MyHimalayas

impressions from

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From Pang we follow the river upstream.

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Bizare stone figures rise out of the riverbed and watch us as we follow the river and take a sidevalley to the east.

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Pika, a common small rodent in the high land deserts.

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Our caravan steadily gains altitude, horses and people slow down even before reaching the difficult scree slope

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The most difficult obstacle on our journey is a less-known pass - almost 6'000 meters high - that is covered by snow.

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Finally on top of Lachung Kora La, the highest pass we've crossed on our way and almost 6'000 meters high.

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Well deserved break for the horses that broke trail for us.

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View from the pass to Sharma where we camped for three nights.

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Our camp in Sharma, a grazing area during summer but when we arrived in October nobody was there anymore. The little creek froze at night.

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Tenba and Lobsang prepare another tasty dinner in the kitchen tent.

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Dimensions are incredible - our little camp at the right, two trekkers making their way up to this 5'000 m pass.

 

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Storm looms over Tso Kar, a brackish lake from - until some years ago - nomads collected salt and traded it against other goods.

Tso Moriri: Pang - Lachung Kora La

Pang - Lachung Kora La - Sharma

Pang - Lachung Kora La base (Day 15)

I sleep longer than usual and am woken up by hot temperatures. The cold wind has stopped completely. The waterlevel is still low and it is an easy stroll in the canyon without detours or river crossings. The puffy white clouds on the sky don't block the sun, for the first time I donít have to wear a sweater. Far ahead lies a dark mountain, yesterday's bad weather put some snow on the range to the right. This is the only reminder of being in the Himalayas. Over thousands of year the elements formed the yellow sandstone into bizarre figures on both sides of the river. Washed out yellow sandstone blocks seem to look down on us, erosion has created an army of man-like figures that form the rim of the valley. The meandering creek that glitters silvery against the sun gives it a friendly appearance. Just as we sit down for lunch under a huge washout in a sidevalley an icy wind picks up and sends tiny snowflakes down my back until I get dressed properly. So much for a relaxing rest.

The horsemen suggest route to Tso Moriri unknown to Joel (which means something), weíre all eager to take it and let them pass us. When we catch up the horse have just turned around and walk towards us. Tenba signals us to go on; claiming we can continue though for the horses the gorge is too steep. A little rivulet runs down the cleft over small waterfalls. We get from one large boulder to the next, some are covered with ice. A short but very steep climb on loose scree slope is the last obstacle before the end of our direct route. While resting on the top the silhouettes of the horses appear on the ridge. We must be close to 5í000 m, still there are many signs of nomadic life. The scenery gets more destitute, snow-covered saddles appear ahead of us. The horses keep going, we just follow in the hope of them finding a good campsite.

We camp at a spot with enough grass for the horses; a little meadow surrounded by low mountains. It is not clear which pass we cross tomorrow, it depends the level and consistency of snow. It snows for a minute, when the sun reappears itís quite warm. For the first time in two weeks it's possible to really relax outside without huge layer of clothing, allowing us to make use of the early arrival. Half an hour later it snows again, this time from the other direction. The range across the valley looks fantastic with the fresh white snow and the dark storm clouds looming over it.

After dinner I take 1/4 diamox as a precaution against strange breathing patterns (Chang Stoke syndrome) which I know will make it hard for me to fall asleep. Itís always like this in the first night at 5'000 meters for me, the first time I was seriously worried and felt like choking, now it's just an annoyance. The medicine works. Kind of, at least. Instead of being kept awake by the breathing troubles for an hour, constant pressure on my bladder wakes me every hour. Lesson 1: Next time try 1/8 diamox. Lesson 2: Next time bring pee-bottle.

Lachung Kora La - Sherma (Day 16)

A very cold night with beautiful scenery: the crescent of the moon stands above the white ranges, countless stars and the Milky Way appear in the pitch dark sky.

The horses are given more time than usual to warm up and graze before being packed for a long day. I spot (yesterday's?) pika, it runs in the open field for a few seconds before it disappears in the ground. "Good things come to those who wait". I sit down ten feet from one of the many holes in the ground. A minute later a small nose and two black eyes peep out, inspecting me for some moments. The noise of my cameraís shutter make it retreat to safety. Soon the pika comes out again. Now being used to the sound it allows me to take some close-up pictures. When I return with some food, it has disappeared.

It is time for us to start anyway, the horses are almost ready. We follow the little creek, after a bend a steep mountain flank appears to our left. The ridge must be close to 6í000 meters. Despite the sunshine it is chilly when we wait half an hour later. It hasnít been decided which of the three potential passes we should take, the horsemen inspected yesterday night and will tell us. The left one is impossible for the horses, and after inspection not an option for us either. The middle one seems possible for us, Lobsang is already climbing up the little gorge. Itís definitely not the easiest route, and we decide to walk with the horses. Their speed is slow, but perfect for me to follow them. They leave the creek and slowly climb up traversing the barren hillside. The valley then makes a sharp left turn, the opposite side is covered by snow. At the end of it must be the pass, but itís guesswork since we're not high enough to see it yet. The higher they get the more breaks they need, allowing me to catch up when they stop. It is rather tough climb, and our group has spread out. The trail curves gently 90% to the left and we steadily gain altitude, finally reaching the first patches of snow.

