Trekking and Climbing in Ladakh’s Ruphsu Valley 2013– Part 3

Saturday, 2 November 2013 01:58 by ranjanbanerji

Continuing from Part 2

So a year has gone by and the trekking bug was still very much in me.  I still wanted to do a 6000m peak and I realized that I am in love with Ladakh.  So going back to the Ladakh region to trek and attempt a 6000m plus peak was not a surprise to me or anyone I knew.  After several emails and Skype conversations with Jamie McGuinness I decided to once again go with Project Himalaya.

The expedition this year was to climb the 6666m Lungser Kangri.  Given the fact that I failed climbing a much lower mountain last year, this appeared to be an ambitious goal.  But I really wanted to do this.  I did some research and learned that Lungser Kangri is a tough but non technical climb.  So I decided that this is something I need to train for.  Six odd months of going for bike rides, exercising, jogging etc. I was on my way to Delhi.

But not so fast.  A day before my flight I get an email from Air France notifying me that my flight is cancelled and that I have been re-booked for another flight but a day later.  This, in some ways, was a disaster.  I did not want to reach late because that would mean one day less at Leh.  A day less at Leh means one less day of acclimatization. So I called Air France/Delta and told them there was no way I could miss my flight and that they had to make some arrangement for me.  I was amazed as to how helpful the lady on the phone was.  After about an hour of looking at different flight options I was put on a delta flight to Detroit, then a Delta flight to Amsterdam, and then a KLM flight to Delhi.  Now my delay was only by a few hours and this was OK.  Thanks Air France/Delta/KLM.

So I get to Leh on time and I step out of the airport and once again notice that there is no one there to pick me up.  OK so this was it.  First a cancelled flight and now a repeat of last years no show.  I was carrying a brand new Canon 70-200mm L Series Lens for Jamie and I figured I should drop it before handing it over to him.  But wait!!!!!!!!!  He had not yet paid me for it.  Clearly not a brilliant idea on my part. These hour long thoughts of evil ideas and anger lasted about 2 minutes and just as I was about to take my own taxi to the hotel and start screaming and yelling at everyone, I saw a guy walking around with my name.  So perhaps I overreacted…… The ride to downtown Leh was uneventful but nostalgic.  Its not a scenic drive.  Perhaps the Leh government needs to work on that.  Leh is different from most parts of India in that its not over crowded and not filthy.  However as more tourists come, a downward spiral is inevitable.  They need to take preventive action now.  Wake up Leh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Wake up Ladakh!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We spent 2 days in Leh that were relatively laid back.  Unlike last year there were no trips to Khardungla and no crazy bike rides.  I must say I missed that.  We did go visiting a lot of monasteries.  So the acclimatization days were quite different from the previous year.  I am not sure which one is better but I definitely enjoyed the previous years experience in Leh a tad bit more.  A visit to the Shanti Stupa in Leh offered some good photo opportunities.  We did try a variety of restaurants.  The Penguin Garden Restaurant was our normal breakfast joint.  Chopsticks Noodle Bar and Bon Appetite are good too.  But don’t follow popular ratings.  Find the little dives and try them out for yourself.  If you are too European or too American (as in you can’t eat anything but boiled potatoes) and you are desperately seeking a McDonalds, well you are in the wrong part of the world.  Stay home and and eat your local crap. :-).  I am sorry but I am sick and tired of people (doesn't matter where they come from) who travel 5000 miles and then look for food form their home country.  Really????  WTF are you travelling for then?  Stay, home, sit on the sofa, and watch TV :-)

Leh from Shanti Stupa

View of Leh from the Shanti Stupa (HDR)

Shanti Stupa, Leh

Shanti Stupa (HDR)

