There are riders for whom 2-3 hours of climbing is worth an hour or more of non-stop downhill single track. For these riders, when burning muscles and desperate pedal strokes are overshadowed by the seemingly futile experience of breathing, by screaming lungs gasping for one more mouthful of oxygen, their smiles get bigger and their sense of adventure grows deeper.
Simply put, the rider who thrives on a Mountain Biking Backcountry Tibettour in Kham Tibet is one for whom no effort is too great to capture the prize of the descent. And combined with the task of daily falling victim to awestruck in the remote and mountainous world of Tibet, there is hardly a better prescription to discover (again) that the path to enlightenment is always ridden on a mountain bike.
For the backcountry cycling tour profiled below, five out of the seven days of riding do not offer a pedal stroke under 3000m (10,000ft), six days of riding will take you above 4000m (13,000ft), and one day will take you to a maximum elevation of 4550m (14,760ft).
(for map refer to tour "Choose Tour" info)
Arrive in Chengdu. The heart of Western China welcomes you as your driver navigates the throngs of cyclists which mix with the rhythm of a modern city. After a rest at your guesthouse, you’ll enjoy a walk through the Tibetan quarter of Chengdubefore heading to dinner and a visit at China's historical Three Kingdoms era Zhuge Liang Memorial Temple and Jin Li Ancient Street.Accommodation: Fraser Suites, Chengdu
Chengdu to Kangding (shuttle). Leaving Chengdu, today you head out of the Sichuan basin to penetrate deep into the mountains that guard the approach to the Tibet-Qinghai plateau. You pass through a virtual time warp on your six hour journey. Everything becomes new: landscape, climate, cuisine, language, customs, and of course, the people. On the first evening in Kangding (elev. 2600m) you'll have the option of joining in with a community dance in the town square before heading up the valley to your guesthouse (3,200m). Distance: 325km.Accommodation: Tibetan Guesthouse, Kangding
Panpan Mt. Ride. The true adventure begins! After getting a good breakfast and assembling bikes in the morning, enjoy an afternoon acclimatization ride which is guaranteed to be one of your top three rides of the whole trip. Begin with a gentle 8km ride up Panpan valley along a broad alpine valley with nomad families in traditional yak hair tents dotting the landscape along with their roaming animals. Max out at 4200m before the exhilaration of over one hour of rewarding downhill (17km) on the other side through a pine forested canyon above Kangding. Evening includes an introduction to one of the world’s best kept secrets: Tibetan cuisine. Max. elevation: 4200m.Accommodation: Tibetan Guesthouse, Kangding
Tagong Ridge Ride. Enjoy a scenic morning 90 min shuttle to the trailhead outside the highland nomad village ofTagong which sits on the West side of Yala Mountain. Begin a 15km ascent starting at 3500m and max out at the 4200m pass before traversing a ridge trail above Tagong with views of Yala and Gongga mountains in the distance. Another long descent (12km) back to earth begins with a steep upper valley ride before levelling out lower down as you pass a few local farms with barley fields. Scenes including herds of cattle and flocks of goats being driven through the center of town, await you as you arrive at the nomad outpost of Tagong. Enjoy a visit to the local monastery in the middle of town before dinner.Accommodation: Jya Drolma and Gayla's Tibetan Homestay, Tagong
Yala Mt. North Pass. An early start today involves a short shuttle to access a ridge ride that traverses the west side of Yala mountain from south to north. The first half of the ride is an undulating mix of both single track and grassland riding with the shadow of Yala Mountain looming above your right shoulder. Following a picnic lunch, a steady climb up and around an alpine bowl to Yala pass will take you to the highest point on your bike this trip (4350m), with views of Yala valley on the backside and sweeping views of the plateau to the west. From the top of the pass it is a 12km descent to tonight's campsite in the valley below. There are several kilometers of technical rock riding in the bottom half of the descent, which is easily walkable for those who lack the technical confidence.Accommodation: Campsite (3750m), Yala Mt.
Yala Mt. East Pass. Today is a feast for your senses as you cycle into the alpine wonderland which is the backside - East side - of Mt. Yala (5820m). From the previous night's campsite, ride a couple of kilometers to the base of this morning's ascent. The first hour is a steep trail (with some pushing required) up to where it continues as a moderate ascent to the pass. Once again you max out at 4200m before descending into the forested wonderland below. There is a short and steep descent near the top, before reaching the flowing single track that carries you 20km to the trail exit below at 3000m. Hot springs are a welcome reward followed by a shuttle to tonight's quaint accommodation situated above Kangding (2,600m).
The gateway to Eastern Tibet is the town of Kangding. Perched on the Eastern edge of the Tibetan plateau, this historic trading town remains a city of commerce and communication between Han Chinese and Tibetan peoples. At 2600m, it is the perfect place to enjoy a day of rest. The first thing you notice the next morning is that everywhere you look goes up! Kangding is perched on the edge of the Tibet-Qinghai plateau. An optional trek to a grassland above town will follow breakfast. For those who simply want to chill out at a very chic cafe downtown and enjoy the vibes of the city while posting some updates for family and friends, that can be arranged too. A stroll through the markets later in the day will give you an idea of why this town has been a key historical trading center between Tibetans and the Chinese. An early dinner will be enjoyed before driving to the staging point for tomorrow's ride.
Yulongxi Valley Ride. After breakfast, depart directly from the guesthouse for a 12km ascent to the 4500m pass above the village. The first half of the ascent follows a surreal river valley up to a waterfall before joining the mountain road to the top of the pass, where you access the nomad valley of Yulongxi. On a clear day the whole of the Minya Konka (Gongga Mt.) range is visible from here, making this a fantastic picnic spot. Following lunch, drop 4km on a hairpin laced road to the valley floor below, before continuing a further 16km undulating ride through a grass carpeted valley past grazing yaks and surprised shepherds. The destination this evening is the warm hospitality of a local semi-nomadic family home (3,950m).Accommodation: Drashi's Tibetan Homestay, Yulongxi
Zemei Pass. The previous afternoon's undulating valley ride continues for another 8km this morning before heading east toward Minya Konka and your last climb of the trip. The 11km ascent includes a sweeping view of Yulongxi valley below, before being rewarded with the most breathtaking view in all of Eastern Tibet. Minya Konka's main massif is directly opposite the top of Zemei pass (4550m), offering one of the most up close views of any Himalayan peak. Another great lunch spot! Check your brakes before a 13km - 1300 vertical meter - descent to Zemei village below. Quaint hardly begins to describe this remote and romantic village nestled away in the mountains of Eastern Tibet (3250m). An optional afternoon trek to the monastery at the base of Minya Konka's west side glacier is a great appetite builder before dinner.Accommodation: Local Tibetan Homestay, Zemei Village
Zemei Valley Ride. Shuttle to Chengdu. This morning begins your reluctant departure from this virtual shangri-la. The scenery changes constantly as you begin a 30km descent out of the alpine highlands down to the canyon valleys above Shimian. Today's ride is one of our favourite continuous stretches of single track anywhere in the world. This is the perfect way to finish your Tibetan backcountry adventure. Your shuttle back to Chengdu (3.5 hrs) will be waiting at the end of the trail. A hot shower and a celebration banquet will be enjoyed back in the big city comfort of Fraser Suites Hotel.Accommodation: Fraser Suites, Chengdu