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Sweden – Slovenia

This has been an experiment into packing lighter and doing longer days. The company could not be better: Martin (who I cycled to Iran with previously) has a crazy long list of rando adventures behind him, and Tomas is a good mix of 100 kg headwind locomotive and emergency mechanic. Then we had the other Martin, driving down to Slovenia at the same time, and being kind enough to meet up with us twice or three times every day – a real luxury.

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Martin and I outside our house. Same place as we started our Eurasia trip more than 4 years ago.

After picking Martin up at the airport, we set off from my house. We got 50 m, then I noticed that my casette was skipping. Back to the garage, new casette, and off again. The first day was a short 70 km ride to Ystad, where we met up with the other Martin and Tomas at the ferry after downing a pizza.

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I had a bad cold and the ferry ride did not help much. We made another casette swap to a brand new one in the hut, then off to sleep. In the morning I did not feel great, but a 240 km ride it was, nontheless. Luckily, the condition improved gradually during the day.

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Last minute wheel fix on the ferry.

The biking Martin’s girlfriends’ parents live in Germany, close to Frankfurt am Oder. We were invited for a barbeque and so diverted from the Polish headwind to find fantastic hospitality and lots of tasty food!

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Poland had several roads of interesting quality.

The next day we pushed on to Czechia, finishing off with a nice long climb, and realizing that the country we had entered provided more scenic riding, but also more hills. So the next day turned into a real roller coaster in scorching sun. I was moving slow, still not feeling 100 %, so after 220 km we called it a day at a fantastic countryside guest house that Martin (the one with the car) had found.

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Martin and I riding in the evening.

Then more hills, into Austria. And rain. Still fantastic riding, but slow. The last pass was undertaken in dense darkness and light rain. Tomas had no lights and so we rode closely together, finding our way down to the valley and the cold pizza awaiting us in the hotel room.

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End of Austria also meant end of rain.

It tured out that the previous day had only been a warm-up. Now awaited 7 passes, totalling 4600 m ascent over 210 km. It went smooth, but the weather was shifty: 30 C and sunshine in the valleys, 11 C and heavy rain on several of the passes. The latter felt little cold on the long descents. Nonetheless, the evening turned out to be a really nice one weather-wise. Then Tomas blew out the side wall on his rear carbon rim on a long gravel descent in heavy rain (the front rim had died just two days before). Being Tomas, he removed the tire and casually continued the descent (now on asphalt) riding 40 km/h as if nothing had happened. Luckily Martin met up with us, and provided a new wheel. The last pass – from Villach in Austria to Kransja Gora in Slovenia, was brutal. It had a long stretch of 18 % incline, and again it was pitch black by the time we got there. Tomas and I had to get off and push for a bit of the crazy steep, while Martin muscled on. Then it was an easy roll down past Kransja Gora to the house we had rented in Gozd Martuljek. It had been 5 days of fun in great company, averaging 250 km per day, and with lots of quality climbing. Although it had been an effort, it felt sad that the trip was over.

 

 

 

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Mustang trail race

Since many years back, I have had a fascinations with moving fast on foot through the Himalayas. During several visits, I got to know Richard, who is doing a tremendous job with promoting trail running in Nepal (check out trailrunningnepal.org). In recent years, he has been very successful with coaching and promoting Nepali runners, most notably Mira Rai, who is a Salomon sponsored athletes on the Sky Running World Series, was voted National Geographic Adventurer of the Year 2017, but foremost she a very nice person with a passion for running. Mira was joining the Mustang trail race, as training for an upcoming Sky Running race in Yading, China. We were also joined by Chhechee Sherpa, who was training for the trail running world champs in May in Spain (Richard has completed a successful crowd funding campaign to sponsor a Nepali national team!). Apart from the runners mentioned above, the race comprised a few more promising Nepali talents, a good mix of “western” runners, and none other than Lizzy Hawker (most UTMB wins in the history of the race), marking the trail with bright pink ribbons for us to follow.