Day 1

After 2 days of acclimatization and monastery viewing we finally set of for our trek.  This was a relatively short drive that was made longer by visits to more palaces and monasteries.  Now don't get me wrong.  Visiting the monasteries is a great experience.  I have travelled the world and visited various places of worship.  I think that from an architecture point of view some of the cathedrals in Europe are amazing.  Notre Dame is one of my favorite places to visit.  But from a point of view of calm, peace, and spirituality (all this coming from an atheist) I find the monasteries in Ladakh to be the perfect place.  Finally after visits to several touristy spots we headed to the village of Tirido which required driving along the Indus river and eventually crossing it on a scary bridge to enter the village.  now there is something to be said about Ladakhi villages.  You see, Ladakh for the most part is this massive high altitude desert.  There are mountains and valleys and its all dust.  But then every now and then you find a human settlement.  That is where you will find everything to be green.  The sudden appearance of green is a gift to the eyes.  But often you find these green patches in odd and remote places.  I mean you will find the massive plains along the Indus to be dry and then a narrow gorge which will have a small village across from the river in what appears to be an inaccessible spot and it will will be lush green.  Tirido is one of those villages.

Tirido Tirido.  The green is farm land.  Its literally just one or two fields wide.

We got to Tirido to find our camp completely setup.  I met Lob Sang, the local guide for the first time and he is also the crew chief.  Phun Sok the chef from my previous trip was there and so was Ram Lal and his crew who owned the horses that would carry our gear for the next 20 odd days.  The setup included a mess tent and a table that was setup outdoors with chairs.  Now you may laugh but chairs can be quite a luxury.  Its not uncommon to find most dining arrangements that require you to sit on the ground or on a rug.  So a table with chairs was a welcome surprise.  And to top it all off there was hot tea and pakodas, a treat that only I enjoyed. The highlight of the evening was seeing a shooting star that was incredibly bright and close by.  I have never seen such a thick trail from a shooting star.  And the streak across the sky was long.  Not that quick thin line for a fraction of a second.  This was like a spacecraft crashing into Earth, very sci-fi’ish.  No, it was not a UFO.   LOL.

Day 2

This was our first hiking day.  I used a Garmin Foretrex 401 as my GPS tracking device.  Its small and can be worn as on your wrist and configured to record track points by time or distance travelled.  But it has a limited capacity so I had to be careful as to how much data I can record.  It also has a barometric altimeter.  Honestly I hate it.  It measures altitude  based on atmospheric pressure and it appears that in the Himalayas the pressure changes quite a bit.  So each day you get a different read on altitude and you need to calibrate the device using the known altitude.  Hmmmm! How do I know the altitude if the device that I am carrying to tell me the altitude is giving me an inaccurate read.  For example by hovering over Tirido on Google Earth I get an altitude of about 3720m, the Garmin Foretrex puts it 3628m.  Jamie had a GPS based altimeter and so I would try and calibrate based on the altitude shown there.  I am not sure how accurate the GPS based altimeters are either.

The day started with a minor stream crossing.  But there was one slight problem.  This year there was more rain than normal.  The stream had not turned into a raging river but was not trivial to cross either.  The crossing required some delicate stepping on wet slippery rocks and some leaping from rock to rock.  I made it across without getting wet but the final leap to the shore was a hard one and I felt a pang of pain shoot up my back.  I could not believe this was happening to me.  This was day one of actual trekking and I hurt my back about 20m from our camp site.  I should have taken off my backpack and camera and passed it on to someone else and used my trekking poles to cross the stream instead of just hopping across.  When you know you have a bad back, preserving it is extremely important.  For the rest of the trip I had to do morning and evening back and core exercises to contain the pain from this initial injury.  Really not a smart move on my part to jump without thinking.

This was an interesting day.  We trekked past the beautiful village of Tiri where we saw a lady weaving some form of a garment.  Tiri is out there in the middle of nowhere.  Things are not like how most westerners or even most Indians would expect a village to function.  But then its not all that primitive either.  As you walk you see electric cables pass by.  They stopped at Tiri.  Soon they will goo deeper into the mountains.  Just past Tiri we stopped at a monastery that we were told is quite old (no dates were available).  Now most monasteries in Ladakh are located in areas that are reasonably accessible.  This one was not up a high mountain or any such place but it was definitely out there in the middle of nowhere.  The lady in charge of the keys etc wore large ivory bracelets which Jamie said might imply that she was some kind of local royalty.  The picture below is from Jamie’s flickr account as I never took one of her.

royalty perhaps? Village or Tiri

Village of Tiri

Monastery at Tiri

Monastery at Tiri

We also stopped at the monastery grounds for lunch where we made friends with three dogs that ended up following us for the next two days.  One of them was quite the ferocious looking character.

