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Road passes on Bhutan cycling traverse

Road passes on Bhutan cycling traverse

Crossing Shertang La

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
7-Around Thimphu 2325 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
2872 Kiki La
12-Around Bumthang 2547 2547
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
2450 Kharung La
18-Wamrong to Samdrup Jongkhar 2187 159 1889 Narphung La

 

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