We're going there???
Day 5: “Ju-ley, Good Morning, tea?” From Markha onward, past Tacha monastery perhaps 200m up on a ridge with well cared for chorten and mani walls below. We had some river crossings but the water was not very high, below the knee. We stopped in Umling and Hankar at the parachute tea houses for breaks. Then it was up past the dramatic hanging ruins of the Hankar monastery, vertical walls of stone, and up to Thachungtse. This was naturally terraced meadow area with plenty of room for all of the groups and a very appealing stream for bathing, laundry, and just relaxing in the sun.
Day 6: “Ju-ley, Good Morning, tea?” This was a day to gain altitude, again. We hiked, slowly up to three small lakes. This was a difficult climb. The rest at the lakes was aesthetic and appreciated. Kelsang and Travis practiced the art of balancing rocks on other rocks. From there it was less difficult traversing a high valley to our camp at Nimaling. There were many Dzos (yak/cow crosses), and sheep in the valley belonging to the couple of families there, at 4800m! This was definitely a summer grazing area. Above us to the south stood the dramatic Khangyatse, a glacier and snow covered peak of 6400m.
Day 7: “Ju-ley, Good Morning, tea?” The big ascent up to Kongmoru La. It was slow going. But we all made it up to the pass at 5200m or just over 17,000 ft.
Kelsang and Travis were amusing the French with their rock balancing. They were less successful in the wind in which prayer flags fluttered. Some ambitious members of other groups climbed up the peak to the southeast. We headed down the long descent through the red rock valley. We had lunch 150m below a group of sunbathing blue sheep. That is until some folks from another group scared them off trying to get closer photos. Down, down, down through ribs of alternating green and red rock. Sometimes we walked along the gravel stream bed. Other times we climbed up on ancient masonry paths watching the stream plunging over smooth stone into inviting pools. Down, down to our last camp at Chuskurmo. Like many of the others there was a tea tent and a farmhouse, sufficient for a name on a trekking map. This spot had a nice view into the lower and drier mountains to the east. The French camped on the terrace below us. We could only eat perhaps a quarter of what Marco offered us. The camp staff and horsemen ate after us, and what remained went to the horses.
Our trekking mates doing the heavy work
Day 8 0540: “Ju-ley, Good Morning, tea?” Yes, earlier than usual, but then the east exposure meant that the sun was about the bake us in our tents. From Chuskurmo it was more descent but at a gentler angle. The stream bed widened. One could tell that in the Spring runoff more of the width would be taken up with water. Often we walked on this riverbed, again sometimes we climbed up on the old trading paths. These sometimes followed ancient irrigation ditches. At last we arrived at Shang Sumdo, a couple of houses and a parachute tea tent. This was a confluence of two rivers, and where we met three vehicles, two for us and our gear and one for the trekking staff and gear. The horsemen and horses were left to make there way back as they had the entire way, by foot. The ‘road’ down to the main road in the Indus valley followed along the river in a similar way to our trek, sometimes in the riverbed, sometimes above it. Once in the Indus valley we moved faster toward Leh, past army camps, monasteries, enclaves, and some expensive development. We were happy for showers but began to miss the mountains already.
Today, the 20th the students begin homestays with Ladakhi families in upper Leh. Tomorrow they begin a service project helping to finish a Ladakhi composting toilet. We will all fly to Delhi on the morning of the 25th.