Leh District

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7 travelers at this place:

  • Day80

    Kongmaru La Pass-Markha Valley Day 7

    August 25, 2015 in India ⋅

    In a taxing two hours of climbing 400 meters in altitude, we finally arrived at the highest point of our trek, Kongmaru La (5200m). With my pack and a bit of water, I can at least say that I have eclipsed the 5000 meter mark and am one step closer to joining the more elite 6000 meter club. The thinness of the air coupled with the views of the region's jagged peaks were dizzying and necessitated the only suitable reward for such an occasion: Snickers and a mango juice.Read more

  • Day79

    Nyimaling - Markha Valley Day 6 End

    August 24, 2015 in India ⋅

    We finished Day 6 after a grueling afternoon ascent from 4000 meters to our highest evening camp at 4848m in preparation for tomorrow's conquering of Kongmaru La Pass. Our arrival in Nyimaling included room and board (two small tents with four blankets each) and a standard homestay meal (rice and lentils). The camp is run by the families of shepherds, who use the elevated field as a summer camp for herding mules, goats, and cows.

    By this point in the trek, those striving for similar daily distances stop at the same evening camps. Reconvening with new friends every night has made the discomfort of the Himalaya's near-freezing nighttime temperatures at least psychologically more bearable.
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  • Day86

    Summit (6153m) - Stok Kangri Day 3

    August 31, 2015 in India ⋅

    Beneath a luminous [nearly] full-moon, David, Harim, Santosh, and I began our projected 7 hour climb of Stok Kangri just before midnight. We began at 5000 meters and gained the nearby ridge with our final view of the base camp and windless shelter that we were leaving behind. A calf injury to Harim slowed our progress, but we reached part two of the climb, the glacier at the feet of Stok Kangri, by 1:00 a.m.. Stok Kangri towered over the camp, the glacier, and the surrounding Ladakh region and was fully illuminated in the saturated light of the moon. At the mercy of our headlamps we traversed the slanted glacier, avoiding ice-patches and crevices into the subglacial current, in a half hour. By 1:30 a.m. it was clear that Harim's injury and pace would jeopardize the group's ability to safely ascend the looming ice wall and rock outcroppings. He began his return to the base camp shortly thereafter, maxing his elevation at a personal record of 5500 meters.

    David, Santosh, and I fastened our cramp-ons and readied our ice axes for the next stage. Over the next three hours, we confronted the many ice-coated stony crags of the first ridge. The moon reflected in the snow-covered mountain-side and lit our way, with our shadows accompanying us for the better part of the climb. In those three hours we realized 300 vertical meters, reaching 5800 meters by 4:00 a.m., much ahead of schedule after our pace increased following Harim's conscientious withdrawal. Whipping gusts of sub-freezing winds and the prospect of an incoming ice storm gave pause to Santosh, who had ample experience with summitting Himalayan peaks. As he evaluated the situation, David and I huddled for warmth behind rock ledge and attempted to consume our pack-lunch of potato and boiled egg. Santosh concluded that we should wait a half hour before resuming our climb in order to minimize our exposure to the elements. The sub-freezing temperatures made sitting still more difficult than climbing further. Around 4:30 a.m. we decided to move onward. We linked ourselves together by tightly fastened a single rope around each of our waists for the final segment of the climb. It was to be about an hour and a half of increasingly technical manoeuvres according to Santosh, who led the way.

