halfway! after an afternoon and a night, a morning viewing the ice floe, listening to the BOOM! and crackle of the ice, watching great blocks of ice break off of the mass and tumble down, carrying boulders and rubble down the slope with a great loud roar…after dinner with gezhen doje, the one monk at the lotus temple, camping, watching the sun rise orange and pink on the ice…i am heading home…but not before i visit the hot springs on the other side of the mountain…first ice, then hot water.
ok I made I within sight of the glacier, but only after an ordeal of a mountain, the white horse snow mountain. I caught a ride from zhongdian (so-called shangrila) with a monk in a minivan blasting pseudoelectro Chinese pop music, back to the crossroads.
from there it was an hour or so up and around the bend, then an awesome 40+ km downhill, meeting up with the yangtze river again in the early evening, followed by a leisurely kind of uphill to the village of benzilan. it’s always cool when I ask where I am and find I have skated further than I thought!
overnight in an ok hotel, and the beginning of a 2 day climb, 60km from 2000m to 4500! heavy duty, but the difficult part was that the road is halfway under construction, wih long stretches of dusty gritty stony dirt road full of diggers and trucks at work. basically, it sucked walking my board through a construction site for hours, skating for 20 minutes, then hiking through the dirt again. I broke down and took two rides through the worst of it, about 4km I didn’t actually skate. kind of a letdown as I had wanted to do it all on my own power, but enough was enough!
back on the blacktop, I was in a private bliss again, pushing up through beautiful forests, the rhododendron are flowering now, throwing splashes of fuschia and rose pink upon the oaks and evergreens. simply awesome, even tired as I was from incessant climbing.
I camped above the road looking across to the first snowy peaks leading up to the white horse snow mountain, really sleeping well regardless of the wolves howling in the distance and the dangling bells and munch munch clatter of herds of yak roaming about. yet the presence of free range yak eased my concerns of free ranging bears, as villagers don’t let stock roam if they know of the existence of bears in the neighborhood. anyway I hun my food from a tree 30m disant and off wind from my camp, and I didn’t leave the tent without the bearspray clipped on my pants. call me over cautious but I have had a bit to do with bears in the states, and they make me uneasy.
well, no fending off of bears to report, just another 25km climb the next morning, finally reaching the first pass of 3 above 4200m around mid afternoon.
I spent some time oggling the snow and ice and stone rising up into the sky, stopping at each pass for a breather. the air so thin up there, taking a breather is something of a misnomer.
at the last pass I took dandan’s advice and camped. I worked so hard to get up there, maybe I didn’t want to fly down so quickly. too true, and I met some medicine fungus collectors up there, who fed me rice pork and veggies in their hut, and laughed and ogled themselves as I set up my tent behind their place, surrounded by thousands of praying, fluttering flags.
dawn, and orange sunshine washed over, quickly overcome by rolling banks of fog which smothered everything but the fluttering of he prayer flags untill at least 10. I crawled back into my tent till it warmed up…
downhill, downhill, a little bit uphill, and down again to Deqin. I ran out of food and water abou 2km from the town, not bad for the planning.
restocked in Deqin, overnighted in a tiny village (that’s another story/post) and I was on my way again his afternoon.
10km only, to feilai, where u checked into the first pleasant looking guesthouse with a rooftop room, 30kuai only.
from here I can see the glacier…
come a long way, baby!
this morning heading down down the switchbacks, then I am hiking up to he town, to the ice, and beyond to the lotus temple.
