Monday, October 20, 2008

4551 Meters

We rode across a wide open plateau before we started the switchbacks. The bikes struggled with the steepness and the altitude. I had my throttle goosed the whole way to the Khuzumla Pass.

Josh greeted each of us with snowballs at the top. Someone built a shrine ontop of the pass. We took photos and tried to catch our breath as it started to snow.

Going down the other side was just as steep. The snow intensified a little and began to stick on the pass. We got out of the switchbacks and the road detoured because landslides had covered it.
The detour took us through round rocks the size of volleyballs. You could barely make out the ruts as the road weaved along. The rockfield trail brought us back to the good road and we began to climb again.

I brought up the rear and was on the first switchback when I saw Carl coming toward me. His headlight was covered and his riding jacket was caked with snow. He said the storm continued to intensify and that we needed to turn around before we got stuck between passes for anywhere from overnight to all winter. I agreed and turned my bike around.

Returning to the rock trail was surreal. It started snowing about an inch an hour. I couldn't really see the road, so I concentrated on following the bike tracks in front of me. Each time I looked ahead, bikes weaved to and fro appearing to turn back on each other.

Two inches of snow covered the road by the time we got to the switchbacks. You had to keep the throttle up to keep the bike running, but each time the rear wheel slipped on a rock, it tried to force the back end around. When you had to help a buddy pick up his bike, yours would start sliding backwards because the front brake couldn't hold on the steep pitch. Eight of ten riders went down, some of them several times, before it was all over.

We made our way back to Losar and stopped for the night. We were cold and hungry. The woman that ran the guest house let us gather round the woodstove while she got us tea and quick bread.

The snow gradually slowed and had stopped by the time we went to bed. Carl cleaned two inches off the bikes in the morning. We loaded up and headed to Kasza to see the welder.

He sat on his heels smoking a bidi and banging on a piece of rebar when we showed up. The welder grabbed his sunglasses and layed a piece of metal that ran from the bike he needed to weld to a pile of scrap metal to act as a ground.

We pointed to a broken spot, he zapped it with the stick and we pointed to another until each bike was semi-solid again. The whole affair took less than twenty minutes so we pushed onto Tabo.

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