Zangla to Lamayuru Trek
Zangla to Lamayuru Trek
Zangla to Lamayuru Trek
Ladakh Trekking – Zangla to Lamayuru Trek
Rupshu is a vast area to the south east of Ladakh, on the road from Manali to Leh. The valley lies at an altitude of 4,000 to 5,000 meters. Cultivation is difficult because of the extremely cold and dry climate, though there is ample grazing land. The small population is thus widely spread and consists mainly of nomadic shepherds, called Changpas. The Changpas also engage in trade and work the caravans between Ladakh, Lahoul and Spiti.
The trek commences from the Indus valley, goes over the Kangmaru la into the Nimaling plains, over the Zalung Karpo la towards the Rupshu Valley. Following the Kurna Chu through the beautiful Sorra gorge, the trail goes over two more passes before ending on the banks of Tso Morari or “mountain” lake, situated in the middle of the elevated district of Rupsu. The lake is formed by a tributary of the Spiti river. The lake’s name is characteristic of its situation – nestled in the midst of 20,000 foot plus peaks which completely shut the lake in. Legend has it that a woman riding a yak was carried into the lake. At first the yak swam boldly out and the woman (chomo) was delighted. But after a while the animal grew tired and sank deeper in the water. The chomo became frightened and screamed “Ri Ri, Ri Ri” until the yak sank and she drowned. Since then, the lake has been called Chomo-riri.
The area is rich in wildlife including the kyang (wild ass), red fox and the rare, highly endangered snow leopard. Black-necked cranes and bar-headed geese flock to the lakeside for breeding during the summer months. Tso Kar is another brackish lake and this whole region has supported a vital salt industry that allowed the Changpas to trade with merchants from the other regions of Ladakh.
Season: July to September
Duration: 4-day drive, 9-day trek
This trek goes into the hidden kingdom of Zanskar. The trek offers close encounters with Zanskari life, passing interesting villages with their little gompas on practically every day of the trek. The route also takes in eight high passes and, depending on the time of the year, up to a dozen river crossings.
Ladakh and Zanskar form the western edge of the Tibetan plateau and are popularly known as “Little Tibet” due to the similarity of the culture and the high altitude desert landscape. Politically, this region forms a part of India, though the religious head is still the Dalai Lama. The flora and fauna is also similar to Tibet and is quite distinct from the rest of the Himalayas. The region, being beyond the reach of the monsoon, is dry with sparse vegetation. Willow groves and poplars are found near villages. Bushes of eidelberry, wild strawberry and sage brush are also common. The fauna includes marmots, blue sheep and ibex and an occasional snow leopard, besides many birds of prey.
Drive LADAKH to KARGIL – 8 to 9 hours Early in the morning start the spectacular 72 kms drive to Alchi, along the true right bank of the Indus river through the beautiful villages of Nimo and Uletokpo. Take a 7 km detour off the main highway towards the 11th century village of Alchi, which has a mass of Buddhist stupas, gompas, chortens, wooden statues, mural paintings and great deal of religious history.
Continue another 62 km drive to Lamayuru going past the villages of Saspol and Khalsi. The ascent to Lamayuru gompa and beyond is simply stunning and probably the most fascinating section of the drive. Stop for lunch and a short visit to Lamayuru Gompa with its medieval village seemingly growing out of the rocky hillside below it. Lamayuru belongs to the red-hat sect of Buddhism. In the past, Lamayuru has housed up to 400 lamas, but presently there are only 30 to 50 lamas living here, although about 150 lamas belong to the gompa. The other lamas stay and teach at Lamayuru’s smaller daughter gompas located in outlying villages. Twice a year, all the lamas gather at the gompa for general prayers, accompanied by three days of masked dancing. These gatherings occur in the second and fifth months of the Tibetan calendar (usually March and July).
