Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Lamayuru to Chilling Trek, Ladakh 7 - 11 Aug 2013

7th Aug 2013
Trek start : Lamayuru (3500m)
Trek end : Wanla (3160m)
High passes : Prinkiti La Pass (3730m)
Duration : 3.5 hrs
Difficulties : Easy

We think we are ready for a higher trek now after the 3 days Sham Trek. Plus this trek we have a porter so our backpack will be lighter and we are over with our headache. So we met our guide Diskir, she is a trainee guide but only because her English is not good. She has been working as a porter for a year now, she know the trek and everything around. Our porter Dolkar will carry our 10kg backpack. We were doubtful because she weight not more than 45kg :-) Both of them were young only 21 years old so they should be ok.

From Prinkiti La Pass
After a good breakfast, we left our guesthouse. We descent along the main road and then cut into a narrow valley, the valley was actually a dried river bed, occasionally some fresh water surfaced from the ground. Shortly after we arrived at the base of Prinkiti La Pass. We saw the French group again ahead of us. The ascent to Prinkiti La Pass was not tough as we took it slowly. The view behind us was breathtaking. As we approach the pass there were big group of trekkers already there just resting and enjoying the view. From the pass we could view the Zanskar range at far. The feeling was so out of the world.

The descent to Wanla took us 2 hours, first 1 hour was a nice walk in the canyon. The formation of rocks and stones are in all sizes, shapes and colors. The final hour was spent walking on the road to Wanla. It was hot and boring, we prefered the path. We arrived at our homestay at noon when rain started. We could feel the sudden drop of temperature outside. Lucky us to get there on time to take shelter in the house.

Wanla is located at the juncture of 2 river, the Shilakong Tokpo flows into Yapola river. The lower altitude result to more warm in the climate which then brought forward the harvesting of barley and apricots. Every single apricot trees were fully bloomed and barley has been harvested and line up on the ground.  It has a monastery that is dated back to 14th century. Small but pretty. It is a sub-monastery of Lamayuru which provides a caretaker monk responsible for daily rituals and for granting access to the temple. The monastery sits at the edge of the hill overseeing the village, the rivers and barley fields.

We were made special dinner this night, it was Ladakhi pasta or they called it Donkeys ear or Timok, top with curry source. It was delicious! I had 2 serving for the first time since I arrived in India. We also tried the local Chang beer made by barley, tasted good not as strong as rice wine. We slept early as we plan to leave very early the next day.

Colorful mountain

8th Aug 2013
Trek start : Wanla (3160m)
Trek end : Urtsi (3500m)
High passes : NA
Duration : 6 hrs
Difficulties : Moderate

Woke up at 5am to have breakfast and ready to leave at 6am. We were told that we are going to take the goat path to Urtsi. We were not aware until we got on the path off the beaten trek. The goat path is actually an old path used by the locals long before the road to Urtsi was constructed. No one is using the path now, the other trekkers used the road to get to Urtsi.

Goat path
The path is not even a path, sometimes we were just following some goat shits on the ground, who knows where the goat were heading. But of course we have a guide who can navigate with their eyes close. :-) It was kind of exciting yet scary coz some path was treacherous as it hangs by the cliff, one wrong step could be disastrous. I was not sure myself a couple of times if I could make it :-( my walking stick helps a lot to support and Kareen taught me to make sure I set my foot into the ground to stabilize before I take the next step and don't look down beyond my foot....well lucky me I live to tell the story :-) The good thing is we have the mountain all by ourselves and the scenery is so surreal, it just blown me away. The mountain range stood silently, bare and strong, the cloud movement made the mountain dance in front of us, constantly changing color. Every corner we turn, we see another perspective of the mountain. Mind blowing!

We finally arrived in Urtsi at noon,  our homestay family is a couple in their 40ies. Their house is in progress of upgrading. They build one room a year if possible more. We were surprise to find a shower with hot water. Yeah! So happy to get a nice shower and wash up my only trek pants and shirt and we have a bed to sleep on.

At around 6pm, there was a big commotion outside, we hear locals shouting from roof to roof, sheep bleating, cow mooing, donkey braying, so we went to check it out.  Apparently this happen every evening when the animals return from the mountain, those animals were calling for their babies or parents, those owners calling for their animals, very funny encounter. 

9th Aug 2013
Trek start : Urtsi (3500m)
Trek end : Hinju (3740m)
High passes : NA
Duration : 3 hrs

Difficulties : Easy

5th day in the trek, we started to get tired with the chapati bread, breakfast was always chapati bread with fried egg or with butter and jam. Our packed lunch was none other than chapati bread with boiled egg and boiled potato. It was too dry, I couldn't swallow them anymore. The best I could do was to eat 2 pieces during breakfast. :-(

The goat path was pretty easy today, after 2 hours we arrived at a one family house by itself in a valley. They have an animal farm, fields of barley, garden of vegetables and a stream not far. That's how simple they live. It makes me ponder how we are always unsatisfied and demanding in live. This sets as a reminder to me everytime I hear myself complaining or dissatisfied. 