Day 0, the warm up day, we walked from Jomsom to Kagbeni, being the entry point to Upper Mustang. Rather than following the river bed, we took a 900 m climb over a pass to the village of Phalyak, where we had noodles and tea. From there some took the direct route to Kagbeni and some of us claimed a second pass. Reaching the second pass, Lizzy suggested walking a ridge line, rather than taking the more obvious route down. She was joined by a small group of Nepali runners and me. It was a nice hike across, with the roaring afternoon wind of Mustang almost blowing us off our feet at some points. The view down towards Muktinath was stunning, so was the fast, running descent on steep sandy switchbacks, back to the river bed and the village of Kagbeni.

As always with Richard, organization was ad hoc stellar. We stayed at a fantastic place, ate incredible food, got to know each other, and readied ourselves for the first race day.

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The windiest ridge. Above Kagbeni, with a fantastically fun descent ahead.

Stage 1 arrived. We had breakfast, and visited the monastery in Kagbeni, while our permits were registered with the authorities. Then the race started. After some initial 10 km on jeep track, we headed up a dried creek, followed by an amazing descent in a canyon, running through villages with lush green fields, in the otherwise harsh desert landscape of Mustang. A final steep climb took us to Chele, the goal of the day.

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The race started, not surprisingly, uphill. Photo courtesy TRN.

While most of the uphills were walked, I felt good, and was carefully monitoring my heart rate, in order not to burn myself out.

Stage 2. This day was the biggest day of the race: 26 km (which does not sound a lot!), with 2000 m of climbing, and all run at altitude. A landslide had taken out the originally planned route, but Lizzy had found a good (but steeply climbing!) alternative for us. At 12 km, there was a check-in-check-out stop, for visiting the cave at Chungsi. Inside is an old statue of Guru Rimpoche (Sanskrit: Padma Sambhava), who spread Buddhism in the area some 2000 years ago. Then more climbing, and a fantastic descent to the finish in Ghemi. Right before the finish I found Alex, who – Nepali prodigies apart – was leading the race some 20 min ahead of me. He had sprained  his foot badly and was cooling it in a cold stream. Luckily our kind, knowledgeable and helpful doctor managed to patch him up into painful, but runnable shape. While Alex and I were fortunate to arrive around lunch, this was a brutal day for some of the runners, who had several more hours to go, exposed to the sun, and the increasing merciless afternoon winds.

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Resting, and watching life happening, slowly as it does. Photo courtesy TRN.

In Ghemi, we stayed at a most amazing place, owned by descendants of the king of Lo. We had a nice dinner, and headed early to bed after Richard’s daily briefing.

Stage 3. By 7:40 am, we were running. Fist on the flat, then up hill past a long main wall, and the red cliffs overlooking the village of Drakmar. At this point we took a sharp left and climes a steep pass (wiggling through a flock of horses) up to a 4000 m plateau. Here Anju, our photographer and film maker, had taken the drone out and shot some sequences of us sorry runners, crawling uphill across the plateau.

I felt strong, and had a fast start. Chhechee was flying ahead, but other than her, I was alone in the landscape. Then Mira came casually jogging by, chatting effortlessly.

There was a check-in-check-out stop at the momentary Ghar Gompa. Alex came in not long after me, and it was good to see that he was able to run, albeit painfully.

Then a 4300 m double pass, and a very long gradual descent to the walled city of Lo Manthang.

Runners then came in during the passing hours. One person was struggling with altitude, but made it all the way, accompanied by his partner, our doctor and crew. (Unfortunately, he developed acute altitude sickness during the night, despite our very gradual approach, but was air lifted to safety the following day – all managed in the smoothest way possible by the crew.)

The following day was a rest day. We visited the old and impressive monestsries of Jampa (the oldest, 700 years old) and Thubchen (600 years old), washed clothes, relaxed and I bought a mandala thanka, painted in the traditional way with natural pigments of the Newar palette on cotton canvas treated with glue made from yak skin. The artist is part of a group, guided by Italian restorer Luigi Fieni, restoring ancient monastery art in and around Lo.

