There was a time in my life when all I wanted to do was load up a massive set of panniers with a tent, sleeping bag, and camp stove then head out on a journey. In high school I participated in a few loaded touring trips, and fell in love with the freedom, and was too youthful to care about the uphills. In college, my miniscule, monthly work study check forced some down sizing in gear and equipment, so I exchanged the panniers for a backpack, and used school vacations as the perfect excuse to head out into the mountains. Into Thin Air, the book, came out my sophomore year of college, and the Imax film Everest came out the year after that. I was enthralled with the mountains, and the adventure.
Until I met Zand Martin, I had never heard of the Altai mountains. An internet search provided me with their location, “where Russia, China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan come together,” but while clicking through the images tab, I wondered what shape my backpack was in. Zand Martin, the newest member of Team Seven Cycles, will be traveling to the Altai Mountain Range next week on a most incredible adventure that he and his partner are calling “Circling the Golden Mountains.”
Their goal is lofty, to circumnavigate the Altai using nothing but bikes and skis, all the while telling the story of the home of skiing, its people, and its landscape. Zand described it to us, “At the northern edge of the vast endoheic basins of Central Asia rises the last of the great mountain complexes radiating northeast from the Indian subcontinent: the Altai, or ‘Golden Mountains’ in Altaysk. The Altai straddles the transboundary region where Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia, and Russia come together, and constitute a diverse 1600 kilometer long partially-‐ glaciated range that reaches 15,000 feet. Skiing was invented in the Altai around 8000 BC, thousands of years before Scandinavia; thousands of years before that, the first dogs were domesticated in the range. Today, semi-‐nomadic Tuvan and Kazakh herders cut and bend their own skis and attach caribou fur to them, even going so far as to race downhill and powder ski.” While on the road they plan to conduct citizen-‐science initiatives through ASC and support the work of WWF Mongolia, WWF Russia, and the IUCN-‐WPCA Mountain Biome Network.
The route, a mere 4,000 kilometers, will be grueling. Zand says they’ll be traveling light, but with skis, cold weather gear, and all of the necessities for a self supported trip strapped to their bikes, I can’t imagine “light” would be your first thought.
We get to meet Zand in person tomorrow, and are pretty darn excited about it. This trip is the latest in a long list of awe inspiring journeys (like the one shown above in the picture taken by Zand Martin) which you can learn more about here: http://zandmartin.com/, but will be posting about his trip as it unfolds.