Mountain biking on the roof of the world

Marco Schärer from “Sport and Passion” traveled with four guests and five mountain bikes to the Ladakh region of the Himalaya last month. There he did a three-week singletrack tour with the goal of integrating 4 individual highlights, which turned out to be a huge challenge for him, his guests and also the material. Enjoy reading about his adventure…

On Saturday, June 10th, 2017, the trip to Delhi started at Zurich Airport.



The arrival at 3600 masl required very careful acclimatization. Therefore the adventure began for the riders with a five-day tour, to get used to the altitude. The first route of 45 km and 900 meters of elevation gain, was geographically very impressive and went along Buddhist monasteries and villages. Despite the carefully planned acclimatization, unfortunately, this evening a participant showed signs of a pulmonary edema and an evacuation was unavoidable.


The great weather, the local breakfast, the challenging but well-managed tour in the direction of Lago La with several sections of hike-a-bike, made them feel better the next day.
On the third day two highlights were planned. In the morning the first ride of a trekking route and in the afternoon the first ascent of a still nameless pass. The morning route was successful and everything went according to plan, although they had to carry the bikes uphill for about an hour. The downhill was long and right before Skyin Ling technically very demanding.


After lunch we were looking for a route in the direction of the ‘pass without a name’. More than two hours later, the team noticed a faint track and decided to follow it. An hour later, after not even four kilometers, they were running out of daylight and the riders’ energy was dwindling.

At this point I had to make the decision to return to Skyin Ling, reported Marco.

A shuttle gave the four bikers a ride back to Dargo, where they were able to spend the night.

The two last days of the acclimatization brought the team close to the Pakistani border. The route went over the Photu La Pass to Lamayuru, where one of the oldest Buddhist monasteries in the world is located. After this tour, the riders were taken back to Leh by shuttle, where last preparations for the main tour could be made.


Main Tour

The next morning the luggage was loaded on the back of some horses, which accompanied the main tour. It was crucial to concentrate on bringing only the most important luggage, so that the animals were not too heavily burdened. After loading up, the riders started with the mountain bikes on the last 30km, which could be completed energy-saving on a well-wheeled road.


A rude awakening was in store for the team the next morning; during the night a huge weather change took place and the previous 20 ° C and sunshine were gone and turned into a  maximum of 5 ° C and ice cold wind. After starting with a somewhat smaller tour the main highlight tour was next on the schedule and they set up their tents for the night at the bottom of the pass.


Unfortunately, the bad weather  persisted and the next day turned into a big challenge. The teams started with light snowfall in direction Kyamri La pass. This pass is located at 5180 masl. Here the third and most demanding highlight of the trip began: the ride over four passes on one day, all higher than 5100 masl. After just a few meters of uphill riding, however, the cold and the constant snowfall became simply a torture. In addition, the enormous amount increasing altitude forced two participants as well as the entire support team to return to the base camp. After ten hours in the saddle, completely soaked and with slight hypothermia Marco and one guest were still able to reach camp three by bike.


The next morning, the weather turned nicer and the sun warmed the cold limbs as well as easing the minds of the entire team. The third camp was located right at Tso Kar. The Tso Kar is the highest salt lake in the world. From there, the bikers left for a half-day tour. Parts of this tour went directly along the lake and at the highest point of the mountain, the riders were able to enjoy the last rays of the sun before the snowfall started again.


The continuing bad weather forecasts, and especially the persistent cold temperatures, almost broke the spirits of Marco and his entire crew.

After serious considerations, we made the decision to interrupt the tour and therefore the premature, abrupt end of our adventurous bike trip, said Marco.

Back in Leh, however, the exhausted riders were able to calm down a little and recover from the stresses and strains of the last days. Two mountain bike tours near Leh were still to follow. One of them was another absolute highlight and led to the impressive pass Kardung La (5340 masl), which is the highest pass which can be passed over by a vehicle. At the finish everyone was just happy…


Marco is pleased that “despite the bad weather and the health problems of one participant, all of them can look back to a great adventure.” In addition to the breathtaking landscape, even rare animals such as yaks, wild boars, wolves and snow peaks could be spotted.

An indescribable trip, which can only be carried out like this with a well-functioning team, concluded Marco enthusiastically.

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