I am sporting some new gear, pack, tent and a jacket. so when looking at new gear, I am thinking what worked for me before and what other people are using, namely the longtreks crew. the one man bivy thing I tried didn’t go down well, so I wanted to try a small 2person tent checking the lightweight tent options of course I hunted around, reading reviews and setting up the tents in outdoor stores. but my final decisions were in the end also swayed by name brands to some extent. I figure companies who are willing to sponsor these guys, they have my vote and I get a feel good factor supporting those companies with my purchase, inasmuch as one tent or jacket makes a difference.
bottom line: the nemo espri 2person tent I got was cheaper than the rest and fits the bill well; and Patagonia makes a good jacket in their piolet.
the first day and a half, my road was quite bad, for skating. for trucks and minivans quite ok, and there were a lot of those. after the initial climb out of the shaxi valley, i skated all afternoon in a light drizzle. not enough rain to get me soaked, but enough to make the road slick. i camped out at the edge of a field
and was on the road again early, skating up up to the junction of the lijiang road. from there, it was an awesome downhill to the yangtze river, a brown, swiftly flowing snake of river slithering along a flatland between higher ranges, though not quite high mountains. i averaged 50km the first two days, then it seems i found my stride, and after camping the second night directly beside the river, i continued along the flats.
the road did roll up and down the edge of the mountains, following the river west, but i kept on at a good clip. day four was also more mountainous, but with equal uphills ands downhills, passing into the tibetain areas in the afternoon. this was clear from the architectures, the people, different from the flat along the river.
suprising myself, i made it to the bridge where i would cross over the yangtze and head up into the high mountains. that day i skated 70km and spent the night in a nice lodge at the top of the bridge. next morning, well rested, shaved and fed (on oats with milk and nescafe) i skated my base 50km, to the start of the first real climb of this trip. after a break, i charged on up, pushing, pushing, and in some spots walking it was so steep. up, up out of the gorge, i passed the 3000m mark i would guess, in the early evening.
all the villagers i asked on the way laughed at me, that i was afraid, when i asked about bears in the area. they said, only in the high forests…which incedentally i was passing through at dusk. the road went through really steep gorges, with no flat spot to camp to be seen, except for in thicket beside a running stream. as per bear-protection advice, not a good spot.
sketching out a bit, i kept it up, and was rewarded almost at nightfall, as i rounded one bend 21km up the mountain, finding a little rest area restaurant majong camp, with little cabins. awesome! lucky! and the folks there fed me and quartered me in one of the little cabins, and laughed i should fear the bears. there are no bears in these parts.
in the night, i heard the wolves howling, which made the dogs in the yard go crazy barking and charging on their chains. so, no bears, but aparantly wolves. not so many, jusrt a small pack, by the sounds of them, with a higher pitched wail than north american wolves, a bit more like coyote, but with the same, forlorn, creepy “i’m gonna eat you, skater” feel, i was so glad to be in a cabin!
next day, i skated to the crossroads, another 5km straight up, and arrived less winded than i expected i would. this was my break spot, from here i caught a ride to shangrila, where i will rest for two nights. i need to get off the board and chill some, before heading back out to the crossroads to continue my journey on the skate.
here in shangrila (zhong dian) i was met by friends of friends, who stashed me in their guesthouse, and graciously allowed me to write a bit online. i await the use of the washing machine, oh, fresh socks and undies! strangely excited for that.
in the piazza, waiting for my friends, i met a couple of vermont guys, on their way back to beijing. i asked had they seen any camping gear store, where i might find some light sweater, as its a bit colder than i thought it would be at night. one guy, who also lives in beijing, and knew of penghao theatre, offered to loan me his down jacket, which stuffs down to a tiny package. incidentally, a patagonia nano puff jacket, exactly the thing i thought i might acquire before my trek, but funds prohibited. crazy cool, i’ll return it to him when back in beijing, and he was stoked, to art once have a bit more room in his backpack. am very thankful for that, and find it funny, how always i am reminded, so small the world is, that neighbors meet, far from home.
ok, i dont know it this will work, but i thought i would give it a try. the downhill bits on my route range from 12 to 60km, some of it so steep it will be way beyond my ability to skate fast. anyway around each blind corner can be any number of obstacles, so there is a lot of slowing down necessary. i cant speedcheck confidently, certainly not with the pack, so i footbrake!