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View over the walled city of Lo Manthang.

Stage 4. Waking up, I did not feel motivated. Maybe it was my stomach, maybe the rest day. The first part of the day was slight uphill along a river bed. Runnable, but I put in some walking. Then a steep uphill to the amazing landscape of Konchung Ling. It looks a bit like Bryce Canyon, except with a Himalayan backdrop, freshly dusted with overnight snow. After sitting around and absorbing the landscape (and letting the stomach settle), the trail went back down, around the corner to a hydration stop, then short climb up to a cave complex near the villages of Nyphu and Garphu. This is, as Richard put it, perhaps the first sky scraper – 5 stories carved into the mountainside, used as a hide out in old days, when enemy armies were on the advance. Then the trail marking ceased. The locals really like the pink ribbons, they are good for decorating horses, motor bikes, and children. I caught up with the leaders and we walked together until a ribbon was spotted in the distance. We were now running into the wind. Short stop, jacket on, small pass, and then all gentle downhill back towards Lo. The last 7 km were very runnable and great fun. Unfortunately my watch messed up the GPS track here (later discovered crack in heart rate sensor, perhaps related?). A final steep climb to the walled city and short dash later it was time for the daily routine of cold (by preference) shower, laundry, battery charging and noodle soup. Then kicking back, watching Anuj footage from his drone and enjoying being detached from the noise of the western world. Dinner, briefing, repeat.

Stage 5. This was the easy stage turned hard. After a night of poor sleep, it was hard getting up, and a whole lot easier enjoying the breakfast. We walked a kora around the city wall, as the locals so every evening and morning, then on the count of three by two local children, set off on a slow uphill slug that went on for 7-8 km. The descent on the other side was on the most amazing trail – soft sand in contorted canyon ravines, down to the village of Adhikary. From there, the route followed a river bed, and although it was only the slightest of uphills, I had a difficult time. The destination village of Yara is a timeless place. I spent two hours on a roof top watching nothing in particular, which here includes beautiful traditional clay houses, people working in the small fields below, and a stunning landscape of huge eroded sand fins, into which caves have been carved, probably more than 1000 years ago (the cave complex near Nyphu, which we visited yesterday, was hacked into the rock more than 2000 years ago).

Stage 6 was different in that it started with a common walk up to Luri Gompa, a cave monestary some 5 km and a few 100 m climb from where we spent the night. After a climb on some questionable wood construction, 700 year old paintings of Buddha could be admired, alongside a splendid view down valley. Then we ran. First all the way back we had walked, 2 glasses of water, then uphill to a plateau, followed by steep drop, river crossing and another water station. Ahead was a 700 m climb, but having slept well, it felt easy. Running down on the other side was lots of fun. The last bit to Tanggy, the trail found itself wedges between steep rock in a narrow canyon that served as a channel for the heavy head wind. Upon arriving, washing up and having some noodle soup, I went fossil hunting in the river bed. Some finds, nothing museum class. What was nicer than the fossils, was the view. Tanggy is a classic Tibetan village with white clay houses and chhortens in white and terra-cotta red. The backdrop looking back was fins of sand stone, carved out by the wind. Below the village are green terraced fields, and beyond them the river.

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Me, jogging along. Photo courtesy TRN.

Stage 7 was my favorite. It started with a sustained 800 m climb, which felt really good. Then, after a second little pass, the trail went along a winding and highly runnable ridgeline, with views of the Annapurna range ahead, the valleywe had run up in previous days to the right, and a Grand Canyon like landscape of odd shapes and colors to the left. By now the body had gotten use to the altitude, as well as an adjustment to running after a winter of skiing only. Rest heart rate had gone down to 40 from over 60 during the week (almost as low as at sea level for me), and the air felt quite all right to breathe. Running along the ridge at a slow pace was an effortless undertaking, sparing all energy to enjoy the magnificent views. Then came the massive downhill to Chucksang. The trail was a bit firmer than previous downhills, which made it a bit harder for me, but still not too bad. Rishi was just ahead during the entire descent, and I passed him just meters before the finish line. All in all, with the ridge top trail, the views, and feeling well throughout, today’s run is up there with the very best trail running experiences imaginable. The only possible down side was Chucksang, which was a bit too comfortable and modern. I really liked the villages of Yara and Tanggy, with their remoteness both in terms of land and virtual communication.

