…Including the Kitchen Sink. Chasing the Pot of Gold in Nyempo Jurtse


by | May 29, 2017

May 25-27, 2017

“There is a trekking trail that goes through this region named Nyempo Jurtse. I don’t know if we can cycle it.  Worst case, if the trail ends, we just push our bikes over the pass. It’s only about 1,000 vertical feet. We’ll need to pack food for 3 days. What do you think?” I feel like I’ve heard this pitch before and I remember how it turned out. Good thing I bought a pair of $20 hiking shoes 6 weeks ago, because it sounds like they’re going to get some more use.

Do a Google search (although not in China because Google is blocked) for “Nyempo Jurtse” and it will come up null, or at least will suggest several other “Did you mean…” It simply does not exist on the internet, which is no surprise that my nomadic, satellite scouring, Swiss bike packing friends found it. It is likely one of the most pristine, remote, and not bike friendly places that I have ever been. Some people go to a building labeled as a church for their religion…here is my church.

To be clear, this is folly and utter indulgence for my adventurous spirit. It is candy. This is not about any local, Tibetan cultural experience. In fact, I didn’t see anyone for nearly 3 days. This adventure would throw everything at me, including the kitchen sink. Turning off the main tarmac road, I was surprisingly greeted by a blast from the past: jagged, snow capped, towering rock formations, something I have not seen since leaving the Chola mountain range 1 week prior. They seemed oddly misplaced in the rolling hills of the plateau, but nonetheless welcomed me home like my favorite down blanket. Goosebumps covered my entire body while a feeling of exuberance and calm blanketed me. The dirt road soon gave way to 5 miles of a perfectly manicured ribbon of single track, meandering its way deep into a canyon, before inevitably ending in a rock slide scree field leading up to the saddle of a 15k ft pass. All around, I was surrounded by frozen lakes and ominous limestone spires, protecting me like the walls and moat of a medieval fortress. I stopped to load everything of any significant weight into my backpack in order to make the dragging of my bike over the pass slightly less debilitating. Little did I know that the 1 hour slog up would be the easy part. I quickly learned that my $20 hiking shoes had the sole stiffness of a very worn pair of bedroom slippers, unfortunately enabling me to feel every pebble. I was better off in my Keen sandals.

On the other side of the pass, the real adventure began. The path did not resume. Instead, 12 miles of navigation across countless frozen, and nearly frozen, frigid stream crossings, rock gardens, and sprawling brush fields patiently awaited our blind, yet ambitious fumbling. I am in my place here. Candy.  Like the sweet creamy goodness of a fresh jar of Nutella that I could polish off in a single sitting. Except this was 3 days of Nutella, Costco sized. I had chatted with a local tour guide 9 months ago about traveling through the Tibetan Himalayas and he cautioned me about the remoteness stating that, “Many people go out into the mountains there, lose their way, and disappear. It is very remote, so be careful.” Sold. He didn’t know that his cautionary deterrent was actually a sales pitch. It’s like when your father tells you to be careful with your new bike and the first thing you do is dig a hole and build a jump for it. I did that too.

For the first time since entering Tibet nearly 2 months ago, Mother Nature winked at me, opened up the clouds for 3 days of oceanic, crystal clear blue skies. Each night we camped next to either an alpine lake or fresh water stream, with water so clear that I just wanted to stick my entire head in it and drink myself full. Still at nearly 14k ft, the temperature overnight dove precipitously into the 20’s causing the edges of the water to freeze, in addition to my water bottles and of course my shoes. Sleeping under the stars felt like living in a planetarium. Everything seemed tangible, within easy reach, including the Milky Way and all the heavens above. By 730am each morning, the sun crept over the peaks, eroding away the frozen fringe from the rivers and lakes, and melting the ice crystals from the inside of my tent, waking me up with cold drops of water on my face. I peeked my head out to see several cranes swooping in to land on the frigid morning water. This is exactly where I want to be.

The final day, still no trail, was a continued traverse of the gauntlet of dozens of stream crossings and countless fissures in the green, mossy earth. They looked like crevasses in a glacier but were in fact just places where the ground had split, leaving huge gaping cracks filled with mud, large enough to swallow a Fiat with plenty of room still for 3 cyclists. The only direction was to continue to follow the canyon out.   Nearing the end, after not seeing anyone for 3 days, we came upon a nomad family, migrating into the valley for the summer. They were even more shocked to see us than we were of them. Inevitably, we found our way onto a dirt path that evolved into a tarmac road, which made its way to the town of Aba, where I was treated to my first hot shower in 3 weeks.

I have been in Eastern Tibet for nearly 2 months and somehow, I am still star struck. Friends back home ask me how much longer I can keep going, living like this. I honestly don’t know. Sometimes there actually is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. You just have to keep chasing it.

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Fortunate for a sandbar


Finding a way around the lake


Endless rock gardens meant minimal pedaling



Finding religion



Last drag up and over

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Frozen streams


The slog up was the easy part



Final push up the rock slide area



Long push up from the valley


Crossing the saddle at nearly 15k ft.



Top of the pass


Some river crossings were bigger than others.  Fortunately there was a sandbar



Coming out



Nomads coming in for the season



Something funny?

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The World Spins By is an intimate journey of loss, curiosity, and love—recounted one pedal stroke at a time along Jerry’s two-year bicycle journey back to himself. 


  1. My heart stirs each time I read your posts. The pictures are fabulous, everytng so pristine. This is just a flat out amazing adventure!

  2. Hey there, great adventure! I stumbled upon your article while doing some last minute research for an upcoming climbing trip to the Nyainbo Yuze. I visited a valley on the western fringe of the range in 2016, and am hoping to this time climb some peaks in the large west-east valley where you began your bike trip. I was wondering if sometime in the next two days (sorry so short!) you’d have any time to chat over voice call? I’d love to get some information from you about this region.