India (July-August 2019): A meandrous 24-day trek in the Kargil and Kishtwar districts of Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir

Leg 3: Agsho to Sani across Agsho La and Muni La (Part 3/3)

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Views of the itinerary in Google Earth:

[Reminder: Click here (kmz file) and open the downloaded file in Google Earth to access the GPS waypoints that I recorded during the trek: red pins for starts and finishes, green for camps, brown for passes, and yellow for other waypoints. Orange markers have been added; they are not GPS waypoints.]


Left: View of the entire third leg, with only a subset of GPS waypoints. Right: View of the third part of the third leg, with all the waypoints.


Brief description:

At WP #101 we headed north into the side-valley toward Muni La (WP #110). Soon we hiked on a moraine then on a glacier flowing down this valley. As we were getting higher the views were increasingly spectacular. We set up our first camp (WP #105) in a rocky surface of the glacier. On the next day we traveled mostly on ice and snow. Our path passed between the Muni La West and Muni La East passes marked on the Olizane map and then reached a cirque. We reached Muni La in the mid-afternoon just when snow started falling. As the other side of the pass looked rather steep, we decided to set our camp right at the pass (altitude given by my GPS: 5480m) on a flat rocky platform. Later in the evening some porters did a recognition trip on the other side of the pass to make sure that there would be no bad surprise on the next morning. On the last day of the trek we did a long descent (~1900m) from the pass into the valley leading to Sani, which we reached before sunset after 12 hours of quasi-continuous hiking.


As no one in my support team had previously crossed Muni La, Sonam Dawa had recruited a man from Gulabgahr (the main town in the Padder region) to guide us. We met this man in Drangha (WP #093). He was supposed to guide us from Drangha to Sani. He actually remained with us until a location slightly above the camp at WP #105. Before we could even see Muni La he decided to return to Drangha. So, we eventually had to found the pass without him.


Day 22 (of trek): From WP #101 to WP #105 along a side-valley heading north.

Early morning view of the peak at the entrance of the side-valley that was covered by a lenticular cloud on the previous evening.


Entering the side valley.


Further up.


Shepherds encountered along the way.


The last shepherd hut in the valley.


Looking back toward the pyramid-shaped peak facing the entrance of the side-valley.


Reaching the glacier.


Successive views from the glacier.





Our camp at WP #105. On the next day we will continue our ascent on the glacier visible on the right of the photo.



Day 23: From WP #105 to Muni La (WP #110, 5480m)

The visibility in the early morning was rather poor, but weather progressively improved.


Successive views during the ascent of the glacier.









View of the cirque at the end of the glacier. This is roughly where our ″guide″ from Gulabgahr unexpectedly turned back and left us.


There was not a single clear option for the location of Muni La. The porters decided to explore two options, including the one on the left of the following photo and at the center of the second photo below. Both options looks very steep, but many other passes in this mountain range are as steep (e.g., Umasi La that I had crossed in 2018). In fact, the southern side of Agsho La is much steeper and longer. Anyway, neither one the two options turned out viable candidates. But we lost quite some time.



A promising (in fact, the correct) option on the right side of the cirque. The porters were still worried: the other side could be very steep and we would discover that only after a relatively long approach.


We climbed to the pass. The porters had been partially right. Getting to the pass took longer than expected and the descent on the other side was much steeper than the ascent, but still quite doable. As the pass itself offered us with a dry and reasonably flat platform, we chose to set our camp right at the pass. The elevation given by my GPS was 5480m. The night was the coldest of the entire trek.


View of our camp at the pass (WP #110).


Day 24 (last day of trek): From Muni La to Sani (a very long descent).

View from the edge of our campsite.


View toward the east from the camp.



Eating breakfast in the morning sun.





We quickly packed our camp, hanged some prayer flags, and started our long descent.


The descent on the glaciers was about 7km-long. The views were among the most spectacular of the entire trek.












[I believe that the pass at the center of the above photo is Muni La East.]




End of the glaciers.



A short distance further down we reached the valley of the Haptal Togpo that leads to Sani.


Peaks and rock faces along the Haptal Togpo valley.



But we still had to ford one swift river.


Reaching the end of the Haptal Togpo valley.


View over Sani. Its famous gompa (rectangular enclosure) is at the center-left of the photo. End of the trek!


Photo of my support team in Sani. Thanks to this team the third leg of the trek had been a complete success. All parts of the leg (the difficult descent from Agsho La, the friendly hamlet of Drangha, the mysterious Bakarwal shepherds of the Danlong Nala valley, the search of the elusive Muni La, the stunning views of the glaciers on both sides of Agsho La and Muni La) were exciting. There had been no time for boredom.


The porters returned to their respective homes immediately after the trek. Tundup, Nurbo, and I went to Padum, where we spent the night. On the next day we left back to Leh, a two-day road trip with a night-over in Mulbekh.


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