Today’s distance / ???????: 18.6 miles / 29.9km
Average speed / ????: 5.2mph / 8.3km/h
Time on skateboard / ????: 3h 35m
Total skateboarding distance to date / ????????????: 5524mi plus 377mi (?) / 8891km plus 606km (?)
Ascent / ??: 1455m
Descent / ??: 500m
End-of-day GPS coordinates: N37° 56′ 31.50″, E100° 19′ 54.50″
Note that the distance for today is only skateboarding distance. I walked at least 15km in addition to that!
It was not until I was 1 hour into my ride today, when I stopped in at a road construction headquarters to warm up and have a bite to eat, that I found out that not only about 20km of the road up ahead was unpaved, but there was a lumping great 4,190m high pass to cross. Perfect. That’s the stuff a good adventure is made of, if you ask me.
On the paved section, it was tough going. Chiling is at about 2,800m, and the paved section of Provincial Road 204 heading directly south to Qinghai Lake continued until about 3,500m. Below is the demise of the pavement.
Had the weather been fine, and the road dry, the smooth parts of the dirt road may well have been skate-able. It was not fine, and the road was wet, with a fine misty rain falling, and the road was spongy. There was nothing for it but to pull my gear by hand and walk. With my skateboard strapped to my trailer, I hauled the whole setup like a suitcase…just the same…except in no way similar.
Switching pulling hands ever so often to battle the fatigue on my forearms, I made satisfactory progress up the often steep switchbacks.
It was cold. I was wearing all my clothes. Every stitch of clothing I had in my pack I was wearing. This kept me warm enough so long as I was moving. Stopping for any period of time, and I would cool down. My inner layers were wet from sweat, and my legs were drenched, due to the terrible cheap non-breathable waterproof pants I was wearing.
Walking was strangely refreshing. The slow pace made me appreciate even more the surroundings.
I was offered many rides up the hill, none of which I accepted. By hook or by crook I’ll make it to the top of this pass on my own, I stubbornly insisted.
I finally arrived at the top at 7pm. One an a half hours before dark.
Clouds enveloped the heights, shrouding the prayer flag tower eerily.
The ride down the other side of the pass included less vertical descent than I had expected. While the road up from Chiling was about 60km of pure uphill, the descent was onto somewhat of a plateau, only descending about 500m, compared with the steep 1,500m ascent from Chiling. The road was still unpaved and soggy for about 10km of the descent, however gravity kept me rolling over the rough surface. Jolly good fun.
I could have kissed the pavement when it resumed. With no town in sight however, and it getting dark, I began to formulate my strategy for camping for the night. By 9:30pm, well after dark, I realised that I would have to camp.
I was still at 3,750m, it was still drizzling slightly, and it was still cold. I was still damp from sweat. Not a good combination when the overnight low could easily drop below freezing.
I pulled off the road, and with no other choice, set my tent fly up. Remember, I sent my tent and sleeping bag ahead of me to Shanghai, thinking I would never need them in the summer heat of China.
I managed to set the tent fly up, using pocket knives, skate tools, bungee cords, and a wire fence. With the fly edges touching the ground, most of the breeze was cut off.
Despite the fact that I was wearing every stitch of clothing I owned, I still had one more trick up my sleeve. I never leave home without a foil emergency blanket, and tonight it well and truly came to the rescue. I crawled under the fly – it was no higher than 30cm off the ground – wrapped myself up in the emergency blanket, and assumed the foetal position.
I was warm enough for the first hour, but I knew in the back of my mind that I would gradually lose body heat as my metabolism slowed. In particular I could feel a chill coming from my legs. The non-breathable rain pants were not letting my thermal leggings and trousers to dry out with my body heat. My upper body, despite me wearing my water-proof jacket, dried out completely overnight, thanks to the breathable material of the jacket. This is where a breathable material comes in the most use. No breathable waterproof material will be breathable enough to keep you dry during intense activity, but when you stop, that’s when it proves its worth.
Despite my chilly legs, my core temperature remained enough that I did not shiver. I dozed on and off until 4am, when I became aware of the cooler temperature of the early morning. Sneaky cold drafts made their way through openings in the emergency blanket, stabbing me with their icy fingers.
My hips were hurting from keeping the same foetal position all night, despite the soft Thermarest mat, but I dared not turn over, with fear of disrupting the delicate equilibrium I had created with the emergency blanket wrapped tightly around me.
I waited until the sky had become light before cracking open my personal microcosm of warmth. The low clouds overnight had kept off any freezing temperatures, and all I found on the inside of the tent fly was condensation, not ice.
I packed up hastily, trying to keep moving to warm myself up….
(continued on Day 739)