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This is what the small villages of Mustang look like. Likely to change, as roads are beging completed throughout the region.

Stage 8. Melancholic, or just a realization that there will be more later. The 1200 m climb past goats and beutiful landscape. The nights snow, starting at 3800 m, had already melted by the time I got there, and after the pass followed a long and perfectly runnable descent to the ugly concrete mish-mash village of Ranipauwa, built to cater Indian pilgrims (mostly flown in to Jomsom, then jeeped and horses to Mumtinath temple). The finish was at the iconic (?) Bob Marley Rasta restaurant and café, where we had post-race lunch before bussing back to Jomsom, except those brave who walked in the sand blasting head wind river bed.

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The last downhill.

Synopsis. The Mustang trail race is over. After almost not starting due to previous illness, it turned out a wonderful experience. The organization and team were fantastic, as were the runners. Mostly it was a fantastic landscape and cultural experience, but it was also a race. Having not run previously this year (but ski toured a lot), I was happy to

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It is a bit hard to capture vastness of landscape and the howling wind in picutres, but they are both there.

Finish 5/21, as second non-Nepali, beaten by Alex from Barça. And being beaten by Chhechee Sherpa (winner of the brutal 46 day Himal race 2017) and Mira Rai (team Salomon) was not exactly a disappointment. Anyway, it is the landscape and the checkpoints at caves with ancient Buddhist paintings that made the deepest impression on me. And the proximity to Dolpo, prompting for a return to the area to do some running on my own in a hopefully near future. The warmest thanks to Ram, Lizzy, Richard, the doctor, Neer, Anuj, and the rest of the team for making this trip a memorable and fun experience – highly recommended if you like the mountains, regardless of running fitness.


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Golden, BC

This winter has been the third in a succession of ski bum season, the second of which in Golden, BC.

So why Golden? Well, I must confess I had my eyes on going back to Gulmarg in Kashmir for an extended period of time. Recent political unsettlement and the relative immobility that comes with traveling with a toddler made us decide against. Side note: Yesterday (April 12) I met a fun couple from Revelstoke in the Nepali Himalayas (coincidence!), who had planned to spend the winter in Gulmarg, but left early due to a combination of marginal snow conditions and non-consolidated hoar layers causing deep and wide slides, killing at least two persons during their stay. So, lucky we didn’t go there this year. (They also told me that Billa, who runs the heli ski operation in Gulmarg, has moved to Golden, which is even more coincidential.)

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Oskar trying out my helmet.

Having chosen not to go to Gulmarg still left a lot of options. We were keen on Canada, being a cheaper food and accommodation wise than most of Europe, didn’t feel an urge to go to the US, and knew that Japan would be a bit more expensive, particularity as we wanted a place of our own to stay. Consequently we went for a Rockies road trip last year to try out a few places, new to us. We really liked Red Mountain and Whitewater close to Nelson. However, the former had so slow lifts that doing baby sitting laps would be a bit of a drag, while the daily drive between Nelson and Whitewater put us off. Revy was also on the table, but being busier, more touristique and also more expensive made us finally decide for East Revy (Golden).

A good thing to know if you are traveling with a toddler, is that they have stopped allowing them onto the gondi in harnesses, so all options left are touring, or leaving with someone.

A fascinating thing, was that nothing much had changed in Golden. The expected boom (indicated by construction of new condos near the hill) never took place. It was still as sleepy as always, with the nice exception   of the newly opened Whitetooth brewery, and the fact that Kicking Horse mtn was the only North American stop on the Freeride World Tour this year.

