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Friday, 23 October 2015

Trip report for Ladakh Sky Trail GHT led by Almas Khan in August/ September 2015

Photo: start of trek at Lamayuru
Our Ladakh Sky Trail GHT group arrived to Leh on August 19th and on 21st drove to Lamayuru (3,500m) and 22nd they started the trek. This year we had eight people in the group and as usual we had an international mix with people coming from UK, Ireland, South Africa and Germany.

As explained in Trip Report for 2014 Ladakh Sky Trail GHT, Almas Khan created this unique itinerary from years of leading groups in Ladakh. This is his dream trek travelling through the best of the three areas of this region: Ladakh, Zanskar and Changthang/ Rupshu. For most of Ladakh Sky Trail GHT we follow rarely trekked trails and this is only possible due to the local knowledge of Almas and the local Ladakhi guide Tsering Samphel.

As for all or our treks in the Himalayas we received bespoke weather forecast from Michael Fagin at everestweather.com and as I was following these updates in London I was relieved to see the weather was settled and stable. Early in August there was heavy rain in Ladakh causing flash flooding that resulted in damage on trails and bridges on Markha Valley. See BBC article "British trekkers rescued amid flash flooding". This type of heavy precipitation is always a risk in Ladakh however this region is usually dry during the monsoon rains of July and August due to rain shadow effect of Himalayan peaks to the south. However every few years a strong pulse of monsoon pushes over these mountains causing heavy rain in Ladakh, as there is little vegetation to absorb the rainfall there is rapid flow of water off the mountains causing river levels to rise fast.

Fortunately the weather was good for our Ladakh Sky Trail GHT trek and I gather from Almas overall better than last year. There was a little light rain in the afternoon on the first three days then for the rest of the trek they had sunny days. As a result of clear skies at night the temperatures at night were a bit colder compared to last year with the minimum temperature experienced about -6 Celsius. There was more snow on the mountains above 5,800 meters but importantly for this trek the condition of the river crossings was good.

As mentioned in last year’s Trip Report we have carefully selected the time of year to run this trek, by starting in late August into September much of the snow in the mountains has already melted over the summer so river levels should be lower at this time of year.

There are three days of Ladakh Sky Trail where the group walked through deep gorges, this section of the trail involves many river crossings (around 120!). The feedback received from this group was that Teva sandals did not offer enough protection to their feet from rocks as most people were their sandals throughout the days for this section through the gorge. Therefore we have updated our kit list to include fully enclosed sandals to protect your feet rather than Teva type open sandals.

As the weather and conditions were favourable the group made good progress and followed the itinerary as planned. The whole group arrived to end of the trek at the stunningly beautiful Tsomoriri lake at 4,400m on September 11th and then on 12th drove back to Leh. As with all of TMC western led treks we track their progress while in the field through SPOT gps check ins, you can see the map of this trek on SPOT Adventure website

Photo: Tsomoriri lake at end of the trek!

I would like to thank Almas, Tsering Samphel and the hardworking Ladakhi team for doing a great job organising and leading another successful Ladakh Sky Trail GHT. Almas will be back in Ladakh again next summer leading our 2016 Ladakh Sky Trail and we have already requested for the same local Ladakhi crew to join our group. Please get in touch soon if you are interested in joining our Ladakh Sky Trail GHT or if you have any questions on this trek.

Roland Hunter

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