The north face of Mt. Everest as viewed from the Tibetan side.
Scott Herrin, Boulder, Colorado, 2011
The gravel and rock road to northern Everest Base Camp was paved in 2015. Yet, there have been very few cyclists that have been fortunate enough to complete one of the most epic bike climbs in the world. In October, 2020, PJAMM join Serk Frontier Cycling on a Tibet Great Adventure that will include, among other amazing climbs and experiences, climbs to Everest Base Camp, Pang La Pass and Semo La (highest paved road in the world at 18,258’).
Mt. Everest centered between the ornate horns.
Mt. Everest is the most famous and iconic mountain in the world.
That’s some mountain!
Climb summary by Scott Herrin, Boulder, Colorado:
In 2011, I had the privilege of joining a group of ten that biked through the Himalaya from Lhasa, Tibet to Kathmandu. It was an epic experience, though definitely different from a week or so of climbing in the Dolomites or on Mallorca:). This was before I used a Garmin or Strava, so I don’t have all the stats, but we biked for about 16 days, plus 3 rest days. We camped every night except one. (The one night in the hotel was the one time I got sick, from the hotel food.) We were supported, so we were not carrying gear on the bike.
This route from ridewithgps might be our route, but it is close if not: ttps://ridewithgps.com/routes/28298590 About 540 miles, 60-80,000 feet of climbing.
Almost all of the ride was on the Friendship Highway, which was sort of paved back then. I understand it’s in much better condition now. Two or three days offroad. Most of the riding was at altitude between 12-15,000 feet. We did ride to Everest base camp in Tibet, which was a little over 17,000, and spent one night nearby. Many mornings were sub-freezing with afternoons over 90 degrees F. Big headwinds in the afternoons. I started wearing wool socks on that trip, still do.
The altitude affected us in a few ways:
- Most, if not all, of us were taking Diamox to try to prevent high altitude sickness. It worked pretty well, though our bodies were still very aware that we were up high. A few felt pretty lousy during most of the trip, but persevered. One guy, a strong rider in his mid-50’s, was quite sick and had to be driven down to sea level after a few nights at 14,000 feet. It was a shame as he had been training for the trip for a year.
- We spent three nights acclimating in Lhasa at 12,000 feet before riding out. I made the mistake of being too excited and riding hard the first two days. My lungs were ok, but my legs were compromised while we remained at altitude. I never really looked into it, but guessing it was a buildup of lactic acid that just wouldn’t clear out up there. Search lactic acidosis, “lactate paradox” and (mild) hypoxia if you’re curious. My advice: take it easy your first couple days up high regardless of how good you feel.
After a couple weeks at 12-17,000 feet, we descended 15,000 feet to the border with Nepal and spent two nights at sea level. We then did a big climb over to Kathmandu. My legs felt great.
- SUN: Even with good sunscreen, my face was fried, and I don’t burn easily. Replenish sunscreen frequently and maybe wear a light neck gaiter for sun protection.
I was grinning for quite a while after the end of that trip, reflecting on an incredible, beautiful adventure.
Not what you’d expect at 14,000 feet
Everest in the background
Not far from base camp
Post-sunburn. Should have picked up a Tinkerbell gaiter sooner.
Lots of friendly yaks
Big descent into Nepal
The front says 1000km