LADAKH TREKKING (inc STOK KANGRI)
Trekking from Choksi to Ganda La (inc Exodus Peak and Palam Peak)
Dates: 15 - 18 August 2013
Company: Myself, Francesco, Romilly, Eli, Paul, Sean, Richard, Chris, Vladimir and Goh
On 15th August, we left Leh to drive to the start of our trek. The start of our trek was along a dirt road a few kilometres from the confluence of the Indus and Zanskar rivers.
Confluence of Indus and Zanskar rivers:
TREK DAY ONE
The starting height of our trek was just below 3200m i.e. 300m lower than Leh. The first day’s trekking was far too easy; a walk of only 45 minutes duration with a height gain of only 50m.
Start of trek, alongside Zanskar River:
This short, easy walk took us to the small village of Choksi. Choksi is a self-sufficient village inhabited by one extended family who farm the small valley.
Looking towards Choksi:
Blue Globe Thistle:
During the short walk to Choksi we met a few of the mules that would be carrying the camping equipment and provisions throughout our trek.
The village of Choksi was quite nice with friendly inhabitants. In the village we saw our first “Jo”, a cross between a cow and a yak. We also saw a dog that looked like a Corgi!
At lunchtime we sat outside having a cup of black tea.
Lunch break at Choksi:
After lunch we undertook a two hour walk, ascending 300m up a gorge to a height of circa 3550m before returning to our camp at 3250m.
It is good practice to ascend high and sleep low to help with acclimatisation.
The weather during our first few days trekking was a bit pants. Ladakh is normally a mountain desert with little/no rain. We endured a fair bit of rain during the trek
. While the rain didn’t bother me that much, it was not ideal conditions for taking photographs.
The light was not good.
Inclement weather, looking back towards Zanskar River:
After descending 300m back to our first night’s camp at Choksi we had a good meal and then settled down for the night.
TREK DAY TWO
The next day we re-ascended the 300m reconnoitred the previous day before continuing on up the gorge.
As we progressed up the gorge, we spotted a Himalayan Red Fox.
Himalayan Red Fox:
We stopped for a short break after circa one hour of walking.
The rock colours are quite different from the rock back home. Much of the rock is metamorphic – slate and marble. The purple colour seen in many of the following photos is slate, the green colour is marble.
A wee break. Looking back towards Zanskar River:
As we continued to gain height, the ascent become more gradual as the gorge widened.
Ascent up through the wide gorge:
A jumble of rocks:
As we gained further height, we encountered more and more plants.
Ascent up through the valley:
Trekking with the mules following up behind:
The mules catch-up:
We eventually reached our second night’s camp at a height of 4300m having ascended 1050m from our first night’s camp. However, in order to further acclimatise we also ascended the rocky tor visible in the top right of the next photo before returning back to camp.
Approaching Camp #2:
Old Shepherd’s hut:
Looking back towards the gorge and valley just ascended:
Further acclimatisation, up the rock tor:
It was nice to ascend the rock tor (4520m) before returning to camp at 4300m. Despite ascending 1270m on day two I felt fairly good.
Looking back down to Camp #2 from the top of the rock tor:
Looking back to the rock tor just ascended:
TREK DAY THREE
Looking back towards the gorge:
I found day three of our trek particularly hard. From a starting height of 4300m, we set off to ascend Exodus Peak (5056m).
On day three, I started having intestinal issues which continued for a full week. I think it is inevitable to suffer with intestinal issues in India!
During the ascent towards Exodus Peak, we passed a cairn with the skulls of two Blue Sheep.
Ngima with the skull and horns of a Blue Sheep:
A Blue Sheep:
During the ascent we also saw our first sighting of a marmot.
I didn't realise that a Marmot is a type of squirrel!
Heading for Exodus Peak:
Between 4700m and 5000m, we encountered lots of nice wild flowers. There were geraniums, wild rhubarb, thistles and many more unrecognisable ones.
While it was nice to cross the 5000m barrier for the first time, I was definitely feeling the lack of oxygen.
Ascending Exodus Peak:
However, eight out of ten of our group made it to the summit of Exodus Peak. We were now higher than Mont Blanc
It was however disappointing that we were surrounded by cloud as Exodus Peak is supposed to be a great viewpoint in good weather.
Ngima, Paul, Eli and Romilly at the summit of Exodus Peak:
Group photo at the summit of Exodus Peak:
It was nice to look down on our third night’s camp during the descent of Exodus Peak. Our third night’s camp was at circa 4850m.
Heading back down from Exodus Peak towards Camp #3:
During the descent, we decided to scramble up the rocky tor on Exodus Peak. I was one of the first to scramble up and come back down in order to take some photos.
Ascending the rocky tor on Exodus Peak:
The rocky tor on Exodus Peak:
During the descent towards Camp #3, we passed a number of Jos.
Looking back towards Exodus Peak:
After returning to camp, the weather started to improve such that we caught the odd fleeting view across to the Zanskar range.
View from Camp #3 (zoom):
Looking back to Exodus Peak from Camp #3:
View from Camp #3:
TREK DAY FOUR
Our fourth day trekking was scheduled to be a “hard day” and it was. From our camp at 4850m, we set out to ascend Palam Peak (5380m).
Mules outside our mess tent:
I particularly liked looking back to the colours of Exodus Peak.
Looking back to Exodus Peak:
Nice colours of Exodus Peak:
We were now facing our fourth consecutive day of mixed/inclement weather. Hopefully things would improve for the latter part of our trek.
Heading towards Palam Peak:
A wild flower:
We made our way towards Kang La, the first pass of our trek. Kang La is at 5260m.
View from near Kang La:
Approaching Kang La:
Before reaching Kang La, we took a small detour to ascend Palam Peak (5380m).
Heading for the summit of Palam Peak:
Looking back from Palam Peak:
It felt great to reach the summit of a second 5000m peak. Again, eight of our group of ten made it to the summit.
Myself at the summit of Palam Peak:
Group photo at the summit of Palam Peak:
From the summit of Palam Peak, we made our way across to Kang La and then undertook a very long contour round into the next valley and then the next valley.
View from Kang La:
View from near Kang La:
From Kang La, we made our way round to Ganda La (4970m).
Traversing from Kang La round to Ganda La:
Traversing from Kang La round to Ganda La:
View from near Ganda La:
On reaching Ganda La, we started our descent towards Camp #4 at 4500m.
Ganda La looking towards Stok La in distance:
During the descent, we come across a number of marmots.