it took me all morning to cut and saw through the steel radials, and figure out the design so that the ropes holding it together dont rub the ground. i am a bit unsure now if i am gonna get hung up moving my foot from off of the road back onto the board, but tomorrow we’ll see if it was worth the effort.
so, introducing, the primitive footbrakepad. i figure i’ll only strap it on for the really sketchy fast bits, and footbrake normally, wearing down my shoe when its up and down. if it works, it’ll maybe save my shoes some grief. if it doesnt work, well, i got a good laugh out of the other visitors to this hostel.
i posted my gear list, and in writing it seems like a lotta stuff! today i want to go through it all and see if there is anything i can reduce, dissemble or cut to drop a few grams here and there. i checked out the nemo footprint and it’ll work just as well as a brake sail, so i will drop the rain poncho i used last time. now i got this great patagonia jacket (i never wore goretex before) i’ll be ok if it rains, and if i’m really sheltering from storm, well, that’s what the tent is for.
my gear minus the clothes
evening, yesterday i arrived in shaxi, after a long day on the busses. i decided to give myself five days rest to acclimatize to the altitude, and i rather spend the extra time in a quiet village than in kunming city or the tourist charade of dali. i’ll skip dali altogether this trip and came direct from kunming to shaxi. one four-hour bus ride to xiaoguan, a motor-rickshaw to the next bus station, a bowl of noodles, another four hours in a smaller bus to jianchuang, then immediately after, into a packed minibus, i arrived after about 40 minutes in shaxi. exhausting, but worth it; i thing my back hurts more after a day sitting on a bus seat than a day skating with a backpack. that is if i remember correctly, how much the pack troubles the shoulders after a day’s skate. that memory will be refreshed soon enough.
this morning out in the fields in the rising sunshine, dark earth caking my shoes, i visited some farmers carrying water to the fields and others, gathering up juvenile rice plants in bundles, to plant in the paddy elsewhere. white wild roses in full bloom, golden rays of sunshine coating the landscape, and the mountains watching all from the east and west, 1500m above toiling villagers and wandering travellers; this isnt quite remote, but it sure is a long way from the city. overall, well worth yesterday’s long haul, to be able to wake up in shaxi.
on the road over the mountains from jianchuang, i scoped out the route i planned to skate, and the minibus followed the awesome mountain road i skated twice last year. measured by the kilometer markers on the roadside, its a good 8km uphill from shaxi, and an awesome 12km downhill back to the crossroads, where i head on towards the yangtze river. i realized that is going to be a hardcore first day out, the very first leg several hours of extremely steep mountain road up! but i would like to set out from shaxi on my skate, and return to shaxi from the other direction, so that’s how it is.
this afternoon i skated 6km up that road and back, got winded awfully soon on the first ascent, and burned up my left shoe footbrakeing on the way down. but i went halfway up the mountain with a couple of short breaks, and felt pretty good after that. on the way down i practiced pendy slides, which i still cant do very well, it always turns into a frontside shutdown slide or with me highsiding on the backside. that’s not on with a backpack though, so footbrakeing it is.
tomorrow i must search the village for a shoe repair guy, an auto workshop, or a tyre dealer, and sort myself some kind of strap-on brake pad. i’ll eventually wear down my shoes, but i ought to prolong that. without my sail in action, my soles wont last long with me dragging them to the bottom of the mountain. the downhill here is always extremely steep, its rediculously fast, and of course, exhileratingly fun. i’m getting stoked to set out after tomorrow!
i have always been fascinated by the polar expeditions. the motivations to reach the north and south poles i think in some cases were suspect, but the practice of teams laying depots out in the snow and ice to provision the expeditions proper along the way i think is pretty cool. the fame and acclaim always goes to the team leaders, but there were always gangs of hardcores working to get the leader and a small team to the destination. they had to drag food and gear out into the middle of nowhere, and then again and again, further out into the middle of nowhere, and without their work, these expeditions simply wouldnt have happened.
