Having left my Tsagaannuur border family, I retraced my previous night’s route and rejoined the Sibirsky Extreme trail. Up and into the Mongolian hills I went until the DRZ had taken me well above 2400 meters/8000 feet.
The track varied from no track at all, to double track, to a sharp rocked path. Light clouds became rain clouds, a light drizzle became a downpour. Like so many days of my trip thus far, my fantasies of high speed riding on smooth dirt tracks were washed away and replaced with slick treacherous mud.
Higher into the mountains I rode, until I was level with the snow line on peaks just ten miles away on the border with China. Even with the rain clouds hemming me in, the scenery was exquisite. But between the mud and painfully rocky terrain, the going was a sedate 12-15 MPH.
I wasn’t too concerned. I’d loaded up on food and water in Tsagaannuur and was looking forward to a night in the tent. Around 6 PM I reached a high, long wide plateau, and the exposure added huge gusts of wind to the on-again off-again rain.
I rode another hour before realizing the no-end-in-sight expanse of this plateau. At the same time, I noticed the sky had darkened considerably and it wasn’t just the fading daylight; the clouds had become black. I came to a stop, shut down the motor, and gave it a think. On cue, a prodigious boom of thunder came roaring across the plateau, followed by a generous fracture of lightning about seven miles off.
Now, understand, I love intense weather. I love watching big snarling storms roll over the Rocky Mountains… generally from inside my living room with a mug of hot chocolate. But now it was howling wind, the rain had intensified, darkness was falling, there was nearby lightning, and I was exposed as the tallest object on this plateau.
Glancing behind me, the storm was covering my retreat and also my path to the north. To the south were tall craggy formations and the Chinese border, no options there. It was forward easterly or nothing; I would not be pitching my tent on this open plain. I fired the engine and rode a few miles before realizing the track was slowly bending to the northeast and into the blackness of the storm, which was gradually swallowing the entire plateau.
I stopped again for further contemplation, and just to punctuate my dilemma, a fissure of lightning lit up the terrain, now only about four or five miles away. I smiled to myself and said out loud, “Okay, then.” I was trapped.