coffee high stage 4 – on to ‘shangrila’

overnighting in xiangcheng was good. I love the wilds and camping up there, but the previous four days pushing it above 4500m took a lot out of me, and in xiangcheng I was able to eat. and eat and eat! out there skating I don’t actually consume much, and in the high reaches, I eat even less, which is wierd because it would seem I need moe energy to do the skate thang so high up. but no, and I don’t sleep well above 4000 meters either, I have mad dreams and wake five times a night to drink water and toss and turn. so sleep was good, and food…

off again in the morning, the road was superb, a river skate which switched three rivers, winding around through villages where locals called out encouragement and suprise. “teshi deleg!”


those imposing monolithic tibetan houses stood sentry on high corners, watching the river waters, the commons, the skater pass at their feet.

and then there was dirt road…which I hitched, 80km of piste across gorgeous terrain, I rode with some guangzhou guys. nice people, litterbugs, most, smokers the lot, whose burning embers fell into the forest with abandon…but really nice folk. out here in china, we have to accept a lot of distasteful things, or it’s just no fun at all meeting people. fortunately the forest was misty and wet, and my temporary companions did not burn the whole place down.

80km. I didn’t skate, it might seem so easy just to go on a hitchhiking journey, but no…banging around in the back of a truck, that’s only for the really unskateable part. I jumped ship at the first village, the first stretch of pavement on the yunnan side. haggled hard for dinner and a cheap sleep…

the morning was glorious, up and at ’em before sunrise, skating down into the clouds.

into the forest…up past these stoneware fangs, not knowing I was destined to look down upon them in the afternoon. funny how such high peaks seem so small, seen from above…

the pass again at 4000m+, the road sweet yunnan pavement. powering up, getting high, flying down…that’s what alpine skating is all about!

it’s a dream to be riding solo in a good road, with snacks and a water source, through beautiful autumn forest sparkling sunshine, enconterig minimal traffic

with all the time in the world to tool into zhongdian in the afternoon…

and grab an espresso…

stage 3 coffee high – litang to xiangcheng

the past week has been some of the heaviest terrain of this trek yet, definitely some more intense alpine skating, from litang to xiangcheng…

the skate out of litang was a dusty affair, and every time I take a rest day, the first fifteen kilometers when I start out again seem hard fought, hard won. but won nonetheless, leaving me above 4000 meters to skate, four days, across a most remarkable landscape. it began with a mosey through several valleys, along one emerald green river…

the first climb arrived around midday the first day. up, up, onto a boulder strewn mountainside, I followed a roiling stream into the evening. camped out at around 4400m,

i met with rabbit mountain at noon the next day. the last bit to the pass I clamoured up the stones rather than push the switchbacks. 4700m and the wind was blowing up a wild one, but I still managed to brew a coffee.

a short downhill led to the vale of emptiness, this bleak space between giants.

nowhere to go other than on, on, the second pass proved a lengthy push into the evening through the most bizarre landscape: great boulders, peat bogs, lakes, sumpf and springs, brittle cold, all around and above 4600m.

some excited passing Chinese tourists stopped and gave me chocolate and instant noodles. likely they didn’t realize that those noodles represented freedom to me: freedom to camp where I please and not have to chase down the Swiss cyclists who also had offered me noodles, or press on to try and find some homestead or store in search of something to eat. I wasn’t totally without food, but I had eaten hot oatmeal for breakfast and cold meussli for lunch, the noodles with some sausage cut in made for a welcome change.

I camped high in the wetlands in a bed of peat, a bit cold with hoarfrost covering my world in the morning, but more awesome for it. not a soul around, strange ducks in the lake, ice cold water, only an occasional truck on the road. this was prime wilderness skate trekking.

not to be outdone by rabbit mountain, the next behemoth, noname mountain, with its pass at 4700m came as a suprise. after lunch the following day I started up the slopes, and faced again the decision to push up 17km of switchbacks or hike it, so I was off-road again, a three hour hike to the first pass.

then long along this moonscape of earth and stone, through another valley of the lost minds, mine perhaps among them, in passing.

atop the pass, wind again, and a hardcore rough but paved and still skateable road down.

descending just a bit, camping in an awesome spot…so awesome i was late (10 o’clock) on the road the next morning…

down, down the maxiang valley, awesome beautiful…windbraking, breathtaking, sketchy descending a bumpy road, and a long river skate. litang to xiangcheng, altogether a run of 204 km, an absolutely crazy amazing badass skate!

stage 2 coffee high

leaving langmusi early in the morning, I at once fell off my board pushing mongo at speed, and 2km later a giant police dog chased me down the road, and off the road…what a start!

then I passed through a tunnel, and on the other side, skated the plains of ruo er gai. this place is awesome, 3500m up high, rolling slightly up and down, a sweet skate, with hundreds and hundreds of yaks! I do like yaks.

across the ruo er gai, I went to tangke and met up with gompa, who introduced me to tsepak. he and a friend gave me some beautiful songs, accompanied by mandolin. heartbreakingly deep and amazing, their voices, the moment. something to cherish for a lifetime…and I got it all at 48khz 28bit mid-side stereo. superb


tsepak…with a voice that sees through his listener…

with tsepak’s song resounding in my ears, i skated more flatlands, still above 3500m…long days of pristine tarmac, yaks, and the occaisonal dog attack…i learned that hitting a dog on the head with my ever improving rightarm throw, only makes the dog more angry…

haha, then it was an 85km downhill run, yes 85 kilometers!! except…half of that was downhill into such a heavy headwind, I actually had to push. hmmm, pushing downhill is the worst. the second half was awesome, though, not too fast, not slow at all…more sweet skating

and then there was uphill…from danba to yala snow mountain, 4200m, with hotsprings near the top. more than awesome.

on, on to tagong…and after 17 days on the road, 900+ km skated, arriving at a 200km stretch of roadworks, i got off my board, kinda, and took a break…hitching rides on broken roads…camping at 4670meters

and over another pass at 5050 meters, up this crazy road…

to dege and an ancient woodblock printing works, in a monastery, on the edge of the land of snows…