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Lunch at our favorite Japanese restaurant in Golden, togethre with Rachel, who came visiting from Vancouver.

After settling in, we quickly found a nice routine. There was a really friendly crowd of ski bums and we made several new friends. The skiing was also really good. It did not beat the 2011 el niña year (which was exceptional!), but we had lots of good skiing both at the hill, in the slack country, and occasionally at Roger’s pass. I also took a four day field course in avalanche safety at the pass, which turned out to be really good.

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Johannes on top of Rudy’s ridge – the slack country classic next to Kicking Hourse.

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…Followed by an after ski beer with Oskar.

Half-way through our stay, my mom came visiting for two weeks. She and Oskar would hang out at Double Black café (where we were by now part of the furniture), while we went skiing. Then we took our awesome ’93 Lincoln town car for a ride to Vancouver, where we stayed at a friends place, went to Deep Cove, Point Grey, Sea Wall, and a nice run/hike at Seymour from Lynn Valley. The weather could not have been better: 18 C, sun, and no wind!

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Summer weather with mom and Oskar at Deep Cove.

Driving back, we took the Sea to Sky Hwy detour over Whistler. The road between Whistler and Kamloops turned out to be one of the nicest drives I’ve done in a long time. We were moving on a small empty road through a hilly dry landscape, with the occasional village here and there.

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Our thirsty Lincoln ’93 Town Car at the gas station.

After leaving mom in Calgary, we had another ten days of skiing. One day I joined to friends to go touring at Icefields, where he had seen a really promising couloir from the highway. The other days we took turns as usual, with many short tours up to the ridges next to the ski area.

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Ingrid on her way up one of our favorite runs at Roger’s pass.

The season went by very fast. Oskar was the one of us making most new friends with skiers from all over the world. It was also fun to see that he liked being outdoors a lot, and enjoyed being in environments with much going on around him. Hopefully he too will enjoy skiing in a year or two.


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Indian Himalayas Part 4 – Nubra Valley

After waking up at 4 am and having a snickers for breakfast, I started pedaling uphill north of Leh. Six hours later, I was on top of Khardung la, which was at the time being the highest motirable pass in the world. The climb itself was long, but rather uninteresting. There was a Hindu temple at the top with a loud speaker emitting a horrible non-stop noise, so I was quick to start the descent to Khardung, where I pitched the tent in a garden of a family who invited me for dinner.
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Looking back at Leh from the climb toward Khardung la.

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This is supposedly the highest motorable pass in the world.

Next morgning, the downhill continued through the so far most impressive landscape of the trip. Reaching the Nubra valley floor, I continued to the region capital of Diskit, then on to Hunder. The presence of
sand dunes and Bactrian camels makes Hunder feel very much more like Central Asia than India. It is fascinating to imagine the days of the Great Game, when caravans of these camels would transport goods (and explorers/spies) across the tibetan passes.
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The Nubra river, before it splits into the Shyok (left of mountain in center) and NUbra (right of same mountain).

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Bactrian camels, reminding about old times when the Nubra valley was a principial trade route to Tibet.

The road passed the huge Thoise air force base, past which civilians have only been allowed in recent years. Another couple of hours later, I rolled into the Balti village of Turtuk. It used to be Pakistani until the Indians claimed it by military force in 1967. The population speaks Balti and Urdu, and it feels more like Afghanistan than India. After leaving suspect electronics in Turtuk, I cycled on to see how far it was possible to get. While Turtuk is the last place the army allows tourists to visit, I was not turned around before arriving at the actual line of control. From there, one could see the characteristic immense granite faces of the Karakoram range, a region I hope to return to  with the bike some day.
The last days in Leh, I bumped into five German/US/Canadian motor bikers, who were traveling for some extended time. They were all going rafting the next day, and Tim generously lended me his bike – an Enfield classic 350 – in the meanwhile. With it, I went for a half day trip to the Hemis and Tiksey minestsries. Particularly the latter was an amazing place, truly from another age.
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The Enfield I borrowed and took on a one day monastery tour around Leh.

