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

Leg 1: From Mulbekh to Rangdum (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 by hand; they are not GPS waypoints.]


View of the entire first leg, with only a subset of GPS waypoints.



View of the third part of the first leg, with all the waypoints.



Brief description:

We left Itchu toward the south. We followed a valley that had a couple of bifurcations. At the first bifurcation, it was clear that we should take the left (east) branch to reach Lasar La. But at the second bifurcation, the choice was not obvious. Since we had no map of the area (as both the valley and the pass lie outside the coverage of the 150K Olizane maps), we had to do some exploration. I went into the right branch, while Nima and Dorje Tundup went in the left one. Nurbo remained at the bifurcation with the horses. Unfortunately, I concluded that the right branch of the valley was a dead-end, while Nima and Dorje Tundup reached the same conclusion for the left branch. We set a camp near the bifurcation (WP #033). After an early dinner Nurbo returned to Itchu to recruit a local guide from the village. He returned early on the next morning with two villagers, who guided us into the left branch of the valley toward Lasar La. Lasar La was not an obvious pass, just one breach in a mountain range, among many others. It turned out that it was not possible for our horses to cross it (too steep, too much snow). Regretfully we turned back, and returned to Itchu where we spent a second night (WP #029). On the next day we returned to the road in the Phulangma valley, where we found vehicles to drive us to Rangdum (WP #039) on time for the second leg of the trek.


Day 6 (of trek): From Itchu (WP #029) to camp at WP #033.

Reaching the first bifurcation.


In the left branch of the valley after the first bifurcation.


Further up Rasi La became visible in the background.


Reaching the second bifurcation.


Our camp (WP #033) at the second bifurcation. (The photo was taken on the next morning, showing the two villagers brought back by Nurbo sitting outside the tent.)


Reflection of sunlight on slate-rock cliffs above the camp.



Day 7: Attempt to cross Lasar La and return to Itchu

We quickly reached the moraine and the glacier in the left branch of the valley above our camp.


The valley was entirely surrounded by steep slopes. Lasar La was not an obvious pass.


Nurbo and the horses stayed on the glacier (first photo on the left below), while Dorje Tundup and one villager were looking for a feasible path for the horses. Meanwhile, Nima and I climbed toward the pass with the other villager, hoping that the horses will eventually catch up. But at some point it was clear that they will not make it. Nima and I turned back at WP #038 (elevation given by my GPS: 5185m). We were quite close to the pass and it was clear that with porters, instead of horses, we would have made it. Turning back was a great disappointment, the main one in the entire trek.




On our way back to Itchu where we spent the night.


Itchu in the mist.



Day 8: From Itchu to Rangdum, via Sankoo

We traced back our path from Itchu to the road in the Phulangma valley.


Along the way we met Itchu people, some of whom were returning from shopping in Kargil.


We found a vehicle in the village of Tila (shown in the photo below) to go to Sankoo, a town on the Kargil-to-Padum road at the intersection of the Suru and the Phulangma valleys. But the logistics was a bit complicated, as this vehicle was too small to carry the horses. To stay on schedule, we had to reach Rangdum (WP #039) on that same day and begin the second leg of the trek on the next day. So, Nima, Nurbo, and I went to Sankoo, leaving Dorje Tundup and his horses in Tila. In Sankoo, Nima found a truck equipped to carry horses and returned to Tila with the truck to pick up Dorje Tundup and the horses. They drove to Rangdum that they reached late at night. Earlier Nurbo and I went from Sankoo to Rangdum in the smaller vehicle.


Pretty village between Tila and Sankoo.



In the streets of Sankoo.


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At Rangdum gompa, which Nurbo and I reached in the late afternoon and where set our camp for the night (WP #039).










Monk of the gompa.



View of the valley of the Wakha-La Togpo (river) where, had we crossed Wakha La or Lasar La, we would have reached Rangdum.


View of the valley of the Kanji-La Togpo that we will follow tomorrow (beginning of the second leg).


Tundup Chospel, who had been prevented from joining the trek in Mulbekh due to a last-minute personal issue, was waiting for me in Rangdum. He had arrived with a car carrying fresh food supplies sent by Sonam Dawa. He then became my guide for the rest of the trek, as initially planned, replacing Nima (who returned to Leh).


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