There are 13 passes to cross cycling from Phuensholing to Samdrup Jogkhar. The highest pass is Chele La, almost 4,000 meters ASL, but the road is excellent and thus the pass may not seem as being terribly difficult to scale. That designation belongs to Pele La, the thirds highest pass in Bhutan, namely on account of the bad road leading up to it.
While there is a high pass to cross on almost every stage, it is not just the climbs to deal with. The descents are often equally as exhausting on account of the constant braking necessary. Additionally, once in Eastern Bhutan, the descents after the passes bring you to a lot lower elevations than at the starting points.
For example, cycling from Ura to Mongar you start at 3,161 m ASL, cross Thrumshing La at 3,774 m ASL, then go downhill to mere 561m ASL at Kuri Zampa bridge and back uphill to Mongar at 1,585 m ASL from there. Similarly the next day you ascent to 2,422 m ASL at top of Kori La, from there drop down to only 597 m ASL at Sherichu bridge and then still have to climb to Trashigang at 1,237 m ASL. In other words, while what goes up must come down and what goes down must come up applies, the differences in altitude are often very brutal. But of course, the landscape is magnificent and the experience cycling Bhutan is simply awesome!
The average altitude of the passes is 3,000 meters. In the table below you can see which stages these passes are on as well as the elevations at the start and finish of each stage.
|STAGE||ELEVATION AT START / FINISH||HIGH PASSES|
|1-Siliguri to Phuentsholing||135||240|
|2-Phuentsholing to Tsimasham||240||2245|
|3-Tsimasham to Paro||2245||2250||2500||Chapcha La|
|4-Around Paro Valley||2250||2250|
|5-Paro to Haa Valley||2250||2750||3998||Chele La|
|6-Haa to Thimphu||2750||2325|
|8-Thimphu via Punakha to Wandue||2325||1229||3139||Dochu La|
|9-Wangdue to Phobjikha Valley||1229||2923||3356||Lawa La|
|10-Phobjikha Valley to Trongsa||2923||2033||3416||Pele La|
|11-Trongsa to Bumthang||2033||2547||3429||Yotong La|
|13-Bumthang to Ura||2547||3161||3592||Shertang La|
|14-Ura to Mongar||3161||1585||3774||Thrumshing La|
|15-Mongar to Trashigang||1585||1237||2422||Kori La|
|16-Trashigang to Rangjung and back||1237||1237|
|17-Trashigang to Wamrong||1237||2187||2400||Yonphu La|
|18-Wamrong to Samdrup Jongkhar||2187||159||1889||Narphung La|