Adventures, Races, Kit and Life
In ancient mythology, the noises from the darkness beyond the camp fire were often associated with the presence demi-gods, roaming the realm that bridged the earth and the heavens or hell. In the Himalayas the fierce images of Yeti with its sharp claws and long teeth comfortably falls into this category.
We are already halfway though an epic adventure !
We are mountain biking the 700km along the famous “Friendship Highway”, connecting topical Lhasa in Tibet, to Kathmandu in Nepal. We have tagged on the painstaking, rutted ascent to the Tibetan Everest base camp, which adds 300km. We have been cycling for several hard days and are rewarded with a rest day, camping at the beautiful Rongbuk Monastery.
Rongbuk Monastery is high in the Himalayas, just a few kilometers from Base camp. It’s blessed with incredible views of the roof of the world and its giant golden stuppa and masses of beautiful prayer flags make it possibly the most picturesque camp site in the world.
It’s inhabitants, the cheerful, maroon cloaked Buddhist monks, have long since gone to bed, as darkness and the associated cold has descended upon the scenic valley. It is 2am, and outside in the sub zero temperatures something is seriously amiss !
At first I wonder if it was actually real or simply another vivid nightmare caused by the side effects of drugs I’ve been taking ? “Diamox” helps to increase the red bloods cells capability to carry oxygen molecules, which makes a massive difference to the amount of heavy panting or gasping for air, when there is just 60% of the sea level oxygen levels, at our current 5000m.
The tent is shakes furiously again and I’m pretty sure I am actually awake.
My father is fast asleep next to me. He’s taken several sleeping tablets to help him drop off at altitude. He has been suffering from mild effects of pulmonary edema, and has small amounts of fluid in his lungs, a physical reaction to grueling ascent from Lhasa to this altitude.
So far he has put in a legendary performance. Keeping pace with 3 riders on average 25 years younger than him, for nearly 500km of meandering, rutted dirt trail. This includes 3 mammoth climbs, winding up remote mountain passes, with over 1km vertical ascent each time. Each 5200m pass climax’s in a wonderful mass of colourful prayer flags draped over rock formations and truly incredible views of Himalayas highest snow capped peaks. Every long climb has been more than worth the pain, so far.
Dad snores then coughs, deep, very deep in his sleep. Unlike those childhood times when he saved me from the monsters under the bed I realize that he is not going to help to this occasion.
I grapple with the super snug, down sleeping bag that has been wrapped tightly, right up to my nose to protect me from the cold. Underneath I’m fully dressed to try and stay warm. I already have a woolly hat on and squeeze my head torch on top, then crawl to the tent flap. In my head I count 1, 2, 3 and then yank the zipper down. Nothing actually happens ! The condensation that has formed on the tent as yesterdays sun set, and the valley cooled, has frozen the zip closed !!
This is not good ! Whatever is out there now knows I’m coming !
The tent shakes again. This time even more violently ! I put all my weight on the zipper and firmly yank again. It gives and I fall forwards into the cold darkness outside.
It was far worse than I expected ! I find myself staring into the large black soulless eyes of what appears to be some huge, horned and hairy, devil like creature. A Tibetan Minotaur ! It grunts and a cloud of warm air is exhaled from its nostrils. It forms a fog in the light of my head torch. I close my eyes and hold my breath, preparing for the worst…..
Moments pass like hours and are finally interrupted by ….. my father contently snoring in the background. I dare to open an eye.. and then another ! Okay ! Maybe the Diamox has been playing slight tricks with my brain ! I’m nose to nose with a mountain yak. Note – It does not smell good! The poor thing has managed to get itself tangled in the tents guide ropes, in the darkness.
The next day we wake up to a beautiful day and its back on the trail.
We have another three, 5,000m mountain passes to conquer and then can look forwards to the worlds longest decent ! This is a 200km descent down an incredibly scenic Jurassic park-esque valley, though the Nepalese border and then onwards to the chaotic hustle and bustle of Kathmandu, at just 1500m altitude. The decent is an adventure in itself ! But that is another tale……