Day 4, Yongfel, and Dawa Ji, half way up Kumzumla, H.P., India ęBill Holter

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4) 8/21/99
Start ride:7:00 AM Batal to Rangrik
Ride:10.5 hours total
Miles Ridden: 49.6
Start Altitude: 12,988 ft.
End Altitude: 12,136 ft.
Highest Point: 14,927 ft.
I sleep little due to my altitude headache and the three trips out of the tent to answer the call of nature. After breakfast, we leave camp and I am soon the last rider going up to the pass. It is 7.44 miles. Getting some air takes on a whole new meaning! At about the halfway point, the Sumo catches up to me and Dawa suggests that I ride the rest of the way up with them. I surrender. We pass some of the others and arrive at the stupa that marks the top of Kumzum La. We pause for group and individual photos and take in the view: snow peaks with glaciers to the north and barren scree slope all around. The sun is intense and the only sound is prayer flags flapping in the breeze. It is now time for some rugged downhill riding, approximately 11.72 miles to the valley floor. Mr. Ugs and I get out in front and blast down the road. We pause every now and then for the others to catch up. I am very fortunate to have one of two full-suspension bikes that are on this ride. Some of them have front suspensions and the rest are rigid frames. Mr. Ugs is riding an older Giant rigid bike, but he still hammers down the road. At the bottom we pause for lunch in an apricot orchard. The valley is very wide with the Spiti river spread out over it. Back on the road, we pass through a large entry gate that proclaims "Most Welcome To Spiti." We continue to go down a much lesser grade and pass through a number of small villages. After some time, the road switchbacks down to a bridge and we cross the river there. On the way up the switchbacks on the other side, my bike gets a little wobbly so, at the top, I stop to check the rear shock bolt. To my surprise, I find that I have two nearly flat tires! I pump up the tires and ride another six miles, but they start to go flat again. It would take too long to change them at this point in the ride so I walk and take in the late afternoon scenery while waiting for the Sumo to appear. There is an eroded section of morain coming out of a side valley up ahead that looks like the teeth of a comb. It is becoming more dramatic as the shadows lengthen. The Sumo appears with a local monk riding shotgun. We drive off toward the morain and catch up to Sylvia who is now flailing to get through it. It is a nasty surprise at the end of such a long day. Composed of football-sized glacial boulders, it's like riding on loose cobblestones. She joins us in the Sumo. We climb out of the morain and back on to the valley floor. A snow peak appears to the north between two barren mountains and Ki Gompa comes into view. The Gompa sits on its own cone-shaped hill in front of a huge wall of barren rock. We pass through the village of Rangrik and catch up to some of the other riders who are now very tiered and wanting to reach camp. The camp is down another morain of boulders on the flats of the meandering Spiti river. The other riders race down to the bottom, cross twenty foot-wide stream, throw down their bikes, take their clothes off, and immediately begin to bathe, as the sun is almost gone. The Sumo gets stuck in the morain. I grab Mr. Ug's arm to get his attention and he recoils in pain. His arms were punished by the rocky road surface. At dinner, Dawa asks us not to bathe naked, because it offends the local villagers. Not wishing to compromise local customs, we point out that the villagers would have to be offended through binoculars at this distance! It has been a very long day.