We're on the 'gentle' side of the valley, the other side is towered by sharp ridges and steep snowfields. The little depression ahead could be a pass, but the wall below looks too steep to be accessible. The horsemen take a less direct route and climbing higher to the left instead. The silhouettes of horses against the dark clouds are a memorable sight. Blue sky and storm clouds, together with the snow and dark rocks make it an intimidating and wild landscape. High above us Ė demoralizingly high above us - stands a tiny figure and waves. First I think itís Tenba our cook who passed me some minutes ago. Luckily it's Lobsang who is on the way down from his route. Before reaching the foot of the pass, we have to get down to the bottom of the valley, a tiring traverse over little pieces of scree and loose rock. I'm not exhausted yet, but really, really tired. The final ascent is difficult, some inches to a feet of snow lie on the scree and hides larger rocks. After some minutes I wait and let the horses pass to break trail. They are working hard and breath heavily. A few times they slip and are hold back by a horseman.

After two and half hours Iím on the ridge, the pass is a little below. Even the horsemen take a short break. Dark clouds hang over gentle hills that rise from the valley with yellow grass, their summits are covered by snow. Countless mountains form the horizon where we just came from. Getting to 6'000 meters would be an easy walk uphill. Clouds will probably prevent good views in half an hour. And climbing for altitude is not a worthy reason. We have enough days to climb a real peak.

Instead I go down to the real pass which is marked with a simple stone lhatso and a prayerflag. The snow on the col goes to up my knees, but the surface is frozen and when walking carefully I don't break in. Sooner than expected, the scree isnít covered by snow anymore which making downhill walking easy on the knees. The glacier ends abruptly at the foot of little frozen pond.

Lobsang waits with lunch at a nice spot but two quick sandwiches later Iím already heading further down. The trail soon disappears in the wide valley. I follow the frozen creek, hoping to see our horses ahead. Our breaks have given them enough time to disappear, for a quick moment I catch them with binoculars and know roughly which way to take. The meadow is vast but nomads have already moved on, either because of temperatures or lack of grass. When possible I slide down on the creekís ice, when the groaning noises become more numerous I change the path. It is probably wiser to take the normal route.

I stumble across the wide valley, not because of exhaustion but lack of variety. The scenery, though stunning, does not change during the hour-long slog and a gloomy feeling hangs in the air. The surrounding dark hills mixed with green grass looks eerie, especially because of the strange light that is radiated by the sun that is a weak yellow ball in an evenly grey sky. The valley is flat, but I havenít seen our horses. They must be terribly far ahead. Then, in a little depression to the left I spot a parachute tent. A closer look reveals our dining tent. After having submitted to the fact of walking another two hours this unexpected sight is very welcome.

Just ten minutes later, after a wash with warm water, I feel refreshed and enjoy the last moments of the afternoon in the kitchen tent.

Malc and Joel arrive half an hour later, Malc looks exhausted but it doesn't seem to influence his mood, a jolly fellow. Lance and Bob must have decided to climb the Ďpeakí above the pass with Jamie. They were both quite slow on the way to the pass, I wonder if their decision was a wise one. I'm enjoying the kitchen tent atmosphere when it gets disrupted all of a sudden. The others arrive in the dark, having nearly missed the camp.

Tomorrowís walk will be equally long.

Sharma Rest day (Day 17)

A restday is announced. We will move camp a little further down, probably just an hour or so. Today could become an uneventful restday in the middle of nowhere.

After breakfast things are packed up, I take a little detour towards Tso Kar and should be at camp around noon. I walk to the north where some hills offer potential views. Following a little trail we first we climb up to a little pass between the gentle hills. Prayerflags announce the lonely pass. Behind it the scenery opens up and offers a stunning view. A green lake stands out from the barren scenery, this must be Tso Kar. Despite the green colour it translates to 'White Lake' because of the crust of salt on its banks. Yak caravans used to bring the salt to Leh, but it has been abandoned as it has stopped being lucrative. The other change in the beautiful monotony of endless hills is a lovely sidevalley with a meandering creek. The subtle colours and play of sunrays and clouds turn it into a timeless scene. We literally watch storms pass by, low hanging clouds drop snow on the hills and then move on to the next. On the way back we get caught in such a dark cloud, a cold wind suddenly hits us and fine snowballs (no flakes) hit our faces. Itís quite an experience that is over five minutes later.

Back in the valley the vastness is overwhelming. A little trail leads down the valley, seemingly going on forever. Then, after a bend in the valley, the tents appear on a backdrop of barren hill. Two huge finely built domes of snow rise on the horizon.

A wash in the icy river and a short nap later dinner arrives. This wasnít too exciting a day, and it seems we're might stay here another night. Instead of climbing a peak of the Mentok Range Jamie spotted another mountain. Iím not in the mood for it and might set out on my own tomorrow to summit a less technical 6í000 meter peak.

Summary Part 5: From Pang we continue in a bizarre valley: washed out yellow sandstone blocks seem to look down on us, erosion has created an army of man-like figures that form the rim of the valley.

The horsemen suggest a little known pass to Tso Moriri, and we happily agree. Dark clouds hang over gentle hills that rise from the valley with yellow grass, their summits are covered by snow. The silhouettes of horses against the dark clouds are a memorable sight. Blue sky and storm clouds, together with the snow and dark rocks make it an intimidating and wild landscape.

Walking from the pass to camp is a long slog, but after a hot tea and warm bath the tiredness is gone.