Yanez, from Fai della Paganella to China

Yanez, from Fai della Paganella to China
Wednesday 14 August 2019

100 days, two bicycles, 10,000 km, 13 mountain climbs

The adventure started on 19 April and finished at the end of July. Following in the steps of Marco Polo, Yanez and his photographer friend Giacomo travelled more than 10,000 km on e-bikes from Italy to China, climbing one peak in each country they crossed, on foot or on mountaineering skis depending on the conditions. Their bicycle batteries were kept charged with solar panels on top of the bicycle trailers that enabled the two friends to transport everything they needed.

“I wanted to celebrate my 40th birthday in a special way, by committing myself to something extraordinary – admittedly even a little dangerous – while I was still in good enough shape," recounts Yanez. "We knew only too well that there would be lots of unforeseen problems. I can't even count the number of punctures, not to mention the extremely dangerous conditions of some of the roads we travelled. But I have always wanted to go on an epic journey during my life, and I said to myself, now or never!".

The desert and personal encounters

“One of the most difficult times was certainly crossing the desert,” admits Yanez. “I was not used to such vast open spaces without any facilities. There was 100 to 120 km between one supply point and the next, some sign posts indicated that the next area of shade was 60 km away. While I was pedalling, somewhere in my mind I couldn't stop thinking that if something happened we were all alone, there were no helicopters ready to take off or any hospitals just a few minutes away.”

However, Yanez and Giacomo could at least count on the help of the local people. “Nobody refused us help. If we asked for information and they did not know the answer, they went out of their way and would call up their whole village just to be able to give us a hand. By our standards they are poor, but they always willingly shared what they had with us. I was really struck by the politeness and humanity that we encountered. They were also very curious about our bikes and in particular the trailers we were towing, not something they were used to seeing!”


The mountain ascents and arrival in China

Among the peaks to climb, perhaps the one Yanez most aspired to was the 7134 meter Peak Lenin in Kyrgyzstan. With great disappointment he had to give up just 300 metres from the summit. “A strong wind storm forced us to head back to the valley. I would like to have pressed on but at those altitudes you realize that sometimes there is nothing you can do against the forces of nature. The descent was perhaps the most critical moment in the entire trip. My feet were frozen, there was wind from all directions, and I was out of strength. It was the only moment I thought that perhaps I had pushed myself too far.”

“The greatest satisfaction when we arrived in China was the awareness that we had done it.” Unfortunately the strict laws of the Chinese government forced Yanez and Giacomo to turn back to the city of Osh in Kyrgyzstan without being able to reach their final objective, Xi’an. “Xinjiang, the region where we entered, is a militarized zone, with continuous check-points inside and outside the towns. This prevented us from covering the number of kilometres we had planned, and at the speed we were going we would only have reached out destination by the end of August! We had travelled our target 10,000 km, and we had reached China, so we decided to turn back. Tackling a journey like this one also requires the good sense of understanding when to stop.”

The return home

Plenty of people were happy that Yanez had returned home safe and sound. Fai della Paganella welcomed him back with a big party in the square and while he recounts his journey the children of the village approached shyly to greet him, followed by their grandmothers who were more confident in their expression of delight in seeing him back home in one piece, and demonstrating the great affection that the citizens of Fai have for him.

It is an affection that Yanez reciprocates. Snowboard instructor, mountain runner and guide, head of artificial snow production on the Paganella: his activities clearly combine his love for the place he was born and grew up with, a desire to help people arriving from outside to appreciate all its beauty.

“My conviction is that everyone deserves to enjoy the mountains. Many people need to be shown the way, even people who live here are often unaware of the beauty all around them.”

And he is already back to guiding people in the discovery of the Dolomiti Paganella, up until his next adventure. “My next journey? I do have some ideas for next year, but I don't want to say anything before the time.”

Relive the adventures of Yanez and Giacomo through their story at Orme – Il Festival dei Sentieri.

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