a trekker can only carry so much gear and food, and without the ability to scavenge local resources, one doesnt get far. obviously we can’t eat stone and snow and ice, so the polar expeditions are the extreme of depot laying, but a friend of mine who walked israel had her friends bury some water cans out in the desert, which she picked up on her way, utilizing the same preparation sense. water is of course, essential to a passage through desert, and good nutrition is essential for endurance anything. as we all can see from the longtreksonskatedecks experiences, it clearly sucks when there are only sweet cookies to eat.
at high altitudes it can feel like it takes a lot more energy to do the simplest things (like pushing a skateboard) and this time i am going higher for longer, so better preparation is key. my last trek went down well, largely powered by my breakfast meusli and granola snack bars, plus the occasional snickers bar, which evidently provide about as much energy suppliment as some high dollar sports snacks. search it and come to your own conclusions from the plethora of opinions and quasi-research online
several things became clear on my last trek, that i can deal with a 1.5kg of foodstuffs in my pack, and that i wont be finding oats in any form in rural yunnan. dried fruits, banana chips and nuts yes, but no oats. folks just dont eat that up in the mountains. there are plenty of little snack cookies, found in the villages along my route, but some of them are stale or the oil has gone rancid, and i know from long years of travelling in challenging places, i need to eat right, or i get tired, stressed, and begin to make mistakes. plus the fun-factor is greatly reduced when one runs out of food.
i am certainly not going to make my planned 50km per day powered on rice noodles and sugar-margarine cakes, so i connected with some friends of friends, and a couple of weeks ago i set out to lay a depot. i sent out a package, 2kg of awesome german meusli (costs a small fortune here in china) and another kilo of granola snack bars in different flavors, to a village at my halfway point. here again, as with the polar expeditions, its not just myself out there pushing who is making this trek happen. thanks Sam for sorting out the logistics!
about my oats, usually i mix my own meusli to reduce costs, but once i start throwing cashews and almonds in there, the price of self-made and imported meusli about evens out. plus i like the european rolled oats, the hull is always more intact and darker than beijing supermarket oats, and health-food meusli mixes contain a wider variety of seeds and dried fruits. i try to find meusli with no added sugar, but anything with cornflakes and or bannana chips has sugar. if the meusli does have sugar in its constituent products, i sieve out the dust at the bottom of the bag, and can reduce the sugar content quite a bit.
there is, of course, a lot of great local food out in yunnan, and for my one big cooked meal per day, i should have no problem finding ok food with lots of veggies and some meat, plenty of rice, except in a couple of remote spots where there are no villages or monasteries. however, i have discovered over several visits to remote yunnan, that a lot of the local food is greasy, spicy, hemorrhoid-aggravating chow, especially if one is staying in little mountain villages. so local food can keep my calorie count up, but simply cant be my main source of sustinance. hence the oats, the preparation, and the speed-post parcel up to 3400m.
i was happy to hear today that this package arrived, the depot, shall we say, has been laid, and i can chow my way through the initial 1.5 kg of oats i am carrying with me now, on my way up.
lifting weights has a lot of health benefits, especially for ‘old’ guys like me, haha, i turned 40 this year. yeah! combined with yoga, weightlifting is an important asset in increasing athletic performance. one might think just skating longer and longer is enough to train for long distance skating, but weightlifting for skating is all about improving muscle strength and stamina, as well as overall mental and physical condition. this is good, and its something i dont get from just skating.
my goal is not to be big and buff, but to be physically able for riding fast downhill, pushing long uphills, schlepping a 12kg pack and maybe gripping a sail, or fighting a nasty headwind. developing core strength, solid upper body muscles and flexibility, powerful calf and thigh muscles, a body toned and primed with energy, this will make any of us stronger skaters.
i train with weights once or twice a week, sometimes every fourth day, keeping a semi-regular program of free-weight lifting, dumbbells and barbell. i do the same exercises again and again, when i get bored, i’ll throw in a few different ones, but for the most part its a regular plan. i keep a written record of my lifting, so i can see how i progress, and see where i need to . it works for me, and after training intensively, then relaxing a bit (tapering off), when i go to do the deed, if its skating or bodysurfing or swimming, it comes with greater ease and i can do it for longer.
