Omar Di Felice completed the long solo winter crossing of the Himalayan region of Ladakh by bicycle.
After 11 days in the saddle, 1100 kilometres and almost 20,000 metres of altitude difference, he concluded his adventure on the summit of Khardung La at 5359 metres above sea level.
Khardung La, which had also marked the first summit climbed immediately after leaving Leh. The route revisited due to some restrictions caused by military garrisons (some sensitive border areas are still under military control and in constant tension with Pakistan and China) then saw Omar cross the Nubra Valley and the dirt track to Lake Pangong, one of the highest salt lakes in the world, which is completely frozen in winter.
From here, he passed through Leh again for the second part of the adventure, not before also crossing the Chang La at 5339 metres above sea level.
The second part saw Omar push on along the road to Kargil, the scene of one of the bloodiest recent wars in this part of India, to the border with Kashmir in the village of Drass, considered the second coldest in the world (after the Siberian village of Oymyakon) and then return to Leh, rounding two more Himalayan passes: the Namik La and the Fotu La.
Arriving in Leh, Omar wanted to treat himself to one last symbolic ascent of the Khardung La: although he had already climbed it at the start, he decided to repeat the ascent.
“Ladakh marked a starting point after the post-Antarctic difficulties. I had no specific objectives and this adventure helped me to regain my feeling for the extreme (I rode constantly above 4000 metres altitude with temperatures varying between -12°C and -20°C) in a land, however, that also gave me warmth and welcome. In the small villages I passed through, there was never a shortage of a blanket and a plate of hot rice in the evening, despite the fact that the local populations are increasingly experiencing the effects of water shortages and climate change.
And it was precisely the adventure in Ladakh that marked yet another stage in the ‘Bike to 1.5°C’ project launched in collaboration with the Italian Climate Network.
Before departing, Omar spoke with climatologist Elisa Palazzi and human geography professor Giovanna Gioli about the critical issues in Ladakh and the Himalayan regions. (You can find a recording of the broadcasted lecture here).
He also got in touch with experts and promoters of the local ‘Ice stupa’ project, through which solutions are being studied to accumulate winter snow and have greater residual stocks for the increasingly arid summers.
Back in Italy, Omar will dedicate himself to a series of public events (above all the appointment at the BANFF Film Festival in Rome on 23 March, the ‘Fa La Cosa Giusta’ Festival in Milan on 25 March and the Bologna Cycling Fair on 2 April) and will resume the cycle of meetings in schools with pupils from primary and secondary schools all over Italy, before concentrating on the second part of the season focused on competitive activities and the calendar of Ultra cycling competitions.
Credits photo: @Omar Di Felice