Ladakh_2013_Day_01

Day 2 Track Points

Day 2 stats:

Distance Travelled 12.3km
Moving Time 3:35
Stopped Time 2:52
Min Altitude 3629m
Max Altitude 4496m
Grade 7%

 

Day 3

This was a rest day.  Apparently we gained a lot of altitude and Jamie wanted to make sure that we were all well acclimatized.  No one complained about the extra day of rest.  Some of the people to the trip built a little pool in the stream by damming it.  I decided to let some of that freezing cold water run onto my back.  This did wonders to reduce the pain.  Too bad I have no pictures of the engineering marvel created by these guys.  Also did laundry, i.e., rinsed clothes in the stream.  No soap etc.

In the afternoon while the whole camp was resting and asleep I climbed up a small hill, found a huge rock and lay down on it and listened to Led Zeppelin.  What can I say…..  This was heaven.  I did have a slight headache due to altitude but who cared.  This was just way too good.  But soon it started raining, which turned into hail, and there was lightning and of course thunder.  Who said it never rains in Ladakh?

Camp Days 2 and 3

Camp – Days 2 and 3

Day 4

This was a short day but a challenging one.  Not very strenuous but a minor “kick butt” day.  We went over a pass at about 4800m.  Technically speaking it was not a tough day, but one of the guys on the expedition and I were way ahead of rest of the team and contrary to common belief that was not an advantage.  What is also interesting when in these regions is reality vs. looking at maps. The path we took can be seen in the picture below.  We were walking from the far side down to the bottom of the picture and you can see how we went around one small mountain up a pass at 4800m.  It looks like if we went the other way we would not have to deal with the pass.  On closer inspection the other route is how the river flows and it gets pretty narrow.  So going up the pass is indeed the better way to go. At the end we camped at the mouth of a narrow valley/gorge.  I went for a short walk up the main valley but soon the rain and hail started.  So quite a bit of time was spent under cover in my tent.

2013_Day_04

Day 4 stats:

Distance Travelled 3.3km
Moving Time 1:17
Stopped Time 0:36
Min Altitude 4285m
Max Altitude 4791m
Grade 14.1%

 

Day 5

This was a great day.  We started out soon after breakfast which was always well made.  Most days we had eggs and bread and on some days we had parathas and eggs.  The food during the expedition was amazing.  Mostly vegetarian but a good variety of stuff including pasta and pizza.  But majority of the food was Indian and I was not complaining :-).  How they manage to carry so much fresh produce is quite amazing.  Anyway, back to the day.  We started off heading into the narrow valley at the mouth of which we were camping.  It was a gradual climb but we kept going higher and higher.  The valley soon opened up to this massive plain that was gradually rising.  A very unusual sight, we kept walking higher and higher till we reached the top of the pass at about 5145m.  The view in front of us was stunning.  Far away we could see Tso Kar which is was our destination for the day.  We had a long way to go.

5170mPass-1 View from the pass looking down at Tso Kar far away just before the peaks in the horizon.

The good part was that from this point on the walk was either downhill or flat.  The bad part was it was beginning to get hot.  As you can see there are no trees to offer shade.  Once the sun is out its hot and you burn fast due to the thin air.  On the way down we saw huge herds of Kiang.  I was not carrying my 300mm lens on this trip so I have no wildlife pictures.  On previous trips I have seen kiangs in small numbers like 2 maybe 3 or 4.  Here we saw herds with 20 odd or more animals.  On one occasion I saw a massive (30 odd maybe?) herd running and kicking up a massive cloud of dust.  It was quite a sight.  We did keep getting some relief from the sun as clouds kept moving in and out.  Some of them were quite amazing.

