Khardung La: Seriously High High-Altitude Cycling

Difficulty Level: 197

Ascent: 1944 meters over 40 kms.

Khardung La is the highest motorable road in the word. You rise to 5355 meters. The road condition is great, but the altitude is worry. The lack of oxygen in the air evident. The difficulty level that is calculated is misleading because the cycling difficulty level equation adds a similar factor for 1000 and above. However, you might agree that riding at 1000+ meters is substantially than riding at 4000+ meters!

Elevation Profile of Khardung La, Leh, Ladhakh, India

Elevation Profile of Khardung La, Leh, Ladhakh, India

The gradient is mostly consistent over 40 kms. This is fascinating route. There are many cyclists and runners who have taken challenge. Even a Formula 1 team took it up. You read more about their success here… Since this is a cycling focused site, here is a picture of someone who successfully tamed the Khardung La. Actually, she tamed it 3 times in 2 days…crazy…or maybe just the appeal of seriously high altitude cycling.

KhardunLaPhoto

Cycling Road Condition

The road is quite good, no not road bike good, but a Hybrid can easily take up this challenge.

The following video shows you the state of the roads in August 2013.

Plan for the Khardung La Cycling Trip

To take this Himalayan challenge, you need to fly yourself and your bike to Leh, which is in Ladhak. Depending on your fitness levels, this pass can be done in 4 to 6 hours of seriously hard cycling. Yes, a support car would be useful, but not really necessary. Since this Himalayan cycling trip can also be accessed from Manali (2000+ meters), you can actually ride from Manali to Leh. Read more about the Rohtang La that you’ll encounter from here.

 

McLoed Gunj: Road Bike Paradise to the Dalai Lama

Difficulty: 110 to 139

Ascent: 1167 over 16 to 22 kms.

Hello Sunshine! There is a cycling peak suitable for road bikes and this is the one. There are multiple ways of cycling to McLoed Gunj. The easiest is via Forsythe Gunj (110), while the hardest  (139) is direct from Dharamshala to McLoed Gunj.

The Elevation Profile is shown below.

Elevation Profile of Cycling Route to McLoed Gunj from Gaggal

Elevation Profile of Cycling Route to McLoed Gunj from Gaggal

 

The gradient is not consistent and this is probably what makes this cycling route a challenge.

Road Quality

The road quality is very decent, actually it is good example of quality road engineering. The tarmac is beautifully laid and your bike will glide all the way to McLoed Gunj, assuming you are pedaling!

For this Himalayan cycling challenge, there are no bike restrictions. However, Cyclocross or Hybrid is recommended.

The following video shows you the state of the roads in January 2014.

The McLoed Gunj Cycling Challenge

There are multiple ways to take this cycling challenge. Your starting point options are:

  • Gaggal – Kangra Airport: This is a pleasant route. This route offers multiple ways of getting to McLoed Gunj. The stretch is under 20 kms, as shown in the elevation map above.
  • Kangra – The City: This route has substantial traffic. This route is over 26 kms. and I strongly advise you to avoid it.
  • Palampur – The Tea Town: This route is probably the easiest, but longest climb. It starts from about 1200 meters and you rise to 2000 meters over about 45 kms.

Currently, the Tushita Meditation Centre is the highest cycling point in McLoed Gunj. Strictly speaking, the Tushita Meditation Centre falls under Dharamkot, which is a village just above McLoed Gunj. However, there are some trails that are under construction, which might offer more cycling opportunities at a greater height.

Tips

  • Do not attempt this trip during the Indian summer because it tends to attract significant local tourists. The Indian winter, October to February, is a better time for this trip.
  • There are many self-guided treks that you can take from McLoed Gunj.

Hattu Peak: Littered with Deodar Trees

Difficulty Level: 216

Ascent: 2420 meters over 46 kms.

Yes, this is an interesting climb that takes you through Deodar tree forests. There are two ways of getting to Hattu Peak, highway or Thanedar road from Bethal. Use the Thanedar road, it’ll always have fewer vehicles. 

The Elevation Profile is shown below and as you can see it is a testing climb.