The last evening, I accidentally met two British cyclists (the only cyclists in addition to two Belgians, one Swede I met earlier). We had dinner at a roof top overlooking the palace in Leh, and exchanged trip ideas. They warmly recommended Morocco’a Atlas Mountains, which they claimed to be very scenic, while being conveniently close to Europe and cheap.
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The view from Il Forno, a roof top wood ove pizza place kn down town Leh.

In retrospect, cycling from Shimla to Leh, and on to Nubra, has been an interesting geographic and cultural experience – moving from the Victorian era style architecture in Shimla, on to the green lush hills of Hindi Himachal, to the Tibetan cultures in Spiti, continuing via the Changtang Morei plains with its Changpa nomad inhibitants to Leh, and finally onto the Balti villages of the Nubra valley system, at the foot of the Pakistani Karakoram range. Few such short trips manage to encompass as wide diversity in nature, culture and world religion (Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and finally Islam).
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Looking back up the Shyok valley, from the spot where it narrows off before reaching the Pakistani border.


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Indian Himalayas Part 3 – Manali-Leh Hwy

After crossing Kunzum la, we took the detour to Chandra lake. It was a scenic place, and it was also where Filip’s rear tire side wall tore. We managed to source needle and thread from locals, and Filip made a good job of sewing the tire together, after which we moved it to the front wheel.
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Mechanical intermisson on top of Kunzum la.

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Chandra lake

After Chandra the road turned really bad with sand, rocks and a multitude of river crossings. Also, there was a strong head wind. Next morning I had a sore throat and took it easy while Filip cycled ahead on a detour to Manali to source parts for his breaking bike.
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Traffic jam caused by the bad road.

We met up again the next evening at the hotel Ibex. There was a nasty rain storm that evening and I figured Filip had stopped in Keylong, but he showed up soaked just at nightfall.
The next day was dedicated to crossing the scenic Baralacha la, marking the entry to the old kingdom of Ladakh. I cycled ahead and was met by a hail storm at the pass, so I sent  a message to Filip over sat, saying we’d meet further down the road.
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The river bed widened on the other side of the Baralacha la.

Another two passes later, we were on the Morei plains, being part of the Changtang, or Tibetan plateau. There was again a tail wind, and while cruising along, tents of yak-herding Changpa nomads could be seen partway up the surrounding hills.
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Last camp before climbing up onto the Morei plains.

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Leaving the valley floor and entering the Tibetan plateu.

We took off from the main road to visit the salt lake of Tso Kar. Filip hiked up a nearby hill, while I got food poisoned in a changpa tent. The following day was rather aweful. It was hot outside, and I could not keep any food down. To make things merrier, we were crossing the almost 5300 m Taglang la. At the top I had had it, shivering with fever. It did not feel like a good place to stay, so I rolled down to the first settlement and collapsed at the first place available.
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My tent next to Tso Kar…

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…and the Tent of a Changpa nomad passing through with his horse.

Eventually I woke up and went outside to have some tea. To my surprise, sitting next to me was Mark Brightwell, a Brit formerly with the Ghorkas, who I have been running with in Nepal before. It was nice seeing Mark, and I found out he was leading a five week mountaineering expedition, and was waiting for a doctor to be flown in from London, as their altitude medicine specialist had herself developed high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) and had to be evacuated. I’ll likely see Mark again in Mustang next April, as we are both friends of Rich, who is arranging the annual Mustang trail running race.
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Looking back down from the Taglang la, after a horrible climb.

Next morning I decided I had recovered enough to move on, and it was all downhill through a colorful red valley, with many stupas and the odd monastery. The last part of the road to Leh was utterly uninteresting, and passing through unimaginably ugly army bases.
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This Buddha at Thikse monestary is over 10 m high, passing through three floors.