Wild Clouds Cool Clouds

Wild Clouds Clouds

In the pictures above you can see the cool looking clouds but you can also tell that the terrain is dry and with the sun out the 4500m altitude did not matter.  It was hot and dusty.  As I started to approach Tso Kar I could observe eth change in the terrain.  Tso Kar is a salt water lake, i.e., water drains into it, not out of it.  It is also a lake that has been getting smaller over time.  The high water marks are visible and show how high the water used to be once upon a time.  For almost 5 kilometers or more you enter a zone of salt flats and salt mounds.  I was told that once upon a time local nomads and tribes fought wars for control of this region as salt was a valuable commodity.

Tso KarKiang and Tso Kar way behind

As we approached our destination, which was the village of Thugje we saw a wolf/leopard trap.  A circular brick wall into which a live bait is put.  Usually a lamb or goat (though I saw what looked like a dead horse).  Then the locals wait till a wolf or leopard leaps in, they can rarely leap out.  Then they stone the predator to death.  Considering that snow leopards and wolves in this region are facing extinction, seeing such a trap was quite a shock.  What was even more shocking is that the village of Thugje is about 500m from this trap and the most distinct building in Thugje (the only one with a sign on it) is that of the World Wildlife Fund.  I was told the trap was no longer in use.  But I saw dead animals in it including what looked like a dead dog or small wolf.  They were partly decomposed so clearly not some 10 year old remains.  They should simply destroy the trap.

Wolf Leopard Trap Wolf/Leopard Trap

Eventually we got to Thugje.  Tso Kar is actually a few kilometers away.  So camping at Thugje doesn’t really give eth feel of camping by the lake.  You can’t camp by the lake on this side because there is no fresh water, hence you are forced to camp at Thugje.  We were too tired to walk another 5 to 8km for a better camp.  Thugje was nice but dirty.  One could find plastic bottles and other trash all over.  Since this site was by a motorable road it was not ideal.  There was one other group camping and they were right next to us.  They had come in a couple of SUVs and trucks and appeared to be well equipped with high end trekking gear (well clothing).  We assumed this was probably the trail head for them.  But then at about 8pm just as we were retiring to sleep we heard loud, I mean really loud disco Nepalese music followed by gangnum style.  I think it went on till about 10pm.  What I never get is city folks who go to the wilderness and bring the city with them.  when I lived in Southern California I would often go to Sequoia National Park.  The number of car campers who would bring TVs, Stereos etc was incredible.  You have to pause and think, really?  Couldn't you just stay home and watch TV?  LOL.  Anyway, I was way too tired and soon I was asleep.  When we woke up in the morning all the trucks were gone.  Our disco loving tourists with fancy trekking attire did nothing but listen to disco music and drink a lot of alcohol (they left the bottles on the camp ground).

2013_Day_05 Tso Kar is at around 4580m.  The day started out at around 4520m.  So even though we crossed a pass at 5145 we ended up descending to the same level as we started out at.

Day 5 stats:

Distance Travelled 19.3km
Moving Time 5:07
Stopped Time 1:52
Min Altitude 4522m
Max Altitude 5145m
Grade 0.3%

 Day 6

This was a tough day.  Not because of the terrain or weather but due to some miss-communication.  We were told that we would have a really short day and that all we were doing was trekking to the other side of Tso Kar and camping there by some fresh water.  The walk was relatively boring.  very flat and through some really muddy patches.  This was a receded salt water lake bed that we were walking on.  With all the rain this region had been receiving there some pretty bad muddy patches.  The good news was that we spotted a few rare black necked cranes.  The bad news was that I was not carrying my good 300mm lens, so once again I lost a once in a lifetime opportunity to photograph these beauties. 

We finally stopped at what looked like a watchtower and had lunch.  Our horses had passed by us and were supposed to make camp not too far from where we stopped.  I was carrying just one bottle of water in anticipation of this really short day.  Suddenly we noticed that the horses were not stopping to make camp.  In fact the crew and horses were ascending this pass.  They were too far to hear any hails from us.  So now we had to quickly pack up and follow them.  I was the first one up that pass at 4950m and I could see no sign of the horses.  I was hoping the camp was just beyond the pass but that was not the case.  Beyond the pass was yet another huge wide valley with three possible exists.  Lob Sang was right behind me and he then went looking to see.  Then Jamie went looking.  After while it became apparent that the horses exited from the far side of the valley.  This was quite a walk considering I had no water left with me.  But it was mostly downhill with a few uphill sections.  So we marched on.

