sustain. Not to mention that the relatively flat sections were interspersed with switchbacks barely a horse long and 6-inch-wide outward sloping traverses carved into mud and sand. Needless to say l walked, or rather pushed, or rather struggled to keep my bike from barreling off the “trail” and into the abyss. Continue reading…

hubris

SAMSUNG

Tso Moriri to Spiti Valley via Parangla

It takes a special kind of stupidity to venture out by yourself into the wilds of the Himalaya without a map, headed for trails you’re not entirely sure exist, over a mountain pass you know nothing about, and dragging a bike to boot. Now mine is a special, and quite capable, steed, but horse trails are, well, for (and by) horses, and sometimes (in the Himalaya, often, it turns out) they do things l just can’t do on the bike –which means pushing and or carrying.   So l set out once again from Korzog fully aware that what l was attempting would be difficult, but without any real idea what l was getting myself into, and lulled perhaps into a false sense of security by the lovely and rideable circuit of Tso Moriri l had just completed. Continue reading…

Tomando mate en el techo del mundo

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While in Leh l met a Mexican-Israeli cycle-tourist and mate enthusiast, by the name of Moy, who was interested in trying some off-road touring (and sharing the kilo of mate l was carrying around – a gift from Simon in Sebastopol because l had been more or less living on the stuff while we worked overtime to get as much done as possible on our treehouse project before l left).  He waited patiently while l cobbled together my equipment, and when l finally had everything strapped onto my bike we dragged ourselves out of Leh and the clutches of convenience and headed towards the town of Korzog on the shores of Tso Moriri on a shakedown cruise for me and an intro to extreme mtn bike touring for him.

Continue reading…