being a skinny kid it was never easy for me to go to a gym. i still get this impression of sweaty muscle-hunk dens and stylish juicebar in spandex scenes, neither of which appeal to me, when i think of gym. so i train at home, with free weights on a simple rack, interchanging dumbbell and barbell plates.
in my workouts, i do core strength exercises, squats and dead lifts, for the main muscles which support and center the body, then compound exercises like lunges, bench press, and various rows. each of these exercises builds a group of muscles. then i do muscle-specific exercises, working from the biggest muscles to the smallest.
i split my workouts so i do one group of core exercises ex. legs, chest and neck, then alternate the next workout, core exercises and back and arms. i am not into sporting big chunky biceps, so only occasionally i throw in some dumbbell alternating curls, but i work my calves almost every session, because these are stringy, hard clusters of muscle, which get useed every day, all day, so they need a lot of work to get them to grow and strengthen.
i read the old bible by arnold schwarzennegger, and i fond some sites online which have little muscle maps and descriptions of exercises. so many resources can give instructions and pointers for each exercise, with different styles and techniques, but i hold to the standard: lifting less weight with good clean form is better than sloppy lifting of heavier weights. 8 to 12 repetitions, three sets of each exercise, when i can do 12, i add 10% or so weight and start again with 8 repetitions the next time around. 45 minutes to an hour in total, with a warmup yoga (surya namaskar is good) and cool-down session. off days i do yoga, about 35 minutes, a combination of iyengar, hatha, raja and kundalini yoga.
immediately following a workout i drink a whey shake: a liter of oj and water mix, into which i put 35-50g of whey protein isolate (not concentrate) and 60-100g dextrose-maltodextrin carbohydrate mix. i weigh about 74kg. i drink half of that in 15 minutes, and the rest diluted with more water over the next hour. if i did a particularly hard workout, i will add some extra carbohydrate powder. on workout days, in the night before sleep, i will have a whey shake with 20g of whey and about 20g of casein powder, and 40g of carbohydrates. i always have a hard time eating enough, so i am not worried about surplus carbs, especially when i am being active. this protein shake isnt to build bulk, but to maintain muscle-building elements in my body.
my skate training is basically as follows: i will do a free-weight workout one day, then rest a day, the third day i go for a long skate, in between days, a couple of short fast skates, then weightlifting again when i feel up to it. sometimes thats every fourth day lifting weights. a couple of weeks before i plan to skate longer, i’ll stop with the weightlifting, and skate around as i like but rest up, mostly.
some important tips: i dont skate hard directly after a workout, that’s a sensitive time when the muscles are recuperating, and are prone to injury. wait at least 4 to ten hours after a workout before skating hard or long. i dont lift weights directly after skating, either. i just stressed my muscles out on the road, its no time to stress them more. building strength and stamina takes time, it doesnt do to skate then lift every other day, the body needs time to build that muscle stronger. so maximum every fourth day with the weights, and a rest day or two in between, that’s what works for me.
i am working on a little video to demonstrate this whole power play, and from that you all can see, i am not lifting mega heavy weights, i’m not built, but i push myself to the limits of what i can do each time. in bodybuilding terms, i dont ‘train to failure’, but almost. my point is that weightlifting is essential stuff for any serious athletics, and it can help prevent injury out on the road. light-hearted as it may seem, as relaxed a pace of 50km per day might be, skating distance in the himalayas is heavy duty, and i train hard for that.
i spent the winter months working on a film job in hong kong. most every day i pushed pushed up massive hills, left right, left right, left right. and most every day i was raging down those steep hills, getting more comfortable at speed, real speed for me is still around 50kmh. along with the hills there was a lot of pushing on the flat, through the megacity. great skating!
here is a video of the ride home, music is plasticman