India (July-August 2016): Brandy Nala (Ladakh) to Kibber (Spiti)

Days 16 to 21: Kiangdam to Kibber

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Left: map of this section. Right: map of the entire trek. [Click here (kmz file) to see the itinerary in Google Earth.]

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Day 16:

 

On that day we followed a wide valley oriented north to south, between Kiangdam and a place named Nurbo Sumbo. ″Sumdo designates a place where two valleys merge into a third one. At Nurbo Sumbo, the valley that we had followed merges with the valley of Parang Chu, a river that has its source on the northern slope of Parang La and that we will follow during the following 3 days. At this junction Parang Chu‛s flowing direction bends from north-east to east into the ″new″ valley. A few kilometers further it enters Tibet. We set Camp C16 slightly beyond Nurbo Sumdo (in the direction of Parang La) after fording Parang Chu.

 

Leaving Tso Moriri.

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Left: View toward the south. Right: Looking back later toward the north.

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Fortunately, the landscape on the two sides of the valley eventually became more interesting. Here, we met a small group of kiangs.

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Colorful ridges on the western side of the valley.

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A different type of hill on the eastern side.

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View of Nurbo Sumbo. Parang Chu flows from right to left (east) at the foot of the dark mountain.

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An unusual wildflower meadow in this part of the world.

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At Nurbo Sumdo, looking east (toward Tibet)...

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...and right (toward Parang La).

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The left bank of Parang Chu (on the right of these two pictures) soon became too steep to hike. So, we soon had to ford the river. The river looks impressive, but in some places it branches out between small islands and it is rarely more than knee-deep.

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Fording Parang Chu.

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Another group of Ladakhi people fording the river with donkeys. The man with a green shirt carries a very young donkey (not strong enough to sustain the current) on his shoulders!

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View of the river from the right bank after fording. From there on until the final push toward Parang La, we stayed on this side of the river.

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We established Camp C16 on a small piece of grassland on the southern side of the Parang La valley. [There are several constraints to select camp locations. There must be acceptable water to cook and minimal risks due to flooding and rock-falling. With horses, as much as possible, grass must also be available.]

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Mountain pika near the camp.

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Day 17:

 

On that day we continued hiking up Parang Chu toward the south-west.

 

We enjoyed grandiose scenery throughout the day.

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We set again our camp (C17) on a small patch of grass near the river, below some pinnacles.

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Views from a plateau above our camp over the Parang Chu valley (toward the north-east)...

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...and over pinnacles in a side-valley perpendicular to Parang Chu.

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Day 18:

 

We continued hiking up the Parang Chu valley.

 

The views were perhaps a bit less spectacular than on the previous day, but still quite impressive.

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Tundup hiking on unstable terrain.

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Camp C18. It looks so small!

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View of a high peak south of Camp 18.

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Successive afternoon views of the Parang Chu valley toward the north-east from our camp.

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Day 19:

 

On that day we continued our walk along Parang Chu to reach our camp C19 just below the glacier of Parang La.

 

View toward the south-west as we left Camp C18.

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One of the many marmots along the way.

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Further up along the Parang Chu valley. We had to ford a couple of tributaries of Parang Chu.

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Parang La and its glacier.

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Here we crossed Parang Chu for the second time, but unlike on Day 16 it was now a small river.

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Climbing toward our camp in the afternoon. As the sun was hitting the glacier hard, Parang Chu was getting a bit bigger.

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Our camp C19 at 5040m. Parang La is hidden behind the moraine on the right of the picture. The camp was not especially high, but it felt much higher than any of our previous camp. It was the only camp during the entire trek where there was no grass for the horses.

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Evening view from my tent.

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Day 20:

 

On that day we crossed Parang La. We had bad weather during most of the day. Since the beginning of the trek we had been lucky, with rain falling mostly in the late afternoons. But on Day 20 heavy rain started falling before we reached our camp C20. This was the first and only time during the trek when we got really wet.

 

Some morning sunshine on the Parang La glacier seen from C19.

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Lower part of the glacier.

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Hiking up the glacier.

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As is often the case with gently sloped glaciers, the Parang La glacier is traversed by a number of deep rivers.

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Looking back at the glacier during the ascent. Our horses (circled in yellow) are visible in the second photo below.

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Only the upper section of the glacier was a bit steep. It was still easy for humans, but much less so for loaded horses.

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For that section the horses had to be unloaded and vigorously pulled up one by one to the pass. It took 2 hours to climb these last few meters!

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At Parang La (5580m).

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View toward the south from Parang La. The descent was free of ice and snow.

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During the descent. Here the horses were much faster than me and were further ahead.

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The gorge became increasingly deeper and narrower. Soon after the bridge visible in the left photo above, we left the gorge and climbed several hundred meters in elevation along a steep trail on the right side, to reach a plateau where we establish Camp 20. Heavy rain started falling at the beginning of the climb. It lasted until the next morning.

 

Day 21:

 

This was the last trekking day of the trip. We reached the village of Kibber in the Spiti valley, the end of the trek, early in the afternoon. The route that we had followed between Tso Moriri and Kibber used to be an active trading route between the Spiti valley, Tso Moriri, and Tibet. Nowadays it remains used mostly by trekkers.

 

View from C20 in the morning. The grassy terrain and the rocky one behind it are separated by the gorge that we had left on the previous afternoon.

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We descended from the plateau in misty weather. Bright green patches visible in some photos below are green-pea fields. The peas cultivated in this area are reputed in Manali for their large pods.

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Now Kibber is partially visible (white houses on the left of the photo), but the main part of the village in hidden behind a ridge.

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Kibber looks close in the previous photo, but it is located on the other side of the gorge that we had left on the previous day. So, we still had to descend again into the gorge and climb back on the other side. (An impressive suspension bridge was under construction across the gorge to connect Kibber and a smaller village. A tower of that bridge is visible in the photo on the left.)

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At Kibber village.

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Chorten at the limit of the village on the road to Kaza (the administrative center of the Spiti valley). We set our camp C21 near this chorten.

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Evening view over a hill above Kibber.

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On the next day we drove to Kaza. We visited the Kye, Dhankar, and Tabo monasteries. Then we drove to Manali. See here.

 

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