About halfway down the valley we were given an amazing treat.  I saw what looked like two huge sheep.  Way bigger than big horn sheep running down the mountains into the valley, crossing right in front of us and ascending the mountains on the other side.  Argh!!!!!!!!!!!!!   Why didn't I bring my 300mm.  Turns out they were argali Sheep.  Extremely rare in these parts.  Lob Sang who grew up in these remote areas said he had never seen these animals before in his life.  He had only heard if them.  So the sighting was amazing.

Argali SheepArgali Sheep

After a long walk to the far side of the valley and yet another gentle ascent that did not feel gentle because of the heat and lack of water.  But once we reached the top it was a rapid descent to the camp.

2013_Day_06

Day 6 stats:

Distance Travelled 22.2km
Moving Time 5:50
Stopped Time 2:45
Min Altitude 4357m
Max Altitude 4962m
Grade 2.4%

 

 Day 7

A reasonably short walk to the next camp.  The highlight of the days trek was stopping at a Chongpa camp.  At the camp we bought a sheep that was then butchered right in front of us.  The process was quite different from how I have seen it done before.  The main difference being that the guy doing the work was reciting a prayer.  I asked what was it about and I was told its a combination of thanking the animal and of course seeking forgiveness for taking a life.  Not a single part of the animal is wasted.  It was a delight to see little children running around and playing in the camp.  The women were all working, most of the men were out with their herd of goats.  The children were absolutely fascinated with looking at their own pictures.  Got to love the digital age.

 Tsering
Tsering (courtesy
Jamie McGuinness)

At the same camp/village I met Tsering.  An old man who told me how he fought for the Bangladesh liberation war in 1971.  How he was under the leadership of General Sujan Singh Uban and how the secret Tibetan regiment went into war.  What was interesting about his story was not how they won.  He said they went right in and took over city after city.  No battle was too significant.  The Pakistanis surrendered  and soon the war was over.  It was the retreat back to India that was a problem.  He said they had no ammunition and food left.  Lack of food was not a problem.  There were many Bangladeshi villagers who were happy to feed the liberators.  The problem was hidden pockets of Pakistani soldiers who had not yet surrendered.  Since the Tibetan regiment (per Tsering) was retreating to India without any ammunition this exposed them to a lot of danger.  He said they took heavy casualties on the way back.  They had to resort to attacking the enemy with knives and taking their weapons and whatever little ammunition the enemy soldiers had left with them.  Here are links to some more articles on the subject.: "The Phantoms of Chittagong" and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_Frontier_Force

Once we passed the village we had a gentle but steady climb up a valley.  I called this the 6000m alley.  Both sides of the valley had mountains that were just below or above 6000m.  One could spend a week here and climb 4, 5, maybe 6 of them.  The valley itself was quite beautiful.  Because of the daily rain we were getting this year the mountains would have a nice dusting of snow each night and the stream would almost turn into a river.  So crossings were not that easy.  Specially if you had a camera that you wanted to protect.

The really good news was that we were going to stay at this camp for 3 nights.  The camp was at  was high and great for acclimatizing for higher climbs.

2013_Day_07

Day 7 stats:

Distance Travelled 8.54km
Moving Time 2:31
Stopped Time 1:28
Min Altitude 4643m
Max Altitude 5245m
Grade 7.1%

Day 8

A much needed rest day.  I spent part of the day washing (rinsing) clothes, part of it reading.  Then decided to go for a short walk, well actually the goal was slightly ambitious as I wanted to go up this 5700 – 5800m mountain behind our camp.  I headed out alone but as I was getting higher there were clouds, lightning and thunder.  I was alone and as the wind gusts picked up I decided this was kind of scary so I made a rapid descent towards camp and into the valley.  I guess I need to work on that solo adventurist courage  LOL.  Other than my mini adventure the day was quite uneventful.

