Himalayas (India): Hidden Valley, Stok Valley, Ganda La pass, 2010

Himalayas:(India) Hidden Valley, Stok Valley, Ganda La Pass, 97 miles, 10 walking days, Sept 2010

Hidden Valley: Lamayuru – Wanla – Hiniu – Sumda  Chenmo –  Sumda Chunguri  – Chiling

Stok Valley: Spituk – Rumbak – Stok

Ganda La: Chiling – Shingo – Rumbak – Zingchen

One year after the epic Annapurna/Mustang Valley trek in the Nepalese Himalayas, my son Mark suggested another Himalayan trek, this time in the Ladakh region of northern India.  The region is famed for the Markhha Valley and we undertook three small treks emanating out from the capital of the region, Leh.  Each trek involved a high pass:  Kangske La  (4,800 m), Stok La (4,800 m), and Ganda La (4,970 m). The first two treks included considerable  riverbed walking and boulder scrambling  because the path had been destroyed by landslides resulting from the August 2010 cloudburst  There were many river crossings (wading up to knee high or using very rickety bridges) and waterfall descents plus scrambles up the hillside when we saw remnants of the path above us.  In general, the trails were ill-defined.

Some days we trekked for over 10 hours over hard terrain to reach our destination.  Our first guide and porter complained and eventually deserted us when we returned to Leh!  At night, we stayed in home stays (similar to but more primitive than the  tea houses in Nepal): very dusty, lots of flies, no running water, basic food, outside hole-in-the-ground squat toilets, cold at night, often no chairs to sit on).  We both suffered with the onset of Acute Mountain Sickness at the high altitudes plus other assorted illnesses: fever (Mark), diarrhoea (me) and acute toothache (Sultim the guide).  The scenery was stunning, as it always is in the Himalayas, and one of the highlights was being pulled over the 50 m wide fast flowing Zanskar river in a small gondola suspended from a zip wire.  We were crammed in, clutching our rucksacks to our chests and with strict instructions not to touch the wire.  A good father-and-son bonding experience!

Overall, the trekking infrastructure in Ladakh is nowhere near the level of Nepal and although enjoyable in an explorer sort of way, I would recommend the region to hardy trekkers but not Gucci-style trekkers.

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