Stages 7 and 8 were my favorite stages of the Yak Attack. Stage 7 goes from Chame to Manang where we’d have our rest/acclimatization day. We were no longer on jeep roads. There had been a lot of snow compared to previous years and we were quickly bogged down with snow covered trail. I didn’t mind because it gave me a chance to look around. Thor came on strong at the start. A small group of us somehow went off course onto some fun singletrack. We saw some racers who had been finishing midpack and realized something had happened. Zbig, Jeremy, and I rode most of the day together. There was some fun competition and we pushed each other during sections of the course. We ended up somehow taking another wrong turn and had to posthole through snow and across a river to get back on course. There was only one set of footprints that happened to belong to Thor who had also taken another wrong turn. The trail to Manang makes you feel like you’re in the Annapurna Circuit. Glaciers were popping up all around us, and the long winding river divided the two sides of the valley.
We came up on some of the midpack racers again after our wrong turn and tried to hammer it out to make up for lost time. In the end, it didn’t effect the GC very much because those of us who were all close in time took the same wrong turns.
We sat at the finish chatting about our experiences on the bike that day and waiting for others to come across the finish line. Each time a racer would come in, we’d all start cheering. We had heard some unfortunate news that Neil had crashed and dislocated his shoulder. My heart sank. Neil had been at the Yak Attack last year and is one of my favorite people. He’s a super funny “bloke” from the UK with a great and honest sense of humor. He always is bursting at the seams with enthusiasm and loves cake. For being remote, Manang has some nice bakeries and Neil had been longing for cake. The last word we heard was that he had to turn back.
Steve H and I decided to take another post race hike. I had been carrying a decent change of clothes and shoes in the race so I’d have clothing at the finish line. The sherpas take quite a bit longer than we do to finish the course and were carrying our bags. Steve had on a pair of cycling shoes, a down jacket, and a gold sarong skirt he fashioned with nothing underneath. My first idea was to hike to the small stupa on top of the hill and take in the grand view of the Annapurna peaks. We hiked on the rocky singletrack and the wind was picking up dramatically. We took a few pictures at the stupa. I looked up and saw a small monastery way up high on the hill. I joked to Steve that I wanted to go “up there” and pointed up the mountain. When he said he would go, we set off. The wind was howling and he was trying to maintain control of his skirt. It must have been quite the sight to someone to see a George Clooney look-a-like cruising up a trail in a gangsta sized down jacket, orange sarong, and Sidis.
We made it to the top and couldn’t believe how high up we had hiked. We must have been around 14,000’. The sun was threatening to sink behind the mountains so we made our way back down to Manang. When we told people where we had hiked, they didn’t believe us. Sure, it was probably a bit extreme to go for a 2.5 hour hike after finishing Stage 7 of the race, but we were there for the full experience and I am so happy with some of the great views I got to see. I also really enjoyed Steve’s company as my hiking buddy the last couple of days. We rewarded ourselves at the café with some tea and pastries. As I walked out of the café, I saw someone that resembled Neil. I did a double take and realized that it in fact WAS Neil! “You think you fuckers can go on and have all the fun without me?!” he yelled my way with an ear splitting grin across his face. He had walked back to Chame, ditched his bike, turned back around and walked the 30 km to Manang. He had popped his shoulder back into the socket and had his mind made up to continue the circuit on foot. I was so delighted to see him and promptly bought him a piece of chocolate cake.
That night, Dahl Baat was served for dinner…again. It’s a traditional and good, high energy producing meal. However, we had been eating so much of it that we didn’t want it anymore. No more Dahl Baat power hour! I went to bed early that night and looked forward to my rest day.
I slept in the next morning and enjoyed breakfast after 8 AM. A group of us got together and went with Snow Monkey on a long walk. We saw an enormous vulture (can you see it on the cliff in this photo?) The route we hiked last year was too snowy to walk so we cruised around the lake. It was fun to play in the snow and go sledding down the side of some of the hills on our butts on the snow!
We enjoyed our rest day and ate a lot. The next morning, we woke up to a snowstorm…and had to start the next stage to Phedi, sitting at 15,000′.