Riding around Annapurna circuit is not a task to be taken lightly, as discovered by Graeme Duane, a wildlife documentary maker from South Africa, and his friends during their first attempt.
Cuan Cronje who Graeme describes as a tough nut and Deane Burscough, who has Cape Epic feather in his cap, completed the unit. Caught out by a freak snowstorm in Annapurna, the trio of friends found themselves in a nightmarish fight for survival when they attempted to make their way back to Manang from Tilicho Base Camp, where they had been snowed in.
“The Annapurna circuit is one of the Planet’s great hiking routes and is surprisingly seldom ridden, but with huge potential. Cuan had hiked it twice and his obsession with riding it rubbed off on me. On the last trip we’d had just enough to get a taste and realize that it’s one of the greatest original bike trails on earth. Extreme conditions and altitude conspire to make it incredibly tough, but there’s enough high and hard single-track to make your eyeballs dry up. It’s one of the most spectacular, rough and real places you can visit.”
Keen to make a second attempt to cross the high passes of Tilicho, the trio rebooked their flights for April, when it would be peak climbing season again.
“As we left the smoky, stony huddle of Manang below us, we hit the high single-track that leads to Yak Karkha and found some of the finest high altitude single-track we’d ever seen. We’d climb a few hundred meters and then ease into long stretches of contour that dropped and rose along the edge of Himalayas. We ripped along this hard-packed ribbon, flying over crunchy drifts of ice with the steep snowy walls of the Annapurna range behind us.”
Buoyed by the clear weather, breathtaking landscapes and exquisite trails, the trio make it to the town of Tatopani. It was there while they were relaxing in the hot springs that the earthquake of April, 2014 hit.
Graeme recounts their successful second attempt to bike the Annapurna circuit (albeit not without a case of disastrous catastrophe following them around) for Pinkbike.