Manali-Leh-KhardungLa Cycling Day 5 (Aug 28th 2009) : Zingzingbar to Sarchu – “The Box of Chocolates”

I woke up in the cold morning with only one thought in my mind, how I will fare in this climb up to BaralachaLa? I guess all of us had the same question in our minds. Last evening Russell was feeling out of breath and we had a discussion about starting Diamox tablets for curing Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). However, I was feeling fine and we all started the climb together.

The road was surprisingly very good, a big thanks to BRO (Border Road Organization) who maintain these roads at such extreme altitude and climatic conditions.

The beautiful climb on a dream tarmac to BaralachaLa

The beautiful climb on a dream tarmac to BaralachaLa

All these days, I had practiced to climb at a steady rate which generally comes near to an average of 10.5 km/hr uphill. This day I altered the equation to climbing at a steady breathing rate and immediately reaped rich dividends. I settled to a comfortable breathing rate and worked the gears to retrofit the same. This ensured a 100% aerobic muscle rhythm and I felt great during the climb. The road was scenic with tall peaks at a distance and a dream tarmac which made the climb a joy.

Fabulous mountainous backdrop

Fabulous mountainous backdrop

14 km into the climb, I reached the Surajtal, a beautiful blue colored lake at an altitude of 16,000 feet. It was a breathtaking sight and I spent a good deal of time photographing its natural beauty.

The SurajTaal- Beautiful blue colored lake at an altitude of 16,000 feet

The SurajTaal- Beautiful blue colored lake at an altitude of 16,000 feet

Just for the record that my bike was there too

Just for the record that my bike was there too

After Deepaktal the climb reaches its crescendo with a few switchbacks with big booming gradients. However, I reached BaralachaLa at 16,500 feet effortlessly. Thankfully there was a shrine at the top and the caretaker was present so I requested him for a quick photo and he obliged. He was a bit surprised to see a lone Indian guy at the top on a bike though.

Finally at BaralachaLa, 16500 feet

Finally at BaralachaLa, 16500 feet

The rest of the riders arrived a little later and we had a small party there. Everyone was pleased to have completed the first real high pass over 16,000 feet and we commemorated the occasion by taking a group photo.

The whole gang at BaralachaLa

The whole gang at BaralachaLa

The downhill from BaralachaLa to Bharatpur, which was incidentally our lunch stop, was an easy affair with acceptable tarmac quality. The view was spectacular and I would stop often to get a slice of it captured in the camera.

Snow peaks always amaze me..........there was plenty of amazement in offering while coming down from BaralachaLa

Snow peaks always amaze me..........there was plenty of amazement in offering while coming down from BaralachaLa

The view that mesmerized me. See the drama effected by the shadows on the ground and the mountainfaces

The view that mesmerized me. See the drama effected by the shadows on the ground and the mountainfaces

Bharatpur to Sarchu, our pit stop for the day, was one of the best in terms of scenic beauty that this route had to offer. It was there I coined this route as the “The Box of Chocolates” as a testament to the beauty of this ride.

For the start we travelled with the Bagha River on its basin and then continued through a very gradual downhill to Sarchu. Near Sarchu Bagha creates a deep canyon with spectacular wind carvings on the canyon walls.

Himalayas are pretty recent in the geological history of the planet when compared to other major mountain ranges. It was once upon a time an ocean floor (Tethys Ocean) which was forced up through a series of cataclysmic collisions between the Indo-Australian tectonic plate and the Eaurasian plate. All the rocks of Himalayas are predominantly sedimentary and some are conglomerates. Since it has appeared on the face of the Earth as recently as 70 millions years back which means natural erosion is still to have its profound effects, the nude rocks have spectacular sharp edges. We stopped periodically at many such tell-tale places and marveled.

Some places the rocks had unusual pinkish-purplish hue along with some orangish and grayish shades. Later Mausmi summed it best at Sarchu camp during the dinner; “We never painted the mountains with these colors when we made drawings in school.”

Here is an assortment of the day’s scenic treat with another quote from Tom; “No matter how many pictures you take, the true scale and the beauty will never come alive in mute photos”.

More dramatic scenery.....

More dramatic scenery.....

and more.....

and more.....

and they keep getting better

and they keep getting better

The fascinating Bagha Canyon starts

The fascinating Bagha Canyon starts

The orange hued mountains.............the color schemes were all min blowing

The orange hued mountains.............the color schemes were all min blowing

Some more downhill ensured we were again level with Bagha

Some more downhill ensured we were again level with Bagha

The Sarchu Plateau. For km together the road was straight as an arrow. There were tall mountains flanking the road. On the left hand side the Bagha Canyons continued

The Sarchu Plateau. For km together the road was straight as an arrow. There were tall mountains flanking the road. On the left hand side the Bagha Canyons continued

The campsite at Sarchu was very comfortable and Russell brought the news that the meteorologists predicted that the night temperature would drop to -2 degrees.

The day’s stats were:

day 05

day's progress highlighted in yellow

Total Distance

41 km

Total Climb

2500 feet

Total Time on Saddle

3 hours 30 min

Sleeping Height

14,500 feet

Oxygen

58% relative to MSL (mean sea leve58)      At BaralachaLa 53%

The next day was a long one with the legendary Gata loops and the hideous Nakeela Pass on the menu. Our kitchen served us excellent food, as usual and I had a great sleep thanks to the extra sleeping bags that I and Mausmi used as cushions and blankets.

I had no clue that the next day would test my psychological preparedness in the most naked way.

Read on: Day 6 – Sarchu to Whisky Nullah- “The Beauty and the Beast”

All Links:

Prologue : Khardungla and My Conditioning

Day 1 (Manali to Marhi):  Meet the Gang

Day 2 (Marhi to Sissu):  The Big Climb up the Rohtang Pass

Day 3 (Sissu to Jispa):   The Cold Windy Day

Day 4 (Jispa to ZingzingBar):  Awww… Those 7 km…

Day 5 (ZingzingBar to Sarchu): The Box of Chololates

Day 6 (Sarchu to Whisky Nullah): The Beauty and the Beast

Day 7 (Whisky Nullah to Pang):  How Wrong Was I?

Day 8 (Pang to Lato): The Longest and the Best Day- Size Does Matter

Day 9 (Lato to Leh):   I Will Reach Leh

Day 10 (Leh to KhardungLa):  The Final Hurrah….

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2 Responses to “Manali-Leh-KhardungLa Cycling Day 5 (Aug 28th 2009) : Zingzingbar to Sarchu – “The Box of Chocolates””

  1. mitra Says:

    Hi Manasi how are you ? hope to be fine
    really amazing and great job you hav
    cycled i read little but find it nice loving

    This is Mitra i am also you can called a biker
    Trekker and having lots interest in all sports
    in 2009 we had organised this for 116 boys
    and in 2011 for 103 Girls only this was the
    most adventurious cycling all you did. Carry on
    i would like to know more about your programme
    have a nice day
    Mitra
    Mail me- mitrabnaik@yahoo.co.in

  2. santosh Says:

    Graeat!!!

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