Ancient legends say that at the time of Sakyamuni (the Historical Buddha), Lamayuru’s valley was a clear lake where nagas (holy serpents) lived. The Bodhisattva Madhyantaka foretold that the lake would be emptied and a monastery built there. The legends continue by saying that Naropa, an 11th century Indian Buddhist scholar, came to Lamayuru and spent many years meditating in a cave, which can still be seen in the main Dukhang or assembly hall. Naropa then caused a split in the surrounding hillside and the lake emptied through this opening. After the lake emptied, Naropa found a dead lion previously covered by the waters of the lake. On this spot, Naropa built the first temple at Lamayuru, the Singhe Ghang (Lion Mound). Other historical accounts relate that in the 10th century the King of Ladakh ordered the building of Lamayuru gompa and placed it under the supervision of Rinchen Zangbo.
The original gompa was composed of five buildings although only the central one still stands. In the 16th century, Ladakh’s King Jamyang Namgyal was cured of leprosy by a lama from Tibet. In gratitude, the King gave Lamayuru gompa to this lama and also bestowed other privileges – no taxes were collected and the area surround the gompa was declared a sanctuary where none could be arrested. For this reason, Ladakhis still refer to Lamayuru as Tharpa Ling, the “Place of Freedom”.
Continue drive over Fatu La (13,500 ft/4,116 m) the highest point on the Leh/Sringar Highway. Descend down to the small village of Heniskut and gradually climb to the village of Kangral. The patches of green stand out in sharp contrast to the stark sandy coloured surrounding mountains. Further the drive will take you to Namika La (12,500 ft).
Continue the downhill drive to Kargil through the village of Mulbekh. Here you come across a gigantic sculpture of Maitreya, the future Buddha, silent and compelling in its magnitude, carved out of the rock face. An overnight halt is made in camp or a clean simple hotel at Kargil, Ladakh’s second largest town, with a largely Muslim population. Once a trading centre on the route between Central Asia and the Indian plains, Kargil is situated in a fertile valley with a multitude of fruit trees, mainly apricot and mulberry. Overnight in hotel.
Drive KARGIL to RANGDUM – 6 hours: After an early breakfast, start the spectacular second leg of your drive through the very fertile and agriculturally rich valleys of Sanku, Panikhar and Parkachik of lower Baltisthan along the true left bank of Suru river. While approaching Panikhar, gaze upon the incredible view of Nun and Kun massif, the highest peaks in the Zanskar range. Leave behind the Muslim culture at the last village of Parkachik, with the road winding next to the Suru river and Parkachik glacier, descending from the north-east face of the Nun massif.
Drive another 2 hours through the “no-man’s-land” to the valley of Rangdum. The Rangdum gompa located near the centre of a knobby hill is visible from a distance. Overnight camp is set in the open meadow next to the road, half an hour’s walk from the gompa.
Drive RANGDUM to PADUM- 7 hours: After early breakfast, continue the drive over the dirt road towards Pensi La (14,400 ft/4389 m). The road takes an almost 90 degree turn towards the east from Rangdum gompa and climbs up to the Pensi La. From here far in the south, the view of Drung Drang glacier (the source of Suru river), flanked by the massive of Z3 (6,129 m) is a spectacular sight. Another 3 to 4 hours drive through the Doda valley will bring us to Padum, the capital of Zanskar. Camp on the open grassland outside the village.
AT PADUM: Rest day. There is time to visit the Karsha monastery. Head towards Pibiting, then on to a dusty plain towards the Doda river. Cross a new bridge over the river and then climb towards Karsha. There is a beautiful Gelug-pa (yellow hat) monastery here that dates from the 15th century.
Also visit Bardan Gompa, a Kagyu-pa (red-hat sect) monastery, famous for its 180-cm high prayer wheel. A dusty road, suitable for motor traffic, leads to Bardan. Several beautiful villages lie on the opposite bank. Overnight camping.
Drive PADUM to ZANGLA via THONGDE – 2 to 3 hours: The trail goes across the Lingti river over a metal bridge and continues along its right bank over a wide track, which is jeepable all the way to Zangla. Continue along the wide path to where the Lingti joins the Doda river to form the Zanskar. The wide valley narrows down from here.
Further on, a rope bridge, now almost totally broken and impossible to cross, goes across the Zanskar – a lone survivor in a land where rope bridges were once common. Rope bridges are now being replaced by modern wooden or metal bridges. From here, the Zangla village, once the capital of Zanskar, is visible and is worth visiting. A short steep climb leads to the palace, where the royal family still lives. Overnight camping.
