**Disclaimer: WordPress has been crashing every time I try to post… So it’s late coming
Chuanxi – 川西
A few weeks ago – months really let’s not lie about how badly I’ve been keeping on top of this blog – my friend Jacob asked me if I might be interested in a ride he was planning with our other friend Larry. It would be about 120km total but would include two mountains of 4500m and 4100m. This would be solely for their businesses; Natooke (best bike store in Chengdu), Source Cycles (totally rad bamboo bikes) and Bike China (killer bike tours).
We’d go out and grind on these hills with two support vehicles, two photographers and Larry piloting the drone now and again.
I asked about the steepness of these roads to which Jacob made a gesture suggesting a gentle time, whereas behind him Larry seemed to have joined the Third Reich with the angle of incline he was flashing me. But it was settled, I was in and the last person to join this fellowship. I felt like a Hobbit about to storm Mordor.
Eventually, the day arrived where we’d meet up and get into a van and ride out into Western Sichuan to a nice little hotel, which actually wasn’t the hotel we were staying at because the guy neglected to tell us that he was closed for refurbishing and would put us in his friend’s hotel… Standard China.
After settling the roommate situation we then all met in the little dining hall and chatted, waiting for various local dishes to arrive. As we ate, we began to discuss the plan for the next day. Would we want to leave real early, get riding before 7… or we could leave it a little later and have a more casual start to the day. We decided to get up early then see how we felt.
Day one of the ride began early, around 6.00am packing the van up by 6.30am, we followed that up by getting some breakfast at a little local shop eating some baozi, a kind of stuffed steamed bun, and rice soup.
Bellies filled, we piled into the two vans and rode a few kilometers away to the start of the day’s climbing. We began by passing along this beautiful river and amazing mountainous scenery, gently climbing upwards. At the start I knew I was the weakest on a bike and also with the heaviest bicycle I was expecting to be keep up the rear. The going was slow for me but not very difficult.
We got ourselves up to a beautiful rest stop, where I really began noticing I was sucking pretty hard and starting to feel the early pangs of a headache. We rested, snacked and took some pretty beautiful photos. Well everyone else did, which I’ve stolen for this purpose! After a bit of deliberation it was decided me and Charlie would hitch a lift because we weren’t really keeping the pace to finish in the ideal time. We rode in the van about 6-8 kilometers and hopped out and immediately began climbing. It had probably only just passed noon at this time.
Progressively, Charlie and I were spending more and more time off our bikes walking up. We didn’t feel tired but the altitude was getting to us. We were over 3500 meters up and our heads felt like they were being cracked in two.
It was real nice getting to know Charlie while suffering, I think it gave us a bit of a better bond! However, while bonding, we both were breathing heavily, barely keeping our balance and experiencing what would be akin to migraine. In the near freezing weather we were bitching about the very weather making an already difficult task, more difficult. It was practically a white-out, we were unable to see very far ahead of us. Now I’ve been at altitude before and know I suffer pretty quickly from AMS. In mountaineering, I’ve never experienced anything like this in the Alps so it was a little worrying.
Eventually, Charlie and I were laying in the road surrounded by snow, gathering our energy to stand up and walk another 5 minutes or so. To our joy, the van came around to corner to grab us. Apparently, there was a miscommunication between a driver and the group – we were right behind the others! So at the 4500m summit they were chilling out waiting for us.
The remainder of the ride I was a little in a daze, watching the other race downhill as we chased them in the van. Soon I was asleep trying to recover from my own mini ordeal. When I woke up we had arrived at our next hotel, which was a really nice place I can’t remember the name of! But I was rooming with my buddy Jacob possibly the strongest rider on the trip and all around good dude. I flopped down in the bed and tried to get warm and drink all the water possible. Eventually, I risked the shower and my fear of the cold air outside of my clothes and blanket was invalid. It wasn’t that bad really.
Dinner was a traditional Sichuan mix of spicy dishes and rice. We ate it up, enjoyed some drinks and then went out on a hunt for snacks and trinkets. I successfully avoided buying unnecessary things that I knew weren’t cool, but felt super cool at the time. Also, we all bought 1 jin (1斤) of Yak jerky (牦牛肉干)。Those of you unaware, 1 jin is 500g and a common way to measure out any raw goods. We finished up the shopping and returned to the hotel. After a few rounds of games we called it a night.
Day 2, Keith’s Revenge!
I’ll be honest, when we woke up early to take on the next day’s 4100m mountain- I was not up for it at all! I was bravely saying that I’d give it a go, 80% sure that after at most 1 hour I’d be toast. But during breakfast I took a few painkillers and set off ahead of the group with Charlie. We passed a beautiful little lake and very soon were back to climbing! Unfortunately, Charlie was still suffering and had to drop off. I took off feeling real strong and the scenery and weather was perfect.
For a weak climber I was feeling strong and unstoppable. I spent the majority of the day solo apart from maybe 30min with Devon a bicycle BEAST taking some photos and chatting. But the snail’s pace wasn’t his style, so soon I was alone watching Devon disappear up the mountainside.
After several hours of climbing I was out of water and suffering. Cursing the slowness of the support vans, expecting them any minute as I was heading up! Eventually, as I rested before the last push up to the top, two Chinese ladies stopped and gave me a few bottles of water.
I continued on, my strength rapidly leaving my legs, when the van arrived to film me riding a bit, but after some time with them following. I had to give up, so close but I was only going to be walking up to the top.
When we arrived it was very exposed and snowy! The wind was whipping up around us and these little ladies were sitting up top cooking little skewers of meat! I FEASTED, even though I’ve been trying to avoid eating a ton of meat! Waiting on Larry and Jacob it was great watching them tackle the top, pumping their legs pushing through the wind and snow!
Finally, we began the descent! It was 30min of high-speeds and hairy corners (for me)! Two occasions I was a little close to wiping out! One would’ve just been painful (barbed wire), but the second probably would’ve been real bad (huge drop). But it was so worth all the hard work climbing up! Jacob, Devon and I chilled out at the bottom waiting for the others to come along and collect us for the ride back to Chengdu. The next 6 hours of driving and sitting in traffic was improved with lots of yak jerky and my ereader.
Photo credits all go to these guys and their instagrams
Check out m’bros!