2013_Day_08

Day 8 stats:

Distance Travelled 1.9km
Moving Time 0:54
Stopped Time 0:28
Min Altitude 5021m
Max Altitude 5414m
Grade 12.6%

Day 9

This was the day we went to climb our first 6000m peak of the rip.  Jamie had made a reconnaissance trip the day before and had determined which one to climb.  As I had mentioned earlier this valley has a lot of 6000m mountains around it.  See picture below.

6KAlleyhttp://www.ranjanbanerji.com/ndi/blog_rupshu/6KAlley.jpg

The day started with a hearty breakfast and then we headed out for the climb.  The mountain was at the end of the valley so it was a long way to get to the base.  Our camp was at 5200m and we went up the valley and up a pass which took us to about 5600m.  One thing you always notice in Ladakh is that passes have a chortum and prayer flags on top of them.  The local nomads and now even tourists seem to contribute to building these.  On this pass we saw none.  Which was really odd.  In the previous days I saw nomads herding their goats in the valley.  Why don’t they come up this pass?  Jamie and Lob Sang mentioned that there were stories of really large horned Yak in this area and that some skulls can be found beyond this pass.  They both went looking for the horns before we started our ascent.

JMCG0335[1] Jamie found his prize

After a rather long rest break on top of the pass we started walking up the mountain.  Our estimate was that this mountain was at 6100m.  So we had about 500m to climb.  It looked a lot less.  It looked like the summit was just right there, right above us.  An easy walk.  Based on my experience from the previous year I knew that what looked simple could easily turn out to be really tough.  We headed up and I was decided to keep a steady pace with just one mantra in my mind “failure is not an option”.  Lob Sang was with us all the time.  It was amazing how he could be with all of us at the same time while we were not all together.  Clearly we moved slow and he was moving really fast.  Jamie was all the way behind making sure everyone was taken care of.

Now I recall climbing Kilimanjaro with immense clarity, and I recall my not so successful attempt at a 6000m peak in 2012.  As for this peak, I simply recall climbing.  There were no emotions, no special events.  I do remember watching Lob Sang set up cairns every 50m or so.  I remember being so out of breath and wondering where did he get the energy to do this.  I remember seeing Jamie way below coming up from the other side of the pass after finding the giant Yak horns.  He was a small dot that was growing bigger by the second.  Man! can he move fast.  I also remember noticing that outside of the cairns that Lob Sang was building there were none to be seen.  Had anyone been here before?  Apparently not. But most of all I remember telling myself that failure was not an option.  I paused as I did last year at 5895m (Kilimanjaro), smiled and started my slow but steady pace upwards.  I stopped again at 6020m (approximately where I was totally winded last year), grinned as I was tired but I knew I could go higher.  Way higher.  I kept walking up.  Gary and Olivier (two of the team members) were with me on the lead and Lob Sang was as usual hovering somewhere around.  The views from this altitude were absolutely stunning. 

Peak 6226m

Peak 6226m

Did not Look so High from the pass

Peak 6226m Not all rainbows come to Earth.  Try finding a pot of gold under this one.  I did.  Its called the Himalayas.

Peak 6226m Hidden lakes only visible once you get to about 5800m

Peak 6226m

Getting Higher

So as I mentioned earlier we thought that this peak was at 6100m.  My altimeter was showing 6100m and we were not at the summit.  Not even close.  This was not fair.  Not fair at all.  I was tired, breathless, and now frustrated.  The damn peak kept moving higher and higher, away from us.  Was there no end to this?  We kept climbing with Lob Sang constantly telling us the summit is near.  Finally Gary, Olivier and I reach what was a steep snow slope, barely 10, maybe 20m high.  We just sat on the rocks below.  Refusing to go any higher.  I got up and tried to climb the steep snow bank and slipped.  Then Olivier tried with not much success.  Then out of the blue Lob Sang shows up and goes up, then comes down and helps the three of us to make that final 20m ascent.  Yea!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We made it to the summit.  This was incredible.  I was not tired anymore.  This was way more exciting than Kilimanjaro.  I am not sure I have the words to describe how good this felt.  Going over 6000m was a dream for me.  It has now come true.  But with a negative consequence.  I will talk more about that later.  So remember how I said the mountain was supposed to be at 6100m and how I reached 6100m and still had a way to go?  So we check our altimeters and mine was showing about 6250m but most others were showing 6226m.  So we settled on 6226m as the altitude for this mountain.  Also noticed that there were no prayer flags, no cairns (Lob Sang built one) on the summit.  Looks like no one had been here.  Could we have been the first?  Perhaps :-)

