Riding on Thin Air: Kelly McGarry and Jeremy Lyttle Take on Khardung La.
Finding something extraordinary to film when you’re working with someone like mountainbiker Kelly McGarry is not an easy feat. Best known for his breathtaking downhill footage escalating in a flip over a 72-foot-long canyon gap at Red Bull Rampage 2013 with currently over 22 Million views on YouTube, his sport has taken him around the world for the past 10 years. But he had never been to India. Nor had he ever been that high up or that remote with his bike as to where we were taking him and his friend of eight years and fellow rider, Jeremy Lyttle: Khardung La.
North of Leh.
Khardung La is located in the area of Ladakh north of Leh, the largest town nearby. Long known as the highest vehicle-accessible mountain pass in the world at 18,380 feet (5,602 m) as claimed on the signboard at the top, the actual elevation is about 800 feet lower. But let’s not split hairs: it’s simply pretty damn high up. So high, in fact, that altitude sickness is a serious health concern and Jeremy had to seek medical attention but thankfully recovered quickly.
The area is remote and most vehicles passing are military trucks. Kelly and Jeremy, both from Queenstown, New Zealand, enjoyed the comfort of being transported up the mountain in a Mercedes-Benz M-Class and although the bike rack never arrived they found a solution that got bikes and riders safely to the top.
The Long Ride Down.
Not having had to train for the usual taxing competitions, both riders appreciated the spectacular scenery and the long ride down.
Kelly explains: “Khardung La was the the highest and one of the most remote places I have ended up on with my bike! The next closest would have been our trip to race the Inca Avalanche in Peru, a mass start Down Hill MTB race that starts at 14500 ft. Elbow to elbow with 150 other riders racing to get to the bottom! Crazy!“
The film team involved the town of Leh and its locals, who were happy to participate, and the film is just as much a nod to the stunning countryside with its friendly inhabitants as well as to the sport that requires skills and training.
“Being able to take my bike to such a stunning location and having a good mate of mine with me to share this experience was incredible fun and I think it shows in the film”, says Jeremy.
Small Crew – Big Effort.
Special thanks: William Lascelles, Jase Hancox and and Olya Dendyaeva – a massive effort for a small crew. Thanks also to our man on the ground, Rossi, and our driver Bhanudas. More information: Kelly McGarry auf Facebook, Colab Creative.
Film credits: Written & directed by Colab Creative Executive Producer: Hadassa Haack Producer & Editor: William Lascelles Principal Cinematography by Jason Hancox and William Lascelles 2nd camera: Olya Dendyaeva Sound design: Hertzog Burger