Elevation Profile Hattu Peak

Elevation Profile Hattu Peak

The gradient is not consistent and this is probably what makes this trail a challenge. The road quality is quite decent. Though the road is narrow. There is no way a road bike can take this challenge, you will either need a Cyclocross, Hybrid, or a Mountain Bike.

The following video shows you the state of the roads in January 2014.

To take this Himalayan challenge, you need to get yourself and your bike to Bethal (891 meters). From Bethal ride towards Narkanda using the Thanedar road. Depending on your fitness levels, this pass can be done in 1 to 2 days. Yes, a support car would be useful, but not necessary.

After you’ve cycled up Hattu Peak, you’ll have a peaceful downhill ride to Narkanda (2900 meters). This little town is located on the highway.

Tips

Do not attempt this trip during the Indian summer because it tends to attract significant local tourists. The Indian winter, October to February, is a better time for this trip.

Sach Pass: A Brutal, Killar Himalayan Cycling Trail

Difficulty Level: 297

Ascent: 2937 meters over 45 kms.

Yes, this is possibly the nastiest cycling climb in the Himalayas. The Elevation Profile is shown below. It is 45 kms. of sheer brutality.

Elevation Profile Sach Pass, Chamba, Himachal Pradesh

Elevation Profile Sach Pass, Chamba, Himachal Pradesh

The gradient is mostly consistent over 45 kms. To make it more challenging, the road to Sach Pass has substantial gravel. There is no way a road bike can take this challenge, you will either need a Cyclocross or a Mountain Bike. Though it is possible on a Hybrid, such bikes are not recommended.

The following video shows you the state of the roads in August 2013.

To take this Himalayan challenge, you need to get yourself and your bike to Chamba (750 meters). From Chamba, Sach Pass is slightly over 100 kms. Depending on your fitness levels, this pass can be done in 3 to 5 days. Yes, a support car would be useful. Since the gradient is steep and the road is cruel gravel, avoid taking small cars.

After you’ve cycled up Sach Pass from Chamba, you’ll have a peaceful downhill ride to Killar. This little town in located next to a river bed.

Alternatively, you can start from Killar and head to Chamba via Sach Pass. The challenge with this route is getting to Killar. Bridget Ringdahl has documented her expedition in the following posts:

 

Nasty Himalayan Cycling Climbs List

So, what are the most challenging cycling trails and peaks in the Himalayas? In this post, you’ll learn about cycling climb difficulty levels.

The first step is to have a formula for gauging cycling climb difficulty levels. The formula was taken from www.climbbybike.com and www.podiumcafe.com were used:

THE FORMULA
(H/D*100)*4 + H²/D + D/1000 + (T-1000)/100

Where:
H = ascent in metres;
D = length of climb in meters;
T =  top of mountain in meters

The last part of the formula only applies to mountains above 1000 meters and adds a fudge factor to approximate the impact of altitude. Also, the formula assumes road bike terrain. Most of these Himalayan routes are not for road bikes, rather Cyclocross, MTB, or Hybrid are more suitable.

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H
(Ascent in Meters)
D (meters) T
(Peak in Meters)
Difficulty Level Himalayan Mountain Range Himalayan Peak Starting Point

2937

45000

4400

297

Pir Panjal Sach Pass From near kashati Bhanjraru

2420

46000

3200

216

Pir Panjal Hattu Peak Bethal to Narkhanda

1944

40000

5355

197

Pir Panjal Khardung La From Leh, Ladakh

2158

42000

3132

195

Pir Panjal Jalori Pass From Aut

1716

29000

2438

169

Dhauladhar Jot From Lahru

1654

40000

4000

155

Pir Panjal Rohtang La From near Solang

1167

16000

1908

139

Dhauladhar McLoed Gunj From near Kangra Airport toTushita Meditation Center,McLoed Gunj

1300

60000

4550

132

Pir Panjal Kunzum Pass From near Rohtang La

1199

19400

2404

132

Dhauladhar Bir Billing Take Off Point From Ghatta

1123

17000

2404

132

Dhauladhar Bir Billing Take Off Point From Chauntra

0

0

1908

Dhauladhar McLoed Gunj From Palampur