Project Solo | Spiti (2014)
The ‘Himachal DH MTB Trophy’ in Solang Valley got me to the mountains earlier in July. With a week full of digging at Ski Himalayas Park and racing over the weekend, the Solang stay was wild. As the event dust settled and riders exited Manali town, I packed my gear for ‘Project Solo’.
Spiti region was marked on the map and an SUV ride began from Manali thru the mega mountains of Himachal Pradesh. Metal bridges, prayer flags, snow-capped mountains in the horizon; a 12 hour photogenic drive got me to Kaza. The main town in Lahaul/Spiti region. Straight to a small low lit room for the night, I unpacked in one of Kaza’s easy to find home-stay facilities. Planning for the coming week of action I charged all the cameras and set my bikes suspension for big hits!
Next morning while wandering in Kaza’s market with a momo breakfast, I spotted some potential riding slopes nearby. As the bright sun baked the ant hills I hiked the near perpendicular slopes one foot jam at a time. Using the bike as a digger, the mornings were spent climbing in Kaza. A few of the hills around town have jeep tracks going all the way up to small villages on the peak. With a week full of uphill and downhill on walking trails & sharp flaky chutes, it was time to exit Kaza’s hot days.
Kaza is connected to many smaller villages along the Shimla Highway with state transport buses. Bad roads, weather, mechanicals make this 2 or 3 Buses a day plan pretty interesting. After waiting for a full day I got a ride to my next spot, Tabo. With bike and bags on the roof, Himachal Road Transport bus cruised through some potential riding zones and made it to Tabo Bus Depot by early evening. This little village has one of the most beautiful monasteries around Spiti region. With a time warped state of mind I went looking for some big cliffs and steeps that I’d seen in the pictures.
Tabo has a very strong history with Buddhism and the location takes you in with its silence. You will be humbled with the humongous mountain faces insight. As I wandered through the landscape hiking up and blasting down I noticed the natural caves of Tabo. These natural formations hold high significance in the religious lifestyle of the region. Shining bright was a 20ft or something cave drop! I’d seen these cliffs in the images and was finally pulled in to the real zone. With a smooth take off and NO landing this one was sketchy to the core. But a week full of riding with no big air was getting to me. I needed my punch of hang time! After spending a day cleaning the landing patch, moving boulders I was ready to hit the Tabo Cave drop. Only problem was, there was a small banking wall made to stop the soil from washing off the mountain. Theres no way around this wall which stood very close on my run out patch. As the noon sun was setting up in the cold village, I set up my tripod and cameras for the air show! Some of the village folks had seen me clearing the landing, setting up the dropin a day earlier and were curious to see what I was upto and got their camera phones out to get a clip of the fun. With cameras rolling and clouds moving fast, I cranked off the run in towards the lip. With perfect speed I sent it off the cave top! That was my time of meditation in Tabo!! As I landed clean and gained speed on the landing patch the banking wall clipped on my pedal throwing me off the bike and also wrecking the bike in the process. Sure someone was watching from above as I missed the wall and only the bike got it! An experience it was.
As I high fived my new buddies, beer came in along with Thukpa (Noodle Soup) for the evening. Pondering on how the weeks in Spiti region were spent I feel a few weeks are not enough to explore this vast mountain scape. With a wrecked bike and bruised self it was time to hitch a ride to Manali town and hop on a Pune bound train. ‘Project Solo’ 2014 in Spiti is going into the books!!