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Friday, 20 September 2019

Trip Report for Ladakh Sky Trail GHT led by Almas Khan in August/ September 2019

Photo: group trekking in the new gorge
In August/ September 2019 we operated our sixth Ladakh Sky Trail GHT in northern India. Almas Khan is the leader and organiser for this trek and this year we had an international mix of trekkers coming from Australia and UK.

As mentioned in previous trip reports our Ladakh Sky Trail GHT is a unique itinerary designed by Almas and travels 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 our local Ladakhi guides. If you like to really get off the beaten track and explore a very remote region of the Himalaya away from other trekking groups then this would be a great trek for you to consider.

Photo: Snigge pass from Nirak
Our Ladakh Sky Trail GHT group arrived to Leh on August 13th and after three nights for acclimatisation in Leh they drove on August 16th to Lamayuru (3,500m) and August 17th they started the trek.

The trek went well and they kept on schedule following the itinerary up until Zangla on August 24th. However from here Almas had to change the itinerary as the river levels were too high in the gorge going via Zangla Sumdo - Chubchak - Tsharlow - Kumara Sumdo. A high volume of water in narrow gorges makes the conditions unsafe and also as the snow was still melting their was a strong possibility of rock fall.

Photo: Snigge pass from Nirak
The reason for higher river levels than usual is that last winter Ladakh had heavy snowfalls and an extended winter. Spring with warmer temperatures did not take place until the first week of July. As a result the snow melted late and there was a lot more water in the rivers compared to previous years. The conditions of more regularly trekked trails was very good but the less used trails like on sections of Ladakh Sky Trail GHT were not so good.

With Almas's excellent local knowledge of the trails in this region, he came up with a Plan B that followed a new gorge. I heard from the group this was a spectacular trail and passed through two beautiful villages of Nirak and Yulchung at the end of the gorge. This is the sixth time we have organised Ladakh Sky Trail GHT and first time we have been unable to follow the gorge as per our itinerary however it is good to know for future groups that there is an alternative trail through a different part of Zanskar.

Photo: Nirak village
We track this group's progress while in the field through SPOT gps check ins sent to us daily and uploaded to Google Maps. You can view the Google Maps for our 2019 Ladakh Sky Trail GHT, if you are interested to compare the Plan B trail through the new gorge you can also view our Google Maps for our standard Ladakh Sky Trail GHT.

As for all or our treks in the Himalayas we received bespoke weather forecast from Michael Fagin at everestweather.com. The weather for our 2019 Ladakh Sky Trail GHT trek was fine although our previous groups had more sun, Almas sums up the weather "The weather on the trip was alright. It was cloudy at the beginning of the trip. We also got a bit of rain. It snowed on our first pass - Snigge La."

Photo: Yull Chung village
We strongly believe for environmental reasons that our groups should leave no trace and carry out all of our rubbish back out to Leh for disposal. Almas explains in his words "Trek staff took good care of the rubbish and left the campsites clean. We made sure that we carried out all our non biodegradable rubbish. We carried out 15kg of our rubbish in our first section of the trek and about 5kg in the Tsomoriri section. We found that there was not a lot of other rubbish  left by other groups in the Zanskar region as we used a less traveled trail".

We have received an Excellent rated AITO review for Ladakh Sky Trail GHT from one member of this group, as follows:

"A challenging trek where we crossed four x 5,000m passes and slept out in tents one night at an altitude of over 5,200m. Our guides had extensive local knowledge of the region and took us to villages not normally visited by Western Trekkers. We visited several Buddhist Monasteries and were lucky to learn so much about the local religion and culture. The Mountain Company are small enough to provide a personal service to customers that is second to none and experienced enough provide a varied number of treks in remote places. Detailed planning and experienced leaders ensure the safety of trekkers and guides alike."

I would like to thank Almas and all of the Ladakhi team including guides, cooks, kitchen helpers and horsemen for doing a fantastic job helping to support our Ladakh Sky Trail GHT. Almas will be back in Ladakh again next summer leading our 2020 Ladakh Sky Trail and please get in touch if you are interested in joining him.

Roland Hunter

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