Peak 6226m Gary, Me, and Olivier at 6226m

After a while of waiting at the summit Jamie and the remaining two climbers made it to the top.  We decided to call the mountain Lob Sang Kangri after our local Tibetan/Ladakhi guide.  Now I don't know the rules about naming peaks.  But we decided that since this mountain like most mountains in the Himalayas are un-named we will call it Lob Sang Kangri.

JMCG0368[1] The Entire Group at the Summit at 6226m (Except Jamie, he was behind the camera)

Soon we observed 3 different thunderclouds approaching us from three different directions.  Quite incredible to watch but also quite dangerous.  On top of the mountain the highest conductors of electricity was us.  So a thundercloud with lightning approaching us was not ideal.  Soon it started to snow and we started our descent. Luckily no lightning.  The clouds looked scary but were well behaved.  The way down was long and tiring.  In the excitement of the climb none of us had a huge lunch.  While on the pass before the final summit assault we had a snack.  I guess we should have stopped and had another on the way down.  Lob Sang kept suggesting it but I think we all wanted to head back to camp. 

As we were descending I realized I lost my hat.  Not sure how but it was no longer on my head.  Lob Sang said he would go look for it.  I kept telling him not to.  I had no idea where I lost it and it was a big mountain.  But he wouldn’t listen.  He was gone looking for my hat.  He did find it and managed to catch up with me about an hour or so later.  Can’t ask for a better guide but really, he didn’t have to go looking for a hat.

2013_Day_09

This was a good day.  But as you can see from the stats below, this was a long day with a lot of distance covered.

Day 9 stats:

Distance Travelled 14.6km
Moving Time 5:42
Stopped Time 4:57
Min Altitude 5021m
Max Altitude 6226m
Grade 1.5%

 

Day 10

”No rest for the wicked” is how Jamie classified this day.  We hit the trail after a hearty breakfast, did I mention that food on these expeditions is just amazing?  Maybe its the daily torture you have to endure when trekking and climbing that anything offered is good.  But no, I do believe that given the conditions the food is amazing.  Phunsok, Lob Sang, and crew take a lot of effort to prepare good (mostly vegetarian) meals.

So I digressed.  The day started with an immediate ascent up a 5600m pass.  I thought this would be tough because of the climb the previous day but it was really not that bad a trek.  Once we reached the top we got a view of a spectacular valley in front of us.  Gary and I stopped and sat there and were later joined by Jamie.  Just sitting there and watching this valley was worth the entire trip.  I imagined everything from Dinosaurs walking down in the valley to large armies charging at each other (yeah I know violent thoughts are bad, but the site was perfect  LOL).

Pass 5600m Pass 5600m My pictures were a tad bit too dark

BigValley-1

Fisheye Lens View thanks to Jamie.  Me on the left and Gary on the right

After the scenic break and then a lunch break we walked for a while into and down the valley till we got to our camp.

2013_Day_10

Day 10 stats:

Distance Travelled 12.2km
Moving Time 3:49
Stopped Time 2:06
Min Altitude 4994m
Max Altitude 5623m
Grade 1.2%

I am beginning to think that the grade provided by Garmin is quite useless.  Perhaps its better to determine the steepest grade for any 1km stretch instead of looking at the entire day’s travel.

Day 11

A relatively boring day.  A long trek to a camp just north of Tso Moriri.  I was tired.  Despite the daily back exercises my back was now starting to hurt more.  And for some reason I was beginning to feel very tired.  Throughout this trip I have felt quite energetic.  But now I felt really tired.  I was not enjoying the long walk to the next camp.  Maybe I was getting sick?  I don't know.  As we were approaching camp we merged with a road and I ended up hitching a ride to our camp.  Why was I so tired?

