From Ladakh to Zanskar
Ancient Trails and Passes
Ladakh literally means "land of
passes", and a local proverb states that "The land is so harsh and the passes so many only the best of
friends or the worst of enemies would visit you."
It is not just a romantic notion but an accurate description
of the rugged scenery. The southern part of Ladakh features
countless passes, and it is this area between Ladakh and Zanskar that
we picked for a three-week trek in summer 2006.
Small isolated settlements
are connected by narrow trails that zig-zap up to passes, lead over
wind-swept open spaces and disappear in narrow canyons, only to emerge again
on top of yet another pass. We will cross over a dozen during our trek...
On the way to our first high pass, Sirsir La,
the scenery opens up after a day in a narrow canyon, and we climb up a
barren slope with fine views of the valley. The arid landscape at 4'200
meters is stunning. The colourful rocks in green, red, and
black make the scenery even more interesting.
few villages and their fields are visible from far away. The green barley
terraces are a great contrast to the inhospitable surroundings. The
local people seem to shrug off the adverse conditions easily; smiles greet us in every
village and people take a break from harvesting to invite us for tea and
After crossing the Zanskar river at Nyerak we spend
three days in remote valleys that are rarely visited even by Zanskaris
themselves. After a steep descent in a narrow valley we arrive on the plain
near Zangla. The former kingdom was ruled from the fort that still watches
over the village and the monastery.
Two more passes and we arrive in Lingshed, a large village
whose monastery is home to a large community of monks. We stay an extra day
to walk around the valley and visit the gompa.
the way over the Singe La pass the weather gets bad. Snowfall keeps us in
Photaskar for a day, and transforms the character of the landscape. The
place seems wilder, the horizon further away, the valleys wider than before,
and the mountains higher.
Two hours after the snowy Sirsir La pass we're in a
different world of yellow barley fields and colourful flowers. We follow the
river down to Wanla and experience a wonderful sunset from the ancient
monastery that overlooks the fertile valley with its tall poplar trees.
After a short walk to Lamayuru we reach the end of our trek
and drive back to Leh.
The scenery was outstanding, local people very friendly,
our route was diverse, the weather fine, our crew
excellent, and my co-trekkers very nice. I can't believe how fast the last
three weeks passed.
Read details about our start in Leh.