    Our progress was periodically impeded by loose rocks and strong winds that threatened our balance. As I lifted myself from a patch of ice onto a rock, my front foot cramp-on gave way under a lack of friction. The cramp-on sparked against the unwilling platform and slipped out over the open air above the glacier. My weight quickly shifted to the back foot, which was on an unstable portion of ice. Grabbing for the collection of rocks in front of me, I caught myself from crashing down along side several football-sized boulders. The rope connecting our group was taught and the absence slack unnerved the others. Decreasing our pace, we succeeded in traversing the vertical portion of frosty rocks and icy mountainside. By 5:00 a.m. the summit emerged from its thin cloud cover and revealed itself for the first time since 2:00 am. We had only 100 meters of altitude between us, but at this point emerged the challenge of only ascending gradually in order to avoid further respiratory difficulties. The rope tied around our waists increased the pace, however, and the pressure in our lungs became more challenging. We reached the summit at the crack of dawn, the sun peaking out under a layer of clouds and revealing itself and its golden orange rays, which danced in streaks over the other Ladakhi Himilayan ranges and extended into Chinese ranges to the east. From 6153 meters - 20,187 feet - the air was no longer just crisp, but painfully thin. Despite this, David and I enjoyed sunrise at the summit for 20 minutes before fear took over that his headache would evolve into full Acute Mountain Sickness. The descent was not as nervewracking, even with me being designated the lead man for the downward journey. Reach the summit by 5:30 a.m. and managing the unbridled and unforgiving terrain the Ladakhi Himilayan region was amongst the most challenging endeavors of my life thus far. Later hearing that a well-known Israeli mountaineer perished climbing Stok Kangri several weeks ago did no help my comfort level with the climb, but did bring gravity to the dangers of mountaineering and the care that needs to be taken in approaching high altitude expeditions. Last week I set my personal record at 5200 meters, this week I achieved 6153. If the addiction to high altitude trekking and climbing continues, the next few years may bring as many great experiences as awful headaches.

    [credit to David for the photos]
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  • Day76

    First Half Day 3 - Markha Valley Day 3

    August 21, 2015 in India ⋅

    After failing to reach Skyu during yesterday's daylight, the team and I hoped to make up for lost time and reach a homestay in Markha village by nightfall, Day 3. By lunch (2:30 pm) in an abandoned village/camp, we had travelled 20 of the 30 km required to reach our mark. A few uphill battles, a river ford, and a slight climb lay between us and a meal and mattress.Read more

  • Day76

    Sara - Markha Valley Day 3 End

    August 21, 2015 in India ⋅

    (Sara, 3607m) Our optimistic outlook on the second half of day three slowly and poignantly receded before the pessimism that comes with "maybe being lost". We planned to make the four river crossings (three more than originally anticipated) and traverse the rolling trails to Markha village, but the Markha River's aggressive current led us to turn back and walk the 5 km to Sara village for a meal and, on a stroke of good luck, a beer. After arriving with soaking shoes and drenched socks, our low spirits were revitalized by the company at Sara: a German couple (far right), two Israeli men who we met previously at Yurutse (middle right), a British couple (left middle, in corner), and, of course, my own Israeli comrades and co-strugglers, Polina, Vitale, and Yulia (left to right, respectively).Read more

  • Day75

    Kanda La Pass - Markha Valley Day 2

    August 20, 2015 in India ⋅

    (Kanda La Pass, 4973m) When we rose from our tightly wrapped, sleepy stupor we were not fully aware that our looming climb to Kanda La pass would be 800 meters in a matter of hours. Our slow albeit steady progress was only impeded by our malfunctional lungs and a herd of yaks, scoffing their way through our path to the pass. The wind steadily increased as our anticipation grew and, once we reached the pass, we rewarded ourselves with shared exhaustion and Snickers. Mostly Snickers. The views of Stok Kangri (6153m) were clear and the weather cooperated with our cameras' limited capacities to encapsulate the many viewpoints. Polina asserted that the day was "death", I prefer to call it purgatory given the lack of air and sufficient physical fitness consistently wearing at our physical and emotional stamina.Read more

  • Day80

    The Team - Markha Valley Day 7 End

    August 25, 2015 in India ⋅

    Eight days ago I ran into a group of Russian-Israeli's planning a seven day trek over ancient trade routes of Ladakh, used to connect Kashmir to Tibet and India to China. I figured that if I was to endeavor on a roughly 103 kilometer, week-long journey, it would be in my best interests to do so with a band of travellers as naturally impervious to the cold as Russian-born IDF soldiers. What resulted was a team fit for success in any version of The Oregon Trail.