2013_Day_11

Day 11 stats:

Distance Travelled 14.6km
Moving Time 3:36
Stopped Time 2:05
Min Altitude 4609m
Max Altitude 5163m

 

Day 12

Another tiring and boring day.  I was having a huge problem keeping myself motivated.  The trek took us along Tso Moriri.  Last year I had walked almost the entire length of the lake on its western side.  This year was a short walk on its eastern side.  Not as beautiful.  We got to camp and I was exhausted.  My back hurt and even a short walk from my tent to the mess tent was making me breathless.  The next day we were supposed to start the journey up Lungser Kangri.  This is what I came here for.  Now I felt there was no way I could do this.  I had a long talk with Jamie.  I was exhausted, my back hurt and I just did not feel up to doing Lungser Kangri.  I told him that the next day I would return to Leh.  Jamie was not happy.  He took this as a failure on his part.  It was not.  I cannot explain what happened but I just could not find any strength in me.  Maybe it was psychological, maybe my back pain was getting worse by the day, maybe I was missing my little kids.  I do not know.  Its tough to explain.  All I know is I wanted out.

This is not the end of the story.  I wanted to go over 6000m and I failed once and this year I did it.  Thank you Jamie.  This year I wanted Lungser Kangri and I didn’t try it for reasons unknown.  But then there is 2014.  Yes I will will try it again.

2013_Day_12 So close and yet so far – Lungser Kangri

Day 12 stats:

Distance Travelled 10.4km
Moving Time 2:49
Stopped Time 1:53
Min Altitude 4353m
Max Altitude 4749m

 

Day 13, 14, 15

The next day I left for Leh.  It was a long drive and the same drive as last years.  I wish I had more time to do this drive.  Perhaps one year I will take a jeep by myself.  Stop at different places, do some photography, meet people etc.  But when with others the objective is often “get me to the city”.  The next two days in Leh were relaxing.  What really got me was the fact that now I was full of energy.  Really?  I almost wanted to run back towards Korzok and start climbing Lungser Kangri.  Well that was not about to happen.  Maybe I was just tired.

So I spent two days shopping, walking, observing tourists, and relaxing in Leh.  When you don’t have much to do you can do a lot of people watching.  What follows is a bunch of pictures with captions that should be self explanatory.

Leh-1 Seriously?  Bling Bling? In Leh?  LOL  I never saw this store open.  As you can see their shutter was down.

Leh-2 Mosque, Monastery, Buddhist Prayer Flags, Several Sikh Gurdwaras.  Leh is an amazing place of peace and tolerance.

Leh-3Leh-4 One huge problem in Ladakh is plastic.  No matter how far you go or how high you go you will find find plastic bags and bottles.  It fucking ugly.  So all of you tourists, bikers, hikers, trekker, climbers, etc, stop buying and using plastic in this region.  When in Leh, just get your water bottle refilled at Dzomsa.  Oh! They have the best Leh Berry and Apricot juice.  So say no to plastic.

Leh-5 In the US Fresh vegetables straight from local growers means premium prices.  Here it means bargain deals and amazing quality.

Leh-6 Apricots.  They grow everywhere.  Fresh and ripened on the tree.  Trust me when I say most Americans have no clue what that even means.  Don’t believe me?  Premium quality plums in the US are as crunchy as apples but with no juice.  Anyone who has had real plums knows what I am talking about.

Leh-7

Side Streets of Leh

Leh-8 Want to buy Pashmina products?  Don't go to the big stores on the main streets.  Look for the side streets parallel to the main street.  I got some great bargains at this store and the owner was friendly and helpful.

Leh

Side streets of Leh

This is one long post.  So I am going to stop here.  I may write another blog post on the same subject if I feel there is more to be said   LOL.

Happy trekking and climbing.  Stop sitting on your sofa watching TV and start going out and doing something.  :-)

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January 19. 2014 02:06

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