Himalayan Highs

With breathtaking high-altitude trails, awe-inspiring landscapes and a rich cultural tapestry, Nepal offers an almost unparalleled opportunity for adventure-loving mountain bikers. SCOR athlete Juliette Willmann, together with three friends, planned a trip through the rugged terrain of the Mustang Valley in the heart of the Himalayas. We asked Juliette to take us along for the ride.

The idea for the trip came from Soren – a good friend, photographer, explorer and all-round funny guy. Scrolling through Instagram one evening he stopped on a photo taken in Mustang, Nepal. The photo of riders on an amazing trail running through a stunning landscape got his wanderlust glands pumping.

Soren got in touch with Ashish, the Nepalese MTB guide in the photo and, after a few messages, our trip to the Himalayas was booked.

Our exploration party was made up of Soren, his wife Gaëlle (ambulance driver and dancefloor wrecker), my boyfriend Pierre-Idris (Aka Pim, a mountain guide and amateur comedian) and myself, Juliette (mountain bike guide, ski instructor, frequent crasher).

At the end of October 2023, we landed in Kathmandu with our bikes. For this adventure Pim and I had brought along our SCOR 4060 LTs while Soren and Gaëlle had packed 4060 STs. We met our guide, Ashish, then made our way to the center of Kathmandu, Thamel. After checking into our hotel we decided to take a ride around the city.

Down one alleyway, we saw bike shops on all sides, offering guided tours, repairs and rentals, everything you'd expect to find at a mountain resort.

To get from Kathmandu to Mustang we’d be taking a plane. Our bikes, however, would be traveling by 4x4. So, back at the hotel, and with beers in hand, we covered our bikes with bubble wrap to protect them during their overland transfer.

Jomson airfield is one of the most dangerous places in the world to land a plane, something I had stupidly decided to look up the day before we were due to arrive there. As we came in to land, I strapped on my helmet, closed my eyes and hoped for the best. Of course everything went fine and, when I did have my eyes open, the views of the Himalayas were mind-blowing – in a good way!

From Jomsom the adventure really began. We changed into riding gear, climbed into the truck and headed out to the trails we’d come all this way to experience.

If the views from the air were mind-blowing, from ground level they were mind-boggling. The European Alps are big, but the scale of the Himalayan wilderness is off the charts.

Ashish’s friend Ajit, the gentle giant, was our driver. His role in our adventure was just as important as that of the guides. Roads on the map didn’t match reality and were often damaged by rockfall or erosion. A steady set of hands on the steering wheel was vital. With his gangster-rap playlists and card game banter, he was good company as well as a great driver.

Each day began with Ajit whisking us up to a drop off point, often as high as 4000 meters. From there, our journey would unfold as we navigated the rugged terrain, finding and following flow trails. Our destination would be the next enchanting village, where we'd rest our heads for the night, immersed in the warmth of local hospitality.

Despite having a vehicle, we’d still have to earn our turns. One day saw us take on a 1000m hike-a-bike that topped out at 4200m. The reward, a 2000m descent over 17km, more than made up for it though!

For such a remote area we were stunned at how good the trails were. A perfect balance between cruising flow and technical rock gardens. Sometimes we’d find ourselves riding through deep couloirs that had been carved into the rock by the rain. I could never have imagined such beautiful trails with so much flow, all with the Himalayas acting as a stunning, and unreal, backdrop.

For me, the whole experience was incredible. The riding, the culture, the people, the scenery – what a trip. Thank you to Soren, Gaëlle, Pim, Ashish, Ajit and SCOR for helping create an unforgettable adventure. We definitely need a return trip – Mustang 2.0.

Words by Juliette Willmann & Soren Rickards.

Photos by Soren Rickards.