    The Team
    Polina (far left, photo 2/right photo 4): As a nurse, Polina may as well have sewn a red cross onto her bag and set up a formal medical tent at each of our stops. Unfortunately for her, her good graces resulted in a constant inflow of feet requiring bandages, including my own after Day 2's trek up and over Kanda La Pass. It also doesn't hurt that Polina is an ex-IDF intelligence officer with a proclivity for slyly extracting the details of one's life over tea (tea that she will brew just for you with her camping stove and Tupperware containers full of delicious, homegrown herbs cultivated for this very purpose).
    Yulia (middle, photo 2/photo 3): The holder of the guidebook and principal navigator of the valley, Yulia became the resource through which we predicted our daily progress. Without her, we would have spent twice the amount of time lost and, more likely than not, spent a few nights on the rocky Himalayan ground. An electrical engineer by trade, Yulia at our side meant we were prepared to handle any semiconductors that happened across our path. None did.
    Vitaly (far right, photo 2/left photo 4): Our pace-setter and designated source of smart-remarks and sarcasm, Vitaly's presence was resounding in its pertinence. His tall and skinny frame belied his near-mechanical ability to defeat any and all foes, given his history as an IDF-officer in combat engineering (explosives). Add to the situation that he is the boyfriend of Yulia-the-electrical-engineer and suddenly he becomes a half of the dorky math tandem that you never hope to annoy.

    Our week in the wilderness adhered to the ancient Ladakhi trading routes beaten into permanence by mules and horses carrying goods to through the region's valleys, inaccessible by car and bike. Our route (detailed in photo 6) was not generally not difficult to navigate without a guide, with a few exceptions -- see "Sara - Markha Valley Day 3 End". Crisp and clean mountain streams and rivers sourced by the nearby snow-covered peaks cut through the terrain and generally served as a strong indicator of direction. But, the most reliable sign of correctness of path was neither river nor compass-- it was the never-ending trail of mule poop. If you someday choose to roam the Himalayan highlands following poop trails, be sure to choose a band of comrades with experience; fecal navigation is no joke.
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  • Day84

    Base Camp - Stok Kangri Day 1 End

    August 29, 2015 in India ⋅

    Well. Instead of stopping at a midpoint campsite and calling it a day at 2:00 p.m., we decided to reach base camp in one day. In doing do, we went from an 3500m altitude to 4950m in a matter of seven hours. By 7:00 p.m. the temperature dropped to or below freezing and staying warm, or at least attempting to stay warm, became a matter of wearing every article of clothing on hand. For me, this meant top and bottom thermal liners, compression shorts, 3 pairs of socks, dry fit pants, 2 dry fit shirts, a hiking button-up shirt, gloves, and a wool cap. All this on and I still was cold at 7:15. I'm sure it is going to be an obscenely long, sleepless, freezing night. The silver lining on the whole "you might die of cold thing" is that we were able to ascend 1450m in one day without altitude issues. This success puts wind (very, very cold wind) in my sails for the next 36 hours of re-acclimation to the 5000-5800m range in preparation for the Stok Kangri summit.Read more

  • Day85

    Acclimatization Day - Stok Kangri Day 2

    August 30, 2015 in India ⋅

    The altitude made its presence known last night, as even repositioning myself in my all-too-thin sleeping bag was exhausting. At one point my toes got cold enough that removing my handgloves and adding them to the three layers of socks already covering my toes did not seem at all a peculiar tactic.

    Today we did an acclimatization climb to 5315m before our 11:00 p.m. departure for 6-8 hours of predicted climbing tonight/tomorrow. As we wheezed our way up to our target point, the base camp staff pranced around like deer during their daily cricket match. Their fitness level at 5000m evoked considerable jealousy from my co-climbers and I, given that our lungs felt like they were the unfortunate stress balls of Fear Factor contestants. From the apex of the climb we could see Leh, the boheimeth Sasser Peak (7600m), and a portion of Ladakh's many mountain ranges. If successful, tomorrow's climb will over a 360° view of the Ladakh Himalayan region. My excitement is mostly out of fear, for today's prep climb and practice with the cramp-ons was quite difficult.

    We descended to base camp for lunch and some sleep before the fateful hour of our attempt to eclipse 6000 meters and become officially recognized as a bit psychotic.
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  • Day6

    Markha Valley Adventures II

    August 20, 2015 in India ⋅

    Day 2 started with another 800m climb, this time to the Kanda La pass (4950m).
    It was a very slow walk. The altitude was starting to get to us. At some point we could barely walk for even ten minutes without having to sit and rest.
    After about four and a half hours of walking, we reached the pass. We were greeted by spectacular views and a couple of friendly yaks.Read more

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Leh District

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