Dust

Bike|September 2019

Dust
INDIAN SUMMERSEPT. 22, 2018 | 7:59 A.M. | ZANSKAR REGION, INDIAN HIMALAYA
Will Ritchie

If rain’s good luck for a wedding—then what about snow on day one of a 16-day bikepack across India’s Himalaya?

“Spirits were high, we thought it was funny,” explains photographer Mary McIntyre.

And why wouldn’t they find it funny? They were in the semiarid high desert plateau during the ‘safe’ time, the fall dry period. Flying in was warm and sunny—shorts, sandals and the hustle-bustle of Indian travel—good times. A southern-forecasted storm meant maybe fringes of rain for their northern trip as they left on their 9-hour drive to drop off on the Manali-Leh Highway.

But ‘safe’ is a relative term when describing anything in the Himalaya and it can snow anytime. And it did. And it continued to snow.

They set up camp to wait out the storm. One day, two days … but, multi-day trips don’t traverse themselves and forward progress was mandatory. After four days of trudging—sometimes knee-deep with loaded bikes—they were faced with two 17,000-foot passes. The decision wasn’t even a decision, it was obvious. The crew—Carston Oliver, Nichole Baker, Eric Porter, and McIntyre— backtracked, retreating along the path they’d just slogged, only to find the Manali-Leh Highway still closed from the storm.

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September 2019