Today we would leave our favorite place of the trip so far: Kagbeni. We said goodbye to the people we met and headed out to ride down to Jomson.
There is a still quite a bit of snow in the mountains here, especially on the north faces. The trail we were supposed to hit today were covered in snow so we had to opt for plan B. We climbed on the road to Muktinath to hit another singletrack still facing north, but at a lower elevation. Again, we felt the altitude as we strained up the first couples of switchbacks we had comfortably ‘climbed’ in the shuttle the day before.
We came down screaming the super fast and loose singletrack. The skills obtained this winter on fat bikes were very useful in this type of terrain.
This trails built into the mountain side and had an amazing amount of work put into them. This was probably a well traveled path at some point before the road was put in down in the valley below.
After this first singletrack section up and down the north side of the valley we crossed the large Kali Gandaki river delta and began a 1000 m climb to a mountain pass. While stopping to rest mid way in a village we let Tashi, one of the local kids, borrow one of our bikes.
Biking puts a smile on anyone face anywhere in the world!
The climb was pretty long but had a good grade to it. About two thirds of the way up, we reached another village and stopped for tea. Our beat in this trip is quite different than our usual days of riding: we ride and visit at the same time, stopping often to absorb everything the amazing Nepali culture has to offer.
Since the onset of the climb, we had eyes on the last grueling stretch to the top of the pass. The scar of trail on the mountain side had a steep grade that gave the impression that we’d likely be pushing our bikes for this last pitch. To our great surprise the trail was steep but the thread was good and we could almost climb it to the top, stopping just stopping twice for snow. It was great to finally be climbing on singletrack without all the loose rocks.
The descent back down the other side was insane. The route consisted of an exposed, narrow trail where yak hooves left big rut in the now solid mud. We felt that at any moment, one of these curving ruts could send us down to the valley floor. The trail was scary and challenging, but it was a blast.
The last part was a different kind of scary and challenging: a long technical downhill on very loose stuff. We very well could have been snowboarding!
I walked back up to take some pictures and only then did I fully realized the “gnar” stuff we went through.
The next day, our ride was to take us from Jomson to the small hamlet of Kalopani. Since the Annapurna trekking circuit is quite popular, the government has set up treated water stations in almost every town along the route. This encourages people to stay away from plastic bottles. We dressed warmly on this cold morning to go and fill our camelbacks at the army check post. The weather promised a spectacular day.
I know I put a lot of pictures of suspension bridges, but they’re something so foreign and spectacular to us!
Sometimes though the bridges are little more primitive.
We climbed all the way up to a mountain lake. The lake was deep and the water crystal clear.
After a nice singletrack descent (I know we don’t take enough pictures of the descents but it’s hard to stop when you are flying down), we finally reached the tiny, scenic village of Marpha.
The Marpha region is known for growing apples and they make a terrific apple brandy. We got one to drink on the highest point of the ride today. We saw many orchards as we climbed towards a small village up high.
The way down from the village was totally nuts, half slippery stairs and the other half very tight switchbacks.
When you give your camera to Ugo you can expect a couple of terrifying surprises after downloading your pics.
After Marpha, with the lower elevation, the scenery changed completely. Actual rich soil replaced the rocks, and pine trees were now everywhere. We rode a nice gradual singletrack with a couple of technical switchbacks at the bottom.
Back at the bottom of the valley we briefly rode alongside the river delta and then pointed upward again to find some singletrack carved into the steep walls of the valley
Traffic jam on the trail.
After a long series of stairs, we popped out into a beautiful opening at the base of towering rock cliffs where we had to cross the remains of a once mighty glacier.
The route down from the plateau was the best section so far: a long straight stretch which we bombed down at high velocity while passing several buffalo herds. At the end of the downhill was, you guessed it, a series of very tight switchbacks with pine needles that left the surface a bit slippery.
We all reached Kalopani very pleased with our day of riding.