Latest news from the Himalaya and Karakoram

Monday, 3 November 2014

Trip report for Ladakh Sky Trail GHT in August/ September 2014 led by Almas Khan

Photo: camp at Zangla Sumdo  
In late August 2014, Almas Khan led our first Ladakh SkyTrail GHT with a group of eight trekkers signed up. We set up this itinerary from many discussions with Almas who wanted to organise a trek visiting his favourite places in Ladakh. Over the years Almas has led many trekking groups in Ladakh and for a long time he has been planning to link together a trek to visit as many of these remote and less trekked trails.

Our Ladakh Sky Trail is a unique trek designed by us to help you experience the best of the three areas of this region: Ladakh, Zanskar and Changthang/ Rupshu. Please see the Testimonials copied below for feedback received from our 2014 group on how much they enjoyed exploring Ladakh on this epic traverse. Ladakh Sky Trail starts from Lamarayu monastery and crosses six mountain passes over 5,000m then 21 days later the journey finishes at Tso Moriri lake located on the Changthang plateau at 4,500m.

We used SPOT gps tracker for this group, for each night on trek Almas checked in sending a gps signal to us so we could track this group's progress. Click here to see the way points overlaid onto a map for Ladakh Sky Trail

Photo: on way to Lingshed
Photo: looking back to Hanimul La
Overall our inaugural Ladakh Sky Trail trek went well and the group successfully arrived to Tso Moriri lake on September 12th. Well done and congratulations to the group for completing this traverse of Ladakh! We have recently updated our Trip Dossier for Ladakh Sky Trail in 2015 with some small changes and tweaks based on our experience from 2014. 

One of the issues of organising any trek in Ladakh is acclimatisation as Leh the starting point of the trip is at 3,500m. It is for that reason we include two nights in Leh and one night in Lamayuru (also at 3,500m) before starting the trek. In fact several of the group decided to arrive to Leh early and we helped booked extra nights at the group hotel, this is certainly a good idea to help give more time for acclimatisation to the high altitude. We have designed the itinerary to help your acclimatisation, for example on Day 4 you walk over the Prinkiti La (3,700m) and also we spend two nights at Snigge La Base Camp before the long day on Day 7 crossing the three passes of Snigge La (5,100m), Kyupa La (4,360m) and Neruka La (4,280m).

Photo: Zangla
Photo: on way to Zangla Sumdo
Some of the most dramatic section of Ladakh Sky Trail is from Day 12 as the next four days you are walking in beautiful gorges however please be aware that this also involves many river crossings. I gather from Almas there are 120 river crossings from Zangla to Kumra Sumdo, therefore please make sure you bring sandals and walking poles! Most of the river crossings were not too deep with most around shin or knee height although on the way to Kumra Sumdo there were some deeper river crossings at waist level.

It is worth pointing out 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.

Photo: view from Chubchak camp
Photo: view from Gyama camp
As parts of Ladakh Sky Trail are rarely walked by other trekking groups sometimes there is no established path in places and it is common to cross landslides and rough scree slopes along the way. On this difficult terrain it is often necessary for the crew to unload the horses and then reload further along. On Day 13 trekking to Chubchak, the horses had to be unloaded as the gorge on the other side of Cha Cha la gets so narrow in places that horses cannot go through with bags on. Also on Day 16 Trek to Rabrung La Base (4,405m) there were a couple of landslide patches and all of the staff assisted with unloading, loading and carrying of bags. In fact Almas reckoned they were quite lucky as last year’s trail survived because of less snowfall during the winter, if not then this could take much more time.

Photo: Tshokar salt lake
Photo: Tso Moriri lake
Our 2014 group saw pugmarks from a snow leopard so they were all excited to see the presence of this elusive cat. They also saw other wildlife such as skyangs (wild asses) near Tsho Kaar lake.

Please see testimonials from our 2014 group below:

“I honestly felt that this trip was excellent. The best thing was that we were able to walk through and experience Ladakh, Zanskar and Changthang in one trip. Almas is an outstanding leader. The food was exellent, both on trek and in the hotels. Our cook on trek (Angdu) is a real asset. Hotels were very pleasant and I appreciated that the two-man tents had two entrances and were robust. A small but experienced company like The Mountain Company will always be my first choice.” Majid Al-Khalil (UK)

“First of all, we would like to thank Almas and the rest of the staffs for making this a great holiday. Almas leadership skill, intimate knowledge and passion for this region and his mission to help and support every team member made this a successful trek. Under his leadership the group (staffs and trekkers and horses) were well guided and looked after and had a great time.

The trek certainly lived up to the geological wonderland description in the trip note, every day we were treated with amazing landscape, views from surreal and massive rock formations, huge river gorges, vast plains and the serene salt lake and blue lakes. The TMC itinerary is also unique in that it covers Ladakh, Zanskar, Rupshu Region and both the Tsomoriri Lake and Tsokhar Lake, and the Monasteries in the regions. This trek has it all -  remote and wild landscape, long and steep climb up the Passes and long and zig zag descent, days of river crossings, seeing snow leopard footprints, blue sheep, Kiang, and visiting ancient monasteries, remote villages and Sheppard villages.” Cindy and Robert (Australia)

I would like to thank Almas for doing a great job in helping set up Ladakh Sky Trail and for leading this group in the field. We had a hard working and cheerful Ladakhi team helping Almas, so thanks to local guide Tsering Samphel, the wonderful cook Angdu and the rest of trek crew.

Almas has confirmed will be leading this trek again in 2015 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 SkyTrail GHT or if you have any questions on this trek.

Roland Hunter

No comments:

The Mountain Company