We finished the last hour of our trek on the road to Hinju. The vehicle road ends at Hinju. We were disappointed that it's the end of the goat path for this trek. We really enjoy the goat path experience and those who has done the normal trekker's path via the road will not have a chance to see the spectacular view above the mountain.

At Hinju, as most of the houses has transformed into homestay, they actually came out with a rotation system. Each family will have to take turn to host. We got a small family with 3 rooms (2 bedroom and a dining/kitchen) a family of 7. The village has a small monastery, Diskir and Dolkar light up a oil candle for prayer. On the way down from the monastery, a local invited us for tea in her house. Diskir knew her from her last trek. We tried the salted milk tea. It wasn't bad at all. :-)

After we finished, it was time of the day where the animals return from the mountain. We sat with the locals to watch the shepherds herd back about 20 ponies and 50 sheep. I was just wondering how they could recognised who sheep is whose? At this time of the year, there were many new born, the baby sheep and ponies were so cute!

We planned to sleep early for the big day tomorrow. Unfortunately it was the night of spiders! Kareen discovered a spider near her bed and another and another, the owner's son tried to get rid of all of them but they kept appearing. It went on and on till late night. At last I switch my bed with her, to make her feel better. At last we fall asleep for couple of hours.

10th Aug 2013
Trek start : Hinju (3740m)
Trek end : Sumda-Chenmo (3810m)
High passes : Konze La Pass (4950m)
Duration : 9 hrs

Difficulties : Difficult

4:30am we had to wake up. At 5:30am just as the morning light break we took off. I was excited to cross the Konze La Pass today as it will be my record hike thus far but I wasn't looking forward for the 9 hours trek. The initial 3 hours was a nice walk in the valley without the sun. We pass several camp sites along the way. They were just waking up.

The way up to Konze La Pass was steep, we took our time. At this altitude, oxygen is thin. We can't rush it. There were beautiful flowers growing at this altitude. We reached after 3 hours. I wouldn't say it was easy but it wasn't as tough as I was expected. Even though the overcast sky spoilt the scenery, we still enjoy it. At the pass, we had a view of the valley and the range of mountains around it. 

Konze La Pass
I started to have headache due to the altitude. We continue down to Sumda-Chenmo. It was getting hot at noon. The way to Sumda-Chenmo was long, it took us 3 hours. By the time we got to the village, my headache was pounding hard, felt like it's going to explode. I took the last aspirin that Kareen has and crash. It was after 2 hours sleep that I recovered to normal.  It was an exhausting day.

Sumda-Chenmo is a very small village with only 7  families. There is no road access and electricity here, they depend on solar power. The house we were in is also very old, simple but warm. This is our last homestay, it has been a great experience. Every family has given us something to take away, something from their heart and their sincerity.

11th Aug 2013
Trek start : Sumda-Chenmo (3810m)
Trek end : Chilling (3200m)
High passes : Pagal La Pass (4270m) and Dungdunchen La Pass (4710m)
Duration : 8 hrs
Difficulties : Difficult

Last day and long day with 2 high passes. We left the same time as yesterday. We first descent to the river where we started zig zagging for 1 hour up to Pagal La Pass. Weather was on the cloudy side today, good as it won't be too hot, bad as it will spoil the view. From the 1st pass, we walk along the shoulder of the mountain to arrive at Lanak camp site. A few group of campers have already packed up and left.

After the camp is the steep ascent to Dungdunchen La Pass. It was much harder, I told myself repeatedly "Every step I take I am one step closer to the pass" to kept myself going. We got to the pass finally at 10am. Prayer flags flapping welcoming us! :-) We took a long rest to enjoy our last moment above 4000m. Several ponies carrying camping equipment went pass us. We could see the Markha range and the Zanskar range from here.

The way down was long, we walk for 3 hours with gradual slope down to Chilling. Just after our lunch break, another guide spotted Blue Sheep at the top of the cliff, we were so happy that we finally saw it. It was our gift to end this trek. :-)

Overall it has been a tough trek due to the harsh and hot environment and altitude even though we didn't get any muscle ache from the entire 8 days trek. I enjoyed most the goat path with the surreal mountain view. The homestay experience is priceless. The worst was the headache and the bed bugs bites. The best was the company of Kareen, Diskir and Dolkar. The only regret I had was not bring enough food (energy bar or cereal) to make up for the chapati. :-)


  1. A wonderful account of the trip accompanied by surreal pictures of the Mountains. It must have been very tough trek over high passes but the views must have been rewarding as you mentioned. Loved reading it..

    1. Thanks Ravindra for reading, your country is amazing there is so much to offer! I will be back again. ;)