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Yak Attack – The Essentials (2018 onwards)

Yak Attack – The Essentials (2018 onwards)
As a seasoned Yak Attacker I get asked a lot of questions throughout the year; what kit? what bike? what to expect?
I wrote a piece about this in 2013 (See here), most of which is still relevant, some of it is not.
After being involved in six consecutive editions I’ve accumulated a fair bit of experience. I’ve now pretty much got my own kit dialled. This is my attempt to bring everything up to date for the benefit of anyone planning to take it on. 
My current choice is the Signal Ti 29er hardtail from Sonder Bikes
Let’s begin with the Big Question – What bike?
I covered this fairly extensively in 2016 and not much has changed since then – see here. So below is a brief review.
1. Buy the best bike you can afford.
2. Any bike is better than no bike.
What has changed is the much wider availability of boost spacing and 1x drivetrains.
Boost axle spacing is fabulous and has certainly had a massive impact on wheel stiffness and power transfer.
So for my money a 29″ carbon or titanium bike with boost spacing and a quality wide-ranging 1x drivetrain will get you home in comfort. 120-130mm of fork travel (and shock if you go full suspension) will be more than adequate. Chainring selection is more difficult. but 30, 32, or 34 are all fine depending on your strength and fitness. if in doubt go smaller (30t) to help with the extensive climbing and accumulated muscle fatigue. My current choice is the Signal Ti 29er hardtail from UK brand Sonder Bikes
A lot of riders are opting for full suspension bikes these days but it really is down to personal choice. A dropper seatpost is a nice addition but not essential. A carbon seatpost on the other hand will be much more comfortable on a hardtail.
Tyres are another very personal choice. Big volumes and strong sidewalls will be much better than XC race weight affairs.
My preference is for Maxxis Ardent EXO 2.4″ running a tubeless set-up. Tubeless is a no-brainer – the trails are rough and tubes just don’t cut the mustard.
Here’s my tip-for-the-top:
Great Big disc rotors.
I run a 180mm rear and a 203mm front disc. The bigger discs help to keep the brakes cooler and more efficient on the extraordinarily long descents. You can trust me on that, I’m an Engineer 🙂
Clothing and Kit
Now that the race is held in November conditions have changed considerably from the earlier March events.
These days very little, if any, snow is encountered, and the trails are largely drier with little in the way of mud. This is definitely a good thing.
The jeep roads are now ubiquitous and so the extensive hike-a-bike sections of old are no longer there – with the exception of the ascent to the Thorong La Pass.
The strictly enforced 20kg luggage allowance is actually pretty generous so if you can’t pare your kit down to that then you are carrying way too much shit anyway.
A 70-80 litre duffel will be perfect. Most of the big outdoor brands sell robust, waterproof, duffels – Alpkit, Osprey, Rab, Berghaus, Mountain Equipment, Patagonia etc – take your pick. (These days a large bag is given to each rider at race registration so this isn’t a necessity, but I like to take my own and put it inside the race bag).
Lightweight Dry Bags are useful for separating your kit, I like the siliconised Airlok bags from Alpkit.
Clothing wise, a selection of mix & match layers will serve you best. Leave the cotton at home and go for modern performance fabrics. (This is for pre and post-stage. I won’t dwell on cycling kit because most people have their own particular favourites. If anyone has any specific questions then please feel free to contact me)
Merino Wool Base Layers.
Fleece Mid-Layer.
Windproof Softshell Jacket and Trousers.
Lightweight Waterproof/Breathable Jacket(or Gilet).
Warm Hat and Neck Tube.
Socks: Liners and Hikers in Merino Wool.
Warm, windproof gloves – I prefer mitts for The Pass Stage, 
A Down Jacket is a must for the evenings and may also be required when summiting Thorong La. If you don’t wish to buy one then  these can be hired easily in Kathmandu for about $1.00 a day.
For the lower altitude stages (Under 1500m) shorts and tees will be all that you need.
Footwear: Sturdy is best. I prefer to hike the pass in proper hiking boots (Altberg Tethera) and would advise anyone else to do the same, however many people choose to wear their cycling shoes for this stage these days due to the lack of significant snow. (Trail Crampons are no longer required).
Sunglasses are a must-have and will need to have a Cat 3 rating for protection at altitude. Glacier-level Cat 4 protection is unnecessary. I like the Oakley Racing Jacket with additional lenses.
Sunscreen: A good quality, single application, Factor 30 (minimum, 50 is better), and a lip balm.
Putting all those clothing choices to good use on the Thorong La at 5416m.
First Aid Kit. Survival Bag. Whistle.
Nobody should go into the mountains without these.
A decent Headtorch and spare batteries for the evenings and early mornings in general and essential for the early part of The Pass Stage.
Sleeping bag: Again these can be hired easily in Kathmandu. I used to take a bulky 4 season down filled bag but these days I prefer the flexibility of an Alpkit Pipedream 200 and a Sea-to-Summit Thermolite Reactor Liner I can use the liner at low altitudes and mix it up as it gets colder. Most of the lodges have spare blankets too.
A few more must-haves:
Travel towel
Chain quick links
Mech hanger
Brake pads
Inner tube
Tubeless repair kit
Small Microfibre cloth
Multitool with chain tool
Tyre levers
Chain lube – definitely not a wet lube – my preference is Squirt wax lube for all round use.
Camelbak Podium Big Chill Insulated Bottle can be an invaluable addition, particularly for The Pass when filled with hot water. For those of you requiring connectivity you will find limited WiFi availability in the mountains, but don’t be surprised if you can’t post on Instagram. Local SIM cards can be picked up in Kathmandu and data is pretty cheap (as are international calls) but again coverage can be patchy.  What you can get is a half decent cup of coffee these days 🙂
How’s this for a bit of inspiration?
Here are a few more articles I’ve written that you might find useful:
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Thank you for looking, see you soon.
Please don’t forget to Like, Share, and Comment, if you enjoyed it 🙂 Consume less, live more. Plant more trees.

About The Author

Neil Cottam

Neil is the founder of Chase The Rainbow. He has spent a lifetime exploring the outdoors, from a childhood climbing trees and scrambling his bike around old pit heads to hiking in the Himalaya and backpacking around Europe and Asia.

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