Trek ZANGLA to HANUMIL via PISHU – 6 hours: Crossing over the bridge to the left side of the river, continue the trek. The going is easy – sometimes along the river, sometimes across the morainic plateau. Cross a bridge before Pidmo and continue to the tiny village of Hanumil, consisting of two houses, both owned by the same family. Camp is set in a beautiful willow grove.
Trek HANUMIL to SNERTSE over PARFI LA – 6 hours: About an hour beyond Hanumil, cross a small stream on the left and start a steep climb away from the Zanskar river, which at this point forms a deep gorge, across a plateau, to the foot of the Parfi La (12,795 ft/3,900 m). A steep and arduous climb up the pass. The horses may have difficulty in crossing the pass.
A steep descent leads to the Oma Chu, a tributary of the Zanskar river, with crystal clear water and willow trees bordering both the banks – an excellent rest stop. Cross a bridge and go up a 500-meter sandy slope, from where wonderful views are available. Continue along the slope to the sheep folds of Snertse, where camp is set for the night.
Trek SNERTSE to LINGSHED – 9 hours: A tiring day, which involves a long gradual ascent, through a gorge, past a sheepfold, towards Hanuma La (15,420 ft/4,700 m). The views from the top are breathtaking. In the distance you can see Lingshed monastery, a good 4 to 5-hour walk away. A 1000-meter steep descent is followed by a 300-meter climb along the mountainside. From this small pass, it is an easy descent towards Lingshed. Camp near the gompa.
AT LINGSHED: Rest day. Visit Lingshed gompa, belonging to the Gelupa (yellow-hat) sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The gompa complex clings to the mountainside, rising tier upon tier from the valley floor. Lingshed village is one of the more prosperous in Ladakh, is well spread out, with houses surrounded by rich barley fields.
Trek LINGSHED to foot of SINGI LA – 6 hours: An easy hour’s climb leads to Murgum La (13,450 ft/4,100 m). Continue climbing, pass an escarpment then go along the slope. There are wonderful views of the valley of Nierag on the opposite bank of the Zanskar. A gentle descent towards the village of Gongma (12,600 ft/3,840 m) and Siumpta is followed by a steep climb as far as the Kiupa La (12,630 ft/3,850 m). Then climb gradually along the mountainside up to the foot of the Singi La.
Trek BASE CAMP to PHOTOKSAR over SINGI LA – 7 hours: A rather steep climb to the Singi La (16,405 ft/5,000 m) taking about two hours, is followed by a short descent into a broad valley. The going is easy, then a gentle climb towards the Bumiktse La (13,780 ft/4,200 m) from where beautiful views are available. Descend towards Photoksar, a splendid village at the base of the huge mountain walls. There is an abandoned gompa some 20 minutes away above the village. Camp is set on the banks of the river, half an hour’s walk beyond.
Trek PHOTOKSAR to HANUPATTA over SIRSIR LA – 7 hours: From the village, a gentle climb leads to a large chorten, followed by a long ascent of Sirsir La (15,750 ft/4,800 m). An easy descent is then made to the river. Cross onto the left bank and descend into a stony valley. Camp a short distance before Hanupatta village.
Trek HANUPATTA to WANLA – 6 hours: From Hanupatta, continue across the slope until you enter the gorge. At the junction of the rivers, chortens and prayer flags are seen. Go down up to a bridge across the Yapola and on to Phenjilla. A little beyond the village, cross again onto the left bank and continue on a flat stretch to Wanla. There is a beautiful gompa here worth visiting. Overnight in camp.
Trek WANLA to LAMAYURU – 3 hours. Drive LAMAYURU to LEH – 5 to 6 hours: Go up the Shillkong valley along the right bank, cross it and then arrive at Shilla. Pass the village and go on to a big chorten, then turn sharply to the right into a narrow and dry gorge as far as the Prinkti La (12,225 ft/3,726 m). An easy descent leads to an escarpment. Crossing the river, go towards the monastery of Lamayuru. A short climb towards the monastery leads to the road, where transport is waiting for the drive to the Leh
Day 15 FLY LEH TO DELHI
Morning you will be transferred to the airport to board flight for onward destination