India (July-August 2018):

Across Kang La (5450m) and Umasi La (5300m) - From Lahaul to Zanskar to Paddar

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The main purpose of this trip was to do a two-leg trek across two major passes of the mountain range of southern Zanskar in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir. The first leg crosses Kang La (5450m) from Lahaul to Zanskar and the second leg crosses Umasi La (5300m) from Zanskar to Paddar (see maps below). More precisely the first leg starts at the tiny village of Khanjar (elevation: 3850m) in the valley of the Miyar Nala (river) in Lahaul, which is part of the district of Lahaul-Spiti in the state of Himachal Pradesh, and ends about 3km south of the Barden gompa, southeast of Padum, on the road along the Tsarap river in Zanskar. The second leg starts at the Zongkhul gompa (elevation: 3700m), northwest of Padum, in the valley of the Malung Togpo (river), and ends near the town of Gulabgarh in the Paddar region of the Kishtwar district of the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Each leg requires hiking long distances on glaciers before and after the passes. The first leg is approximately 75km-long with 32km on glaciers. The second leg is 70km-long with 13km on glaciers. Each leg took 7 days of hiking at a relatively leisurely pace. Both legs provide extraordinary views over high peaks and glaciers.

 

Overall, I first flew to Leh in Ladakh (in Jammu & Kashmir) and spent two nights in Leh (elevation: 3500m). Then I went by car to Khanjar with a night-over in Keylong (elevation: 3080m) along the way. I spent two nights (camp) in Khanjar to acclimatize more before trekking. Between the two legs of the trek, I spent a couple of days around Padum (an area that I had briefly visited in 2013), visiting three gompas (Karsha, Sani, and Zongkhul). At the end of the second leg, I went by car from Gulabgarh to Jammu, the capital of the state of Jammu & Kashmir. I then flew back to Delhi. I concluded the trip by spending three days in Jaipur and Pushkar (in the state of Rajasthan, south of Delhi) and in Delhi, before returning home.

 

Support team:

During the two legs of the trek I was supported by a team of six Zanskaris, all from villages located near Padum, led by Tundup Chospel, the same guide as during my trek of 2016. This was one of the very best support teams I ever had on a mountaineering trek, in terms of spirit, experience, and strength. It had been selected by Sonam Dawa, the owner and manager of Adventure Travel Mark, who also arranged the logistics for the entire trip (including transportation and hotel reservations). Sonam Dawa had also organized the logistics of my trek of 2016.

 

The support team consisted of (from left to right): Laskhap, Rinchen, Angchuk, Falkays, Tundup, and Stenzing. Falkays (63) and Angchuk (59) were the oldest members (but still younger than me!). They were as strong (or even stronger) as any of the other four, with more experience and wisdom. Just spending time with this group was a significant part of the joy of the trek.

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Location maps:

- Northwest India.

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- Trek area, with the approximate itinerary of the trek shown in blue dotted lines and the road trips in black dotted lines.

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GPS waypoints:

Click here (kmz file) and open the downloaded file in Google Earth to access the GPS waypoints (numbered 1 to 49 for the first leg and 50 to 78 for the second leg) that I recorded during the trek: red pins for starts, orange for finishes, green for camps, brown for passes, and yellow for other waypoints. As my GPS ran out of battery between waypoints 60 and 62, there are no intermediate (yellow) waypoints between them, except waypoint 61 (Umasi La) that I placed manually based on Google Earth views. Most of the trek is covered by the excellent Ladakh & Zanskar South and Center 150K maps published by Editions Olizane (Geneva, Switzerland).

 

Waypoints other than the yellow ones shown in Google Earth views. [The thin red line in the view on the left separates the states of Jammu & Kashmir on the north and Himachal Pradesh on the south.]

 

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Crossing of Kang La.

Crossing Umasi La.

 

Gear:

 

We carried a rope, one ice axe, two harnesses, and two pairs of crampons during the two legs of the trek. We did not use the crampons and the harnesses at all. We used the ice axe only to poke suspicious snow cover for hidden crevasses and to cut steps at the very beginning of the icy descent from Umasi La. We used the rope on a short steep rock section during the descent from Umasi La (below the glacier). Although we could probably have done the entire trek without any of these gear items, I still think it was a good idea to have them with us.

 

Photos:

Click on the links below to see pictures of the various sections of the trip.

 

 

 

 

Across Kang La (1/3)

 

Across Kang La (2/3)

Across Kang La (3/3)

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Monasteries and cheese making around Padum

 

 

 

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Across Umasi La (1/3)

 

Across Umasi La (2/3)

Across Umasi La (3/3)

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Jaipur and Pushkar

 

Delhi

 

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