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Wall painting at the same monstary…

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…and the view from the room

It was nice to arrive in Leh, and recover from the stomach bug. Filip went ahead to Nubra, while I took another rest day.


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Indian Himalayas Part 2 – Spiti Valley

In Reckong Peo, we went through the process of acquiring inner line permits, necessary for visiting within 40 km of India’s troubled lines of control toward China and Pakistan. Filip’s bike had a rough start and we also spent time replacing four  broken spokes.
We cycled on into the valley, accompanied by a strong tail wind. In Pooh we stopped to see the village’s summer festival. I was hoping for the traditional deal, and was rather disappointed.
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Entering the summer festival area in Pooh.

Next day provided a long and beautiful  climb up to Nako. After the following downhill the Spiti valley opened up and changed character. We spent the night at Ki Gompa, with an excellent valley view. One of the monks told us that a new road was being constructed in a parallel valley. It was accessible via a not yet completed bridge, which would be possible to cross with bicycles. This route turned out to be one of the best so far. Since the bridge was closed, there were no cars, and the surface was perfect new asphalt.
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The view from just above Nako is quite stunning.

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Ki Gompa, where we spent the night, is spectacularly perched on a rock.

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Big scenery in the valley just after Ki Gompa.

In Spiti, I also almost lost my sat phone. They are strictly forbidden in the sensitive boarder areas. At an army check point, a soldier found it and asked if it was a sat phone. I told him it wasn’t, it was a GPS. He was not buying into it, but before he had the opportunity to examine it closer, I pointed out that it was not as good as the gps of the new iPhone, and handed mine over. It worked, he was sufficiently perplexed by this piece of Steve Jobs legacy to forget about the sat phone, which I tucked back in my front pack.
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In the inner part of the valley, the road passed through traditional Tibetan villages.

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The last 60 km of Spiti also offered interesting roads.


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Indian Himalaya Part 1 – Shimla

Arriving at DEL, I spent time at all four ATMs. Three failed to dispense cash in a number of interesting ways, while the fourth fortunately worked, although at 10 000 Rs per time Filip arrived shortly after me, and after buying a SIM card we managed to get in touch with our driver and headed off to the foothillls. After 2 h in a complete grid lock, things eased up to  normal traffic jam for another hour. Then we were on the country side. Flat, hot, and populated. Upon reaching the hills, we regretted not spending the night in Kalka and taking the historic narrow gauge scenic railway from there to Shimla the next day.

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Main square in Shimla – ready to roll.

Next morning we assembled the bikes.
Filip spent 2 h fiddling with his peculiar packing, then we were off! The climate was nice, and it is easy to understand why the Brits moved out here from Delhi in the summer. We passed scandal point, the cathedral and a pharmacy, then climbed out of town. The afternoon we cycled through lush hill sides with tree plantations. At one point we passed the Indian national high altitude training camp. The guy at the gate was very suspicious of us and far from keen on chatting. There was no obvious place to pitch a tent, but we found a dhaba where we spent the first night.
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Fruit plantations on the Himalayan foot hills, close to Shimla.

Next morning, parts of the national road cycling team went by as I had breakfast and Filip was packing up (now twice as fast as yesterday!). The day featured a 2000 m descent, strewn with Tata trucks and cows, providing an interesting obstacle course.
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This was the first of several sections of intesting road conditions.

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This is another example of interesting road conditions.

We reached the entry of the Spiti valley, after only being subject to one monsoon downpour. The landscape changed from green hills to narrow rocky river gorge. A tail wind funneling between the walls, blew us up to Rekong Peo.
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For long sections, the road was carved directly into the sheer mountain side.


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Faroe Islands

This summer we opted for a shorter trip, as we were not sure how Ingrid and the -2 month old baby would handle cycling (it went just fine).

