Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

Day 10 – Xiuquian – Shegar

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Distance – 100kms
Max Altitude – 5300m
Riding Time – 6 hours

And I thought yesterday was tough. Six hours of riding, nearly 1500m of vertical and a trip high peak altitude of 5300m. I left at 8.30am hoping to get breakfast in Lhatse, but nothing was open. Shortly after Lhatse I went through my first serious checkpoint, where the officer requested my passport and papers. Now I had a passport but no papers, and I assured him I didn’t need any papers to get to Kathmandu. He seemed suspicious, but the bluff worked and he sent me on my way. 

Immediately after the checkpoint the most difficult climb of the trip began. From just over 4000m the road rose in a canyon some 1300m. The lack of direct sunlight in the first 10kms made it extremely cold, and with the fatigue from yesterday’s effort it was a struggle just to keep momentum. I started to really feel the effects of altitude at 4700m and ate a second army biscuit and my last opportunity for sustenance til I reached Shegar at the end of the day. The last 300m of altitude gain were unlikely anything I have experienced before. I barely had enough oxygen to turn my legs over, holding a steady speed of 4kph for the last 3kms. Usually 3kms takes me 15 minutes, but on this day it took close to an hour.

 

The view from the top was unbelievable – 7000m peaks everywhere and a sweeping valley below. I risked frostbite to get some pictures, including of yak herders (pictured top), and hope it was worth it. The first 20 kms of the `descent’ were unbelievably painful. I had bought some dishwashing gloves to wear under my thick cycling gloves but the icy wind cut through like a razor. I could barely squeeze on the brakes or feel my fingers, and my feet had lost all relevance. The bitumen gave way to gravel road and I desperately wanted to lose altitude to get some warmth but could not pedal fast enough to achieve it. The only other people I saw on this day were yak herders, and I had incredible respect for these people that live in these conditions every day of the year.

 

It was only at 4600m – a full hour and 45 minutes since I had crested the Gyatso La – that feeling started to return to my extremities. By the time I hit the town of Shegar I had returned to 4300m, and decided to arrange my Everest permit before finding accommodation and eating. There had been rumours that Everest Base Camp was closed on account of the Communist Conference, but I was able to get a permit and hope it gets me in tomorrow. My accommodation in Shegar is basic ($4 a night) and freezing cold. Despite the fact that the loungeroom has a fireplace I cannot get warm despite having every piece of clothing on, including a goretex jacket and pants. Dinner was great, with fried rice, bread and jam.

 

Tomorrow I have two options: an all out assault on Everest Base Camp or camp halfway and do it in two days. I will make an assessment once I see how the body holds up but I’m hoping I can extract one more big effort out of it…

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