Day 3: Finally, Crossing Sach Pass (4400m)

This is the toughest and most epic pass I have ever cycled. Although not as high as many of the other himalayan passes, Sach is steep! So steep that in many instances I resorted to pushing. It took me 7hrs30 to cycle 32km of up from 2200m to 44oom, (although the total days ride was actually 8hr30  (58km) taking into account the first 11km were downhill and then the 14km descent to the police check point over the other side).  While it was supremely tough it was also utterly stunning, and therefore will remain one of my favourites.

Just over half way, another 14km would take me 3hrs to finally summit Sach!
Shortly after our staple breakfast, a parantha and omlette, we dropped for 11km down from Killar to meet the and cross over the Chandrabhagga. Its hard to photograph steepness but this photo gives some sense of the gradient we were about to grind our way up.
The pass is a relatively new road built just over 10 years ago which has shortened the distance from Killar to Chamba (the main town in the area) by about 500km! The pass is open from June to mid October
Peeking over the edge: bits of the road on the left and the right.
Optical illusion – this wasn’t really flat!
Me the spot on the way to the top.
Have never been able to keep up with Carlos, always bringing up the rear.
A roadworker’s goatie to greet me. I worried for him as I suspect he became supper at some point.
A rare moment – Carlos pushing.
My struggle is lightened by meeting of pretty school girls, Priya and Sunita who were living in the roadworkers camp with their families. The eagerly clambered up the slopes to get a photo of us with their cell phones.
The roadworkers camp below – Priya, Sunita and brother.
Passing frozen snowdrifts that gave me the feeling of cycling through a fridge.
More spectacular road frequently interrupted by cascading waterfalls.
Chilly crossing
Another 12km to go.
My turn. Numbing glacial water.
Worth a few more pics. Ice-scapes that us South Africans don’t see many of.
Chipping away at the kilometres, I was glad to be distracted by carpets of Himalayan flowers like these yellow buttercups.
Buttercups and unknown pinks, its high time I got an ID book.
Later to discover that the flowers were even better on the other side of the pass.
One of my favourites: the bobbly yellows.
Loosing daylight, I still had another 3km to go
The end is nigh, a glimpse of the summit (the little notch). From here to the top ,still took another hour! 
Forced smile, but actually quite happy as really, very nearly at the top!
7h30 after setting off I arrive at the 4400m top, with a small welcoming committee, Carlos and the cab drivers who were busy fixing a puncture.
With dwindling daylight and appalling road surface we headed for the police check point some 14km down our only hope of finding a place to stay (we had no tent).
Astounding views, the pass descends an incredible 130km over 3400m to Chamba at just under 1000m, certainly the longest downhill I have ever descended.
The police check point was no more than a couple of shelters and a disheveled shack that could barely pass as a dhabba. The shack ‘dhabba’ owner was also far from friendly, so clearly sleeping there was hardly an optioin. With no sunlight or energy to continue further to the first village, another 25km away, the young and friendly policemen, Kritik and Guldeep realised that we were in a pickle. Despite their rules of not allowing anyone to stay in their camp, they welcomed us and even had 2 free beds to spare with satellite TV and dinner included (and they didn’t even snore!)
I couldn’t have asked for a better spot – warm and toasty after an awesome day and safe in the hands of some super friendly policemen! Thanks guys! 
25 thoughts on “Day 3: Finally, Crossing Sach Pass (4400m)
  • Ashwin S Kalasapur

    Thank you. I have been very impatiently waiting for day 3 of your travelogue :-) Sent from my iPad

    • Bridget Ringdahl

      Thanks Ashwin, makes it seem even more worth it! We must meet when I am next in India!

  • Catherine Ritchie

    This is hectic cycling Bridget, nothing like what Ben and I experienced in Corsica :-) I'm starting to wonder whether I'd actually survive one of your epic trips!!

  • Right on dude! Good to see it hasn't changed. I remember that waterfall. The descent down the other side was brutal cobble though, it seems they may have smoothed that out.

    • Bridget Ringdahl

      Hey Mark, cool you can relive the ride, the brutal cobble is still there though ;-)

  • Pia Sanchez

    Breathtaking Bridgi and Carlos!! :)

  • Astonishing Bridg. I am amazed that you fit these fantastic adventures into your life with such ease. Lovely for the rest of us to enjoy vicariously. Good to see that Carlos is actually human! xxx

  • TANK

    i am convinced...i will be joining you next year. the scenery is out of this world. wow

  • Werner Mennen

    Bridget and Carlos: maximum respect to you both! Looks like Sach Pass is Kardula's nasty younger brother!

  • This is amazing! I rode over the pass (from the South) last year and remember being so relieved that I had not chosen to approach it from the North. I also remember hands numb from braking on the descent and the rear wheel lifting off the ground (even with only rear panniers!). Starting after the Sun’s rays reached Satrundi, I reached Killar well after dark. Congratulations and thanks for the…

    • Bridget Ringdahl

      Fantastic you did the ride too - what you rode from the south,? no way! - that seemed MUCH harder to me! Would love to see your pics and well done to you from tackling this one from the really really hard side!!

      • Sudipto DasGupta

        Actually not, from the route profiles, the road from the north climbs inexorably while the one from the south has some gentle stretches now and then (that is why I chose to go this way!). However, I have noticed the one always imagines the road will always be tougher the other way round! You can see some pictures here:

  • Wow!! Crossed Saach Pass on a Cycle :) Bravo!

  • Nick McBain

    Well done Bridget, our group with Cass & Cara did this five years back while they were still blasting the route for larger vehicles to pass. After a really sharp haircut in Killar (!) I joined the others in making our way to the dhabba at Bagatou (at the foot of the pass), ready for the next day. Some of us made the last leg in the jeep! Pics are…

    • Bridget Ringdahl

      Thanks Nick! Always enjoy checking out others pics to get a different perspective- an epic cycle indeed.Thanks for these links look forward to browsing

  • jot

    great info made by you try also track from kaza to manali via kunzum pass and rohtang

  • vijay

    gr8 ride,

  • Hey Bridget Thanks for the Sach Pass entries – I went over with Cass & Cara in 07 (and Nick above). Jeep supported tho' - not hardcore like you! At the time I thought there was a real push to tarmac the whole route (like building the second bridge below Kilar), but really interesting to see how little has changed. Great that you noted the names of the police/road builder…

    • Bridget Ringdahl

      Hey Christian, i must say i was really chuffed to see how rough (and wild!) a route the sach pass is... considering all the road 'upgrading/building' thats going on, i also never expected it to be that hard... you should go back and re-ride it, certainly one of the most dramatic rides ever! happy pedalling too and if ever down south, we can show you some superb single-track, cheers

  • so beautiful, sach pass is near my home town,dalhousie...

    • Bridget Ringdahl

      ah you are so lucky to live in the area.... would love to see more of Himachal myself!

  • nikhil (from Gujarat, India)

    congrats briget ringdahl..we r trying it from south this year on cycles..ur trip is amazing..thanks fr sharing...

    • Bridget Ringdahl

      All the best Nikhil, I would be interested to know if the pass and road has been improved in anyway...

      • nikhil (from Gujarat, India)

        sure..we r planning to cycle in the beginning of June..'will let u know.