Continuing on our tradition of the worst weather you can find, we chose the Faroe Islands. According to a man we met on a boat, the Brits called the islands the “land of maybe” during WWII, due to the unpredictable weather. They delivered from day 1, when the pilot announced that we would maybe be landing. It was a very bumpy and shaky approach, and with the runway not too far below, he decided this was not possible, and veered off. After 15 min the weather had improved enough, and this time he managed to slam the plane rather firmly onto the tarmac.

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Picture off our plane taken from the arrival hall.

After assembling the bikes, we were allowed to store the empty boxes for free at the airport (thanks!) and set off to Mulafossur, which is one of the most photographed waterfalls (and scenes in general) on the islands. There we found a little café, which was closed, but they did not mind two late guests.

 

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The mulafossur waterfall / tourist magnet.

Leaving Mulafossur, we cycled to a camping site not far from the airport. Wild camping is not allowed (due to the sheep?), so we stayed at camping sites throughout the trip. They were all really cheap and most of them luxurious with a modern kitchen, living room area, clean modern bath rooms and internet connections.

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Riding back from the waterfall.

Next morning we woke 05:30 AM to catch the bus through a long subsea tunnel, which we were not keen on. Then we cycled through really horrendous weather the rest of the day. Part of the day, we were on a small winding road in the mountains with (what could have been) nice views. It was still very enjoyable to be out cycling, and we found more than one café along the way. In the evening we arrived at Gjogv, where we had a local buffet dinner (mostly food from the sea, and lamb).

With minds set on bad weather, it came as a surprise that the rest of the trip provided mostly sunshine (although some wind). A local hiking guide told us that this was the best weather they had so far this year (perhaps in several years).

We cycled out to the tip of Kalsoy and hiked out to a scenic light house. The next day we made another excursion to Vidareidi. The road out was very scenic, but involved two long one-lane unlit tunnels, with small pockets every few hundred meters. Each time there was a light at either end, we had to hurry to the next pocket and squeeze in while the car or truck passed. This made the going really slow, but we made it through.

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Ingrid on a grassy hill near the northern tip of Kalsoy.

One of the more forgiving tunnels – with lights and all.

The last day of the trip, we spent in Torshavn, which is the capital. It was the obly place where we saw real trees. There were also really nice cafés, where we sat most most days, drinking coffee, and a locally brewed, and rather tasty, beer.

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The last climb before Torshavn.

We met three cycle tourers while on the islands. One of them had spent a week, the two others three. Our conclusion from talking to them was that one week is adequate. While the scenery is fantastic, it all looks rather the same, and so you reach saturation (both in terms of scenery and rain) rather fast. We never got to a point where we got bored, but did not feel that we had to stress about in order not to miss out on something either.


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A busy spring

It has been a busy spring, and the blog has been down-prioritized in favor of work, and of course playing in the outdoors. Apart from everyday maintenance training, the two nicest events have been the annual training camp with CK Lunedi on Mallorca in April

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CK Lunedi on top of the San Salvador climb, Mallorca.

and long rides (and runs!) around Skåne

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“The longest day” ride. Thanks to Patch and others. Photo: Strava/Zorn .

Soon, however, it is time to depart for Faroe Islands, followed by touring in Ladakh/Kashmir/India. I’ll promise to post some pictures and texts once back…


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Sunnmøre ski tour

This year, again, we decided to spend time around easter in the Norwegian backcountry. We flew to Ålesund and rented a car, driving out to the Sunnmøre alps.

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Ok, let’s go skiing…

Weather was fantastic, almost a bit too fantastic. In fact, the snow line was way up in the mountains, making for hour long bush-whacking approaches in shoes, with skis and boots on the pack. The snow was really good, however. Pow up higher, and corn/slush further down.

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At least there was really good snow higher up.

Ingrid was unfortunately sick with a nasty cold, so the days consisted in quick solo tours before lunch, and excursions to the archipelago together in the afternoon. The days were long, so there was no rush.

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Afternoon excursion to a really nice hippie village on a small island.

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We had booked a hotel in Ålesund for the last night before